Children from local military bases throughout the Washington, D.C., area were invited to a book reading and a chance to meet and interview Nationals’ pitcher Sean Doolittle Saturday.
Doolittle read the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” to small children gathered on the carpet around his chair.
Doolittle says he is a strong proponent of reading and particularly of championing young readers. He spoke lovingly about his own reading habits as a child and of what he is reading now: mostly fantasy and science fiction. Doolittle is a major Star Wars fan.
The children responded to the reading by requesting a second book reading, which Doolittle obliged.
"I hope they came and saw a professional athlete in a major league baseball player that reads books. It shows that maybe reading is not something that's just a part of their homework. It can be something that you enjoy as much as being outside and playing sports," said Doolittle.
The event was held in relation to the military’s annual children’s Summer Reading Program, which has been implemented on military bases worldwide. The program is an initiative to promote reading as a pastime for children during the summer months and is held in conjunction with base libraries.
“I think it’s important. You know we talk a lot about how important it is for kids to stay active and get outside and get involved in organized sports and activities. But I think reading is another way for them to activate their brain, especially over the summer months when they’re away from school. I think it’s important for them to continue that development,” said Doolittle.
Lt. Cmdr. Talitha Moton and her husband, Dion Moton, a retired Navy veteran, were at the event with their three children. The Motons are participating in the military reading program through Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and have set a family goal of reading 300 children’s books by the end of summer. Not an easy feat as their youngest is only 16 months old; however, they say that reading aloud to their brood counts toward their goal.
The book reading was held as part of the Nats on Base initiative — referring to military bases — a program aimed at providing year-round experiences for service members and their families living in the greater Washington area.
The children in attendance were given a free baseball book, and the military families also were given free tickets to the game against the Atlanta Braves that followed the reading.
Doolittle is active in supporting the troops and veterans both with the Nats and off the field. He and his wife, Eireann Dolan, volunteer with multiple military and veterans’ groups throughout the year. In December 2018, Doolittle was awarded the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award in recognition of his work with military veterans and their families.
“As somebody that grew up in a military family, I kind of have that bond with them that makes it a little bit more meaningful," said Doolittle. “I grew up going to visit my dad on base, and I never got to meet a major league player. To kind of give the children that experience, I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.”
The Nats also organized a team visit to Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, in earlier in the season.
“That was really, really powerful," Doolittle said. “The Nats have done a lot to get involved in the military community.”
The Nationals’ calendar is filled with military specific events throughout the summer and the entire year. The Nats on Base program offers service members discounted tickets through govx.com and free tickets through the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Other events also offer free tickets and can be found on the team’s website.