-- W. Compton's 'Skins Style'
-- Bridgestone Performance Player Of The Week: Cousins
Oakland Athletics closer Sean Doolittle spent most of his early childhood travelling.
His dad was active duty in the Air Force, so Sean was born on Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, S.D. A year later his brother was born in upstate New York and soon after his sister was born in California. But one thing remained constant in their family: they were all raised as Redskins fans.
I caught up with Sean to ask about his Redskins fandom, what he thinks of quarterback Kirk Cousins and this year's team, the outlook for the Athletics for the upcoming season and the value of having leadership in the locker room.
Without growing up in the DMV area, how did you become a Redskins fan?
By the time I was in first grade, we had settled in New Jersey, and that's where I grew up, outside of Philadelphia, right in the heart of Eagles country. My dad grew up in Annapolis, Md., and he was a diehard Redskins fan and that's how we were brought up. We were introduced to it at an early age and I'm just old enough to remember the last time the Redskins won the Super Bowl. After the 1991 season, I can remember the party that we had, so that was the beginning of my formative years. I guess that kind of cemented that I was definitely going to be a Redskins fan. I was raised correctly.
How was growing up in New Jersey as a Redskins fan? Did you have to deal with a lot of Eagles fans?
It was tough at times. By the time I was in high school, the Redskins had a number of coaching changes and quarterback changes and there was a lot of fluidity and they were trying to find the right pieces to fit, and meanwhile the Eagles had gone to the NFC Championship game four years in a row, so I was in it from all angles. I was hearing it from everybody. A couple of my friends drafted letters , mock contracts, if I wanted to switch favorite teams and jump on the Eagles band wagon. But I got a lot of payback in 2012.
You still follow the team each week -- what do you think about this season as they head into your backyard in Philadelphia?
I think it's been really cool to watch the way the team has developed over the course of the season. It looks like they're peaking at the right time. They've won two in a row, got a big road win in Chicago. And we've seen flashes of how good the team can be throughout the year. Obviously the New Orleans game comes to mind with really how good this team can be on both sides of the ball. I think Cousins is starting to play with a ton of confidence. I think that's the most important thing is peaking at the right time and playing some of their best football coming into the biggest game of the season.
As a fellow, athlete, what do you make of the "You Like That!?!" phenomenon?
It's awesome. It's so cool because it was so genuine. At least, that's how it came off. As a fan, Kirk Cousins has this very quiet, composed, confident demeanor that seems to be pretty even-keeled. We don't see him show a ton of emotion. I think that's part of what makes him successful, that he's able to not get too high or too low throughout the course of the game and he keeps his head down, keeps plugging away. And then he comes in after that comeback and he's fired up. I think that's something this team could look back to as maybe a turning point, where he stepped up and earned his stripes. He should have been excited after the game. He played awesome, led them back from 20 points down, the biggest comeback in franchise history. It's taken on a life of its own amongst the fans and the other guys on the team. You see [Chris] Baker getting into it after the game.
It's something that we yell a lot at our workouts when we're doing offseason [stuff]… It gets a lot of use.
So you're saying it while working out with some other A's players?
Yeah. I live in Arizona now. I work out at our offseason complex in Mesa, Ariz. My brother is in our organization and he's a big Redskins fan. We got another guy, a Minor Leaguer from Northern Virginia, who's a big Redskins fan as well. So we have a lot of fun with it in the workout.
You seem to follow this team very closely. How challenging is it near the end of the baseball season?
It's a little challenging living on the west coast. As long as we're still playing it can be kind of tough because every Sunday we have day games so we're playing usually at the same time. Maybe we'll be able to catch the first half in the locker room, depending on what part of the country we're at. But it's become a Sunday tradition. My brother and I both live in Arizona now, in Scottsdale, and every Sunday we go to the sports bar near our house and just hang out. It's pretty cool. It's also really weird. Growing up in New Jersey, when all the games kick off at 1 p.m., you can sleep in, do something before the game starts. Here, at least before daylight savings, the games kick off at 10 a.m. So you've got to set your alarm at 9. A lot of time we'll have breakfast at the sports bar watching the game kick off. It's really become a cool way for my brother and me to spend time together and watch the games.
I remember Brandon McCarthy, your former teammate, would always check his phone before games for his fantasy team…
Yeah we've got a fantasy league. It gets pretty intense. Guys are very well-aware of what their teams are doing before they take the field and stuff. Our commissioner is [A's designated hitter] Billy Butler. I have to give him a shout-out. He's another really, really big Redskins fan. I have an ally in our locker room.
Did you get to FedExField at all when you attended the University of Virginia?
I wasn't able to make it there when I went to school. My most favorite Redskins moment is when we were at the inaugural game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. They won in overtime to beat the Cardinals. That was really cool. My brother and I went with my dad. We were decked out with our Art Monk jerseys. That was really cool. I caught a game last year at FedExField, in December, they played the Eagles and essentially knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs. I went with my buddies from home who were all die-hard Eagles fans.
I saw recently you posted some photos to social media (^^) dressing up for "Star Wars." What did you think of the movie?
We had a lot of fun. Dressing up for the movie, we got weird with it a little bit. We really enjoyed the movie. I think J.J. Abrams did an awesome job with the movie. I think it really ties up some loose ends after "Return of the Jedi," and kind of sets the scene for this next trilogy. It had a lot of references to the original trilogy that diehard Star Wars fans would get, but there was also a lot of stuff that made it really accessible even if you weren't a diehard Star Wars fan. Whether you're new to the movies or you're a big fan, I think everyone can enjoy it.
In keeping with the holidays, I saw over Thanksgiving you helped host 17 Syrian refugees for a big dinner. How did you get involved with that?
It was a bunch of families that moved to the Chicago area, where my girlfriend Eireann, is from. She found out about it. Unfortunately, we weren't able to have dinner with them, but they'd been here for a while and they had essentially next to nothing. We were able to donate some food and we wanted to welcome them to their new country with a proper Thanksgiving. It was the first time they'd ever had turkey or any of what we consider to be traditional American food. They were very grateful and they had an awesome time.
What kind of other charity work do you do throughout the year?
I work with an organization called Operation Finally Home. They provide mortgage-free homes, built from scratch, to wounded military vets and their families. In 2014 with the help of A's fans, we were able to completely furnish 2 homes in Northern California. And each Christmas, we buy a truck load of presents for a couple families who received new homes during the year to make the first Christmas in their new home extra special. As a military brat, helping our service members is really important to me.
What's your outlook for Oakland this year? I imagine GM Billy Beane isn't done with the roster yet, but can you get a sense of what the team will be like?
Obviously you get a lot better feel during Spring Training, but I'm really excited about some of the moves we've made this offseason. We brought over Ryan Madson from Kansas City, we brought John Axford over from Colorado. We got [Mark] Rzepczynski from San Diego, Liam Hendriks from Toronto. So the pieces that we've added to the bullpen I'm particularly excited about.
Do you know where you stand then in the bullpen?
Yeah, I've talked to [manager] Bob Melvin. Heading into the season I'll be in the closer role and I guess what I'm excited about with those guys is they're veteran guys. They have proven track records. They've had success. But I think the biggest thing that gets overlooked it that they've come from winning teams. They've been on winning teams before. I think that's really important when you have really young team. I think that's important that you have that veteran leadership, knowing what it takes to win. When you combine that with the group of young guys that got some great experience last year, I think we can turn things around.
That seems to be the theme of this Redskins team. There's a lot players who were brought in for their veteran leadership and who came from winning teams. So you're a firm believer in that equation in the locker room?
Absolutely. There's an attitude that goes along with it. There's things behind the scenes, all these intangibles that people talk about when they describe guys. It can sound cliché and seem like lip service. But I really think there's something to it. If you're going to have success as a team, you have to have guys that are going to lead whether it's from a vocal standpoint, or it's a guy you can point to and say this is how you go about your business, as a professional, as a winner.
Do you have any plans for the big game on Saturday night?
Saturday night I will be in Virginia with my side of the family. I'll be there watching the game with my brother probably at my grandparents' house in Williamsburg. We'll be watching for sure.
[This interview was condensed and edited]