Not My Job: Sean Doolittle Doolittle, a relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals who saves baseball games, answers three questions about real-world saves. Originally broadcast Dec. 14, 2019.
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Not My Job: Sean Doolittle

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Not My Job: Sean Doolittle

Not My Job: Sean Doolittle

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BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. When I'm president, we'll meet in the O-bill Office.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: I'm Bill Kurtis.

(APPLAUSE)

KURTIS: And here is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Bill. Thank you, everybody. Thank you all so much.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: It is President's Day week, the most beloved holiday of the year when we take the whole week to march in parades, dress up as our favorite presidents. And the kids go house to house to yell, bribe or pardon.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: In addition to this traditional President's Day celebration of trimming the old executive bush...

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: ...We're also celebrating other parts of our past, namely the past of this show.

SAGAL: Let's start with one of our favorite guests of the last year - a guy who gets to hang out for presidents for most of the year when they race around Nationals Park in Washington.

KURTIS: Sean Doolittle is a relief pitcher for the world champion Washington Nationals, and he joined us right after they won it all in the fall of 2019.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SAGAL: And now the game where we invite on our heroes and make them do something pointedly non-heroic. Sean Doolittle is a relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals, and this season, he saved game one of the World Series to start his team toward a seven-game victory over the Houston Astros. Naturally...

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...He has chosen to celebrate that historic win by doing something even more challenging - talking to an NPR audience about sports.

Sean Doolittle...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

(CHEERING)

SEAN DOOLITTLE: Thank you very much for having me.

PETER GROSZ: We should have played his walk-in music.

SAGAL: Yeah.

FAITH SALIE: What is your walk-in music?

DOOLITTLE: My walk-in music is a song by Metallica called "For Whom The Bell Tolls."

(CHEERING)

SALIE: Nice.

SAGAL: Yeah. Now, I'm just going to say, looking back in the season, you guys were not favorites to win the World Series early on.

DOOLITTLE: No, we weren't. No.

SAGAL: Yeah. And did you guys know in your heart that you actually could go all the way? Or did you...

DOOLITTLE: Yeah. Yeah, we did. There's a funny thing about playoff baseball specifically, where it's so important that you take the momentum that you have, and you're able to capitalize on it and make the most of it. And we caught a huge break - I don't know if anybody saw - in the Wild Card Game, where a ball took a really funny hop against Milwaukee in the eighth inning, and three runs scored for us. We took the lead. And from then on, it kind of felt like the baseball gods - they finally might have our back.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You guys seem to really like each other, which added to the appeal of your team. Is that, in fact, true?

DOOLITTLE: Yeah, it is. It really is. And it's - every once in a while in baseball, you get a group of guys that comes together, and you just click. Team chemistry is one of the last things in baseball that we have yet to quantify.

SAGAL: Yes.

DOOLITTLE: We keep track of everything. But we just connected. It took a little while for us to figure things out in the beginning part of the season. We had the second-worst record in the National League at the end of May. And I think it was because we genuinely liked each other that we didn't, you know, rip each other's heads off in June or July. We were able to right the ship and stay together...

SAGAL: Yeah.

DOOLITTLE: ...And go all the way.

SAGAL: And did you guys ever get as annoyed with the whole "Baby Shark" thing as the rest of the world did?

(LAUGHTER)

DOOLITTLE: We had fun with it, man. We had a lot of those things throughout.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: What was the "Baby Shark" thing?

DOOLITTLE: So one of our outfielders - his name was Gerardo Parra - he changed his intro song that played when he came up to the bat to the "Baby Shark" theme song. And it was something that he did to kind of change his luck.

SALIE: Sean, you may need to just sing a little...

(CROSSTALK)

SALIE: ...For Paula right now.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah. I don't know the "Baby Shark" theme song.

DOOLITTLE: Do you guys know the "Baby Shark" theme?

(CHEERING)

SAGAL: Do you want to lead them in?

SALIE: Can you do it?

DOOLITTLE: Can we do it?

SAGAL: Yeah.

DOOLITTLE: All right.

SAGAL: Go for it.

DOOLITTLE: (Singing) Baby shark, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. Baby shark, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. Baby shark, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo.

SAGAL: It's like a...

DOOLITTLE: (Singing) Baby shark.

SALIE: There you go.

SAGAL: It goes on from there.

DOOLITTLE: It goes on. It goes on and on. And it was his 2-year-old daughter's favorite song. He did it to kind of change his luck.

SALIE: Aw.

DOOLITTLE: And the Nationals fans - they totally embraced it. And every time he came to bat...

POUNDSTONE: Did that make you feel bad about your Metallica song?

(LAUGHTER)

GROSZ: Metallica should cover "Baby Shark." I would love to hear that.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You just said something that I'm actually very curious about. You said that he changed his walk-up song to "Baby Shark" to change his luck.

DOOLITTLE: Yeah.

SAGAL: And I've always read that baseball players are incredibly superstitious.

DOOLITTLE: Yeah.

SAGAL: And is this true? Like, do you do things just to make sure you win? Like, you know, Wade Boggs always ate chicken and so on and so forth.

DOOLITTLE: Over the course of my career, I've tried to get away from that. And at times, that's almost become its own superstition. Like, I'll do the opposite just so I don't fall into making myself crazy over some superstitions. But I think, like, in the World Series, when we came back to Houston for games six and seven, a lot of us went back and tried to remember - or, in some of our cases, looked on social media - to see what clothes we wore to the ballpark.

SAGAL: Really?

DOOLITTLE: Because we want to get...

POUNDSTONE: Don't you have uniforms?

DOOLITTLE: We want - well...

(LAUGHTER)

DOOLITTLE: You don't...

SAGAL: Again, not a sports fan. Just be patient.

(LAUGHTER)

DOOLITTLE: So they have our uniforms...

POUNDSTONE: Those are chosen ahead of time, Sean.

DOOLITTLE: Right. They have to tell us what to wear.

POUNDSTONE: Every night, when you guys got dressed, you went, I'm wearing that. You're wearing that?

(LAUGHTER)

DOOLITTLE: What outfit are we going to wear tomorrow? That was a whole other thing. We - our...

GROSZ: Baseball cap.

DOOLITTLE: Our navy-blue jerseys became good luck for us in the playoffs. You know, we have several different uniform combinations. But in game six and seven, when we came - the series went back to Houston, we all went back to make sure that we wore the same stuff to the stadium...

SAGAL: Really?

DOOLITTLE: ...So - yeah, to try to bring ourselves luck because at that point, you really don't want to leave anything to chance.

SAGAL: No.

DOOLITTLE: You know...

(LAUGHTER)

DOOLITTLE: You've got to pull out all the stops...

SAGAL: You don't want to...

DOOLITTLE: ...Just in case.

SAGAL: You don't want to be sitting there after you've lost game seven of the World Series, and, like, you're talking to one of your teammates. So, Rendon, you had to change your shirt.

DOOLITTLE: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

DOOLITTLE: Yeah.

POUNDSTONE: Say you had broken your ankle at the sixth game, and the team won. Would you...

(LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: ...Have broken your other ankle...

(LAUGHTER)

POUNDSTONE: ...In order to get the luck?

SAGAL: Keep...

DOOLITTLE: For game seven?

POUNDSTONE: For the seventh game. I mean, what kind of sacrifices were we willing to make for the game?

DOOLITTLE: Well, you know, you would have - we probably would have seen how game seven was going.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I want to ask you about your social media because I follow you on Twitter. You're - what is it? - Obi-Sean...

DOOLITTLE: Obi-Sean Kenobi.

SAGAL: Yeah.

POUNDSTONE: See, that's exactly the kind of player I thought you were.

GROSZ: Yeah. So are you, in fact, a big "Star Wars" fan?

DOOLITTLE: I am a big "Star Wars" fan, yeah.

SAGAL: Have you thought maybe you can get a cameo, like Noah Syndergaard did in "Game Of Thrones?"

DOOLITTLE: I thought about it. And then, you know, I - after the World Series, the PR people are, like, hey, you know, let us know if there's anything you want to do. And I was, like, oh, I want to go to the premiere. And, like, a week later, they were like, all right. How about WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Sean Doolittle, it is a delight to talk to you, but we've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Now That's What I Call A Save.

SAGAL: You save baseball games. But what does that mean? Was the game in a well? Was it lost at sea?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We're going to ask you three questions about real-world saves. Get two right, and you'll win for one of our listeners. Bill, who is Sean Doolittle playing for?

KURTIS: Tanya Simone from Mobile, Ala.

SAGAL: All right. Your first question - after firefighters rescued a group of his piglets who were caught in a barn fire, a farmer in the U.K. did what to express his thanks to the firemen? A, wove the message some piglets into his spider web...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, brought the piglets to the firehouse and released them there; or C, he sent the firefighters sausages made out of the piglets they had saved.

(GROANING)

DOOLITTLE: Oh, no. I hope B.

SAGAL: You hope B - that he just released the piglets into the firehouse. They're yours.

DOOLITTLE: Yeah.

SAGAL: No, it was C.

DOOLITTLE: No way.

(APPLAUSE)

SALIE: Oh, no.

SAGAL: And he got a lot of criticism for this.

POUNDSTONE: Really?

GROSZ: Really?

DOOLITTLE: Why?

SAGAL: And the farmer said, and I quote him, "this is what we do."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: This is not an animal sanctuary. I mean, that's why they raise the pigs...

DOOLITTLE: Yeah.

SAGAL: ...To make them into sausages.

DOOLITTLE: Yeah.

SAGAL: A little bitter. All right. Next question - you have two more chances here. In 2012, firefighters and first responders rushed to a building in China where a woman was on the ledge, apparently threatening to jump, only to find out what? A, the woman was actually Tom Cruise, filming a scene for "Mission: Impossible 5..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, she was sitting outside a neighbor's apartment so she could steal her Wi-Fi signal; or C, the woman was just a very realistic gargoyle.

(LAUGHTER)

DOOLITTLE: I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: You're right.

SALIE: Yay.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: It was B.

(CHEERING)

SAGAL: She was just trying to stay on the Wi-Fi signal. All right, last question. If you get this right, you win. Firefighters are always ready to rescue a cat in a tree. But that's not all they've been asked to rescue. One British fire crew once had to extract what from a tree? A, a hundred cats...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, a cow; or C, a woman who insisted she was a cat.

(LAUGHTER)

DOOLITTLE: I'm going to go with B again.

SAGAL: The cow.

DOOLITTLE: Yeah.

SAGAL: You're right.

DOOLITTLE: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: The cow had fallen down an embankment and ended up in the branches of a tree at the bottom.

POUNDSTONE: Oh.

DOOLITTLE: It happens.

SAGAL: It happens.

GROSZ: I bet that cow was...

SAGAL: The cow...

GROSZ: ...So embarrassed.

SAGAL: The cow was fine and then, we presume...

DOOLITTLE: No.

SAGAL: ...Made into hamburgers.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We don't know.

DOOLITTLE: Oh, geez.

SAGAL: I know. Bill, how did Sean Doolittle do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Two strikes out of three possible. That means you have won the World Series.

SAGAL: Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Sean Doolittle is a pitcher for the World Series-winning Washington Nationals and does work with the SMYAL Foundation. More information can be found at smyal.org. Sean Doolittle, what a pleasure to talk to you.

(CHEERING)

DOOLITTLE: Thank you.

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