Throwing Four-Seamers with the Force: Talking Star Wars with Sean Doolittle of the Oakland A’s

The star pitcher on getting into the saga, dressing in Star Wars onesies for The Force Awakens, and much more!

To us, Sean Doolittle is a dominant closing force of the Oakland A’s bullpen and an All-Star. (He’s also the keeper of a pretty impressive beard that was featured, appropriately and prominently, on a Sean Doolittle garden gnome produced earlier this year.) But to those who know him well — or follow him on Twitter — he’s a Star Wars superfan. With Star Wars Fireworks Night set for the Oakland Coliseum this Saturday, August 13, spoke with Doolittle about discovering the saga, forcing his girlfriend to wear Star Wars pajamas in public, and the unappreciated coaching skills of the Emperor. I just wanted to start at the beginning and see if you remember when you first saw Star Wars.

Sean Dolittle: I can’t remember exactly the day or anything like that. But I remember, growing up, my dad was a fan of, I guess, older movies. A lot of times, like on Friday or Saturday nights, he would let my brother and I stay up late. John Wayne movies were some of his favorites — we’d watch a lot of of those — and he showed us Star Wars. I was probably…shoot, I want to say maybe, 10 years old? Somewhere around there. You were born in ’86?

Sean Dolittle: ’86, yeah. I just thought it was the coolest thing. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and my brother and I just kind of fell in love with it. When the prequels rolled around, that would’ve been just a couple of years later.

Sean Dolittle: Right. How’d you like the prequels?

Sean Dolittle: At the time, I loved ’em. I just wanted more Star Wars at that point. When I went to see them, I was super excited for them. I thought they were awesome. As time went on, maybe as technology developed, [I] realized it wasn’t quite what I thought it was when I was 13, when the first one came out. Super CGI and everything like that. But no, I loved them. I think they get somewhat of a bad rap. Jumping forward. I ask this as someone whose wife was not into Star Wars: At what point did you start torturing your girlfriend with Star Wars?

Sean Dolittle: [Laughs] Actually, not until maybe around this time last year — I remember, during the season when the teasers starting coming out for Force Awakens. I remember when the [second] teaser came out, I want to say it was around April or May of last year, because I was on the disabled list. I had a lot of free time on my hands. I would come to the field, I would get my work done, and I would essentially try to stay out of everybody’s way. And I remember when the teaser came out, it was like two minutes long and I probably watched it like 10 or 15 times in a row on the training table, while I was icing my arm after I got done with all my work. That’s the perfect time for a trailer to come out — when you’re on the DL.

Sean Dolittle: I know. It kept me occupied. And you know, I went home and that’s when I took Eireann through the original trilogy to make sure that she was ready for Force Awakens when it came out. You tweeted a lot of really funny stuff when The Force Awakens came out, and it looks like you kind of forced her to wear Darth Vader pajamas to the movie…?

Sean Doolittle: [Laughs] We were at Target and, yeah, there were these zip-up onesie pajamas and they looked super-comfortable. It was like a day or two before the premiere, and I was like, “We gotta get these. We got tickets for opening night. I promise, we won’t be the only ones dressed up.” I found a Chewbacca one in my size and she got the Darth Vader one. I mean, she was a trooper about it. She ended up having a ton of fun with it. My brother and his fiancé were a little embarrassed by us, to say the least. They went with us, but we couldn’t convince them to dress up. So how did you like Force Awakens?

Sean Doolittle: I loved it. I thought it was awesome. I’ve seen a lot people compare it to A New Hope and say, “It’s essentially the same movie, and it was really predictable, and what was the point of Starkiller Base?” I get it, but at the same time, you have to think, we’re getting a sequel to a movie that over 30 years ago came out. They went back to what made the original one so successful, with the practical effects and the real sets that they built. I thought it was extremely well done, because I thought it was successful [in appealing] to new fans, maybe to people that hadn’t even seen all of them, or were only casual fans of Star Wars. There was plenty of stuff for those people and there was plenty of stuff for diehards, as well. I thought it was a monumental task, to say the least, to try to reenergize the franchise and to try to make everybody happy, because that’s next to impossible. If you’re being realistic about it, I think they accomplished, or got just about as close to doing that, as they possibly could. And how did you deal with Han’s death?

Sean Doolittle: [Laughs] Not great at first. I mean, I couldn’t believe it. I guess I should’ve known when he walked out onto that narrow bridge over a seemingly endless abyss. That’s never good in Star Wars.

Sean Doolittle: No, it’s never good. I think I even turned to my brother and used the cliché Star Wars line, “I got a bad feeling about this.” I guess I kinda thought that there would be at least a fight scene, where they would battle or something. Then he just kind of sneak attacked him and killed him. It caught me off guard, even though, like I said, I knew it was bad. But I still didn’t think it was going to go down like that. We’ve seen Luke and Leia and Han and Chewie, and all the good guys, and C-3PO and Artoo — all of the good guys have gotten into how many predicaments, and they always get out of them. So for the first time, for one of good guys, for one of the main characters to get into somewhat of a hairy situation and it cost them their lives [was shocking]. Because we’ve been trained, “Oh, they’re gonna get out of it, someway, somehow,” and then all of a sudden, he doesn’t. He dies. It was like, “Holy… What just happened?” It was kind of heavy. So as somebody new to it, what did your girlfriend think of the movie?

Sean Doolittle: She loved it. She loved it. She really liked the original trilogy. I think she says Empire Strikes Back is her favorite, and by Return of the Jedi she was pretty fully onboard. So she had a blast at The Force Awakens. I think she liked the strong, female lead character. There were parts of it that were funny. Somehow BB-8 and Chewie are really funny without even speaking English. Like I said, I think there’s enough where somebody like her, that was brand new to the franchise, was able to fully understand everything that was going on and be able to enjoy it. You guys have Star Wars Night coming up on August 13th. Is that more exciting than Opening Day for you?

Sean Doolittle: [Laughs] It’s probably second, it’s probably second. I guess that’s a good answer.

Sean Doolittle: It’s always fun. I think they do a good job with it here. When you’re in the backyard of where this franchise started, with Industrial Light & Magic being in the North Bay, and now they’ve moved into San Francisco, [it’s exciting]. They’ve done an awesome job with it every year since I’ve been here. When they release the promotion calendar in the offseason, I always check it to see when Star Wars Night is. I got to write, a couple of years ago, the PA announcement for when Boba Fett threw out the opening pitch on Star Wars Night at the Coliseum.

Sean Doolittle: I caught that! I caught that! That’s awesome. Did you really?

Sean Doolittle: Yeah, I did! I have some cool pictures from it. That was the highlight of, maybe, my life. I got to say that, with his jetpack, he’s maybe as fast as Rickey Henderson.

Sean Doolittle: That’s awesome. He’s one of my favorite characters, so that was really cool for me. I geeked out pretty hard over that, as well. Why is he one of your favorites?

Sean Doolittle: There’s something about the costume that I thought was badass. The other thing that I found to be really cool about him, he doesn’t even talk, really, and he still has this presence about him. You can tell he’s a bad dude. I thought that kind of darkness about him was really cool. A lot of it, though, comes from that costume. They really nailed it. I thought maybe we could do some rapid-fire questions.

Sean Doolittle: Okay. Ready?

Sean Doolittle: Yes. Han or Luke?

Sean Doolittle: Han. A New Hope or Empire?

Sean Doolittle: Empire. All right, this one might be a little inside, but… The Ewok Adventure or Battle for Endor? Those were the two made-for-TV movies.

Sean Doolittle: [LaughsEwok Adventure. Favorite Star Wars video game?

Sean Doolittle: I had one for N64, it was the podracing one. Racer. I think that might be my favorite one. I played Battlefront a lot this offseason, I got super into it, but I wasn’t that good. I play a lot of Call of Duty and stuff, so I play some first-person shooters, but I never played a Battlefront game before and I kept getting crushed. It’s frustrating when you know that there’s a 12-year-old on the other end who’s destroying you.

Sean Doolittle: [Laughs] Oh, I know. I know. Just because I was better at Racer, I think I have to give that one the slight edge. What’s your most prized Star Wars possession?

Sean Doolittle: I have a couple. An A’s fan made me a Darth Vader helmet but painted in A’s colors. That’s on our bookshelf, on display in the apartment right now. When we were in New York earlier this year, that’s close to home for me so I had a bunch of family there, and my mom brought me a Star Wars A’s hat. It’s a green hat, just like we wear, it has a white A, same logo as ours. But the bill of the hat has Boba Fett on it, and he’s got his blaster out. It’s got the Star Wars logo embroidered on the side of the hat. I think it’s awesome. Every day at the field, I wear it around the clubhouse and when I’m working out before the game. I think, because it’s one of my favorite characters and it was a present from my mom, it’s one of my favorites. Who would you rather be your coach: Jabba the Hutt or the Emperor?

Sean Doolittle: [Laughs] Oh, man. I would say the Emperor, I think, because… He has a winning record…

Sean Doolittle: [Laughs] He does have a good record. I think, maybe more of what he would talk about would come from experience. I feel like Jabba the Hutt is more sedentary. Like if he was going to tell you something, you could just say no, and he’s not going to come after you or anything. But I think the Emperor, when he tells you do something, he’s shown that you should probably do it. Okay, I’ve got one more question for you. Darth Vader wants to make a deal with you. He’ll install a dome and air conditioning at the Oakland Coliseum if you set a trap for Danny Valencia, and they’ll freeze him in carbonite. Do you do it?

Sean Doolittle: [Laughs] I can’t do it, I can’t do it. I can’t. I think that’s the right answer. I think. But I’ve been to games at the Oakland Coliseum in the summer and I would’ve loved for it to be in a dome with air conditioning.

Sean Dolittle: I’ll tell you what, though. As a pitcher, with the way that the open air is here at the Coliseum, it makes it a great place to pitch. And if you put a dome and some air conditioning on it, maybe the ball travels a little bit better. Maybe some of those fly balls turn into home runs. So I’ll roll the dice with the elements in order to save our cleanup hitter.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer and editor of the blog. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.