Sean Doolittle wrestled with sharing his thoughts on social media as he watched torch-bearing white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members march through Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, where he went to school for three years, on Friday night and all day Saturday. The new Nationals closer isn’t afraid to voice his views, and while NBA and NFL players have increasingly entered the political realm in recent years, Doolittle built a reputation in his five-plus years with the Athletics as one of the few players in the major leagues to speak out.
But every time he typed out a message, the words didn’t properly convey what he wanted them to. He was that outraged. He was that frustrated.
“I hope people not from this area of the country understand that the people that were marching in and around U-Va. and Charlottesville, they’re not from there,” Doolittle said before the Nationals faced the Giants at Nationals Park on Saturday. “These aren’t people that represent the school or the community. This was a rally where people came from other parts of the state, other parts of the region. Because that area, that town, is an incredibly accepting and diverse and embracing community.
“So it’s really frustrating that they chose to go there from the outside just to march and spread their hatred. I just found out that somebody died from the car thing today. It’s past the point of hearing what they have to say, spreading this kind of hatred. Saying, ‘You will not replace us.’…You aren’t the ones at the risk of being quote-unquote replaced by some of this administration’s policies. And it’s just white fear. It’s the worst kind of hatred. It’s disgusting.”
Ryan Zimmerman, another U-Va. product, echoed Doolittle’s concerns about the perception Saturday’s events may create about the university and Charlottesville.
“That stuff happens all over the place nowadays,” Zimmerman said. “I certainly wouldn’t say it’s definitely related to the school or to the city or anything like that. I hope people are smart enough to differentiate what’s going on. It is not reflective of the city or the people there. But as far as the stuff, I don’t really want to get into all that kind of stuff, but it’s sad. You hope that at some point we can kind of move on from these kind of things, but you don’t know.”
Minutes before the series opener between the Nationals and Giants began at 10:06 p.m. on Saturday following a three hour and one minute rain delay, the Nationals’ public address announcer read a statement that preceded a moment of silence for the victims in Charlottesville.
“Tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia where a heinous act of violence took multiple lives and injured many others,” the statement read. “We ask that you please rise and stand with us against hatred, bigotry and racism in all forms as we hold a moment of silence for the victims and their families. Thank you.”
During his daily pregame briefing with reporters, Nationals Manager Dusty Baker was asked about clubhouse chemistry. He mentioned how clubhouses have a cast of different characters, a blend of introverts and extroverts, and religious and nonreligious players. There’s country and rap and Latin and R&B music. Earlier, Baker had referenced something he learned from Asian culture, about how everybody has to feel welcomed to complete the circle. He then was asked about the marches in Charlottesville.
“It’s part of our society,” Baker said. “Everybody doesn’t feel the same way. It can happen anywhere in the country. That mind-set is not in Charlottesville only. It’s in different parts of our country and I’m just hoping that it doesn’t separate people to the degree that there already is some separation.”
Doolittle visits Charlottesville, he said, every other offseason on average. He’s still in close contact with the baseball program’s coaching staff. His time there, he said, was a significant part of his life.
“This is kind of a litmus test for these people because they come from other areas and they specifically chose this place and they’re going to come here to see how the community is going to respond, how the state, and the country is going to respond,” Doolittle said. “And I think it’s up to the people there, the people in that community, the people of the U-Va. community. I know they’re going to step up and they’re not going to let that kind of hatred win. So it’s just really sad.”