Sean Doolittle offered his support for former Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond who announced his decision to sit out the 2020 MLB season in a heartfelt Instagram post on Monday night.
Desmond, who spent the first seven years of his MLB career in D.C., addressed racism, lack of diversity in baseball, lack of opportunity for underprivileged youth and a number of other issues in the post. He ultimately attributed his decision to the risk COVID-19 presents during this season –– a risk he is not willing to take with four young children at home and another on the way.
Doolittle saluted the Desmond in a tweet:
Damn this is powerful. I’ve never shared a clubhouse with Ian Desmond but I’ve always had a ton of respect for him as a player and as a person - and for all his work with the Nats Youth Baseball Academy. Grateful for his voice and perspective. Respect. https://t.co/mikhFDTkA5 https://t.co/yxhbMxrDkT— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) June 30, 2020
“Damn this is powerful," Doolittle tweeted. "I’ve never shared a clubhouse with Ian Desmond, but I’ve always had a ton of respect for him as a player and as a person – and for all his work with the Nats Youth Baseball Academy. Grateful for his voice and perspective.”
In his time in Washington, as Doolittle referenced, Desmond was actively involved in the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy and served on the academy’s board when it opened in 2014. After an eight-year construction process, the facility opened in Southeast D.C. with the mission to provide classroom space, indoor practice facilities and baseball fields for children in D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods.
“We’re giving these kids something that nobody will ever take away from them,” Desmond said around the time of the facility’s opening. “Whether its cooking lessons or baseball skills or just the love of the game through mentors, volunteers or people around them. That’s not something that we all realize is a necessity because we get it and take it for granted. But a lot of these kids are in dire situations and really need someone to put their arms around them every once in a while.”
In his post, Desmond tells the story of a 12-year-old named Antwuan who he met through the academy. At the time, Antwuan couldn’t read and could barely even say his ABCs, Desmond wrote. But through the programs at the academy, he learned and was on track for success until he was shot and killed at the age of 18 in D.C.
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After sharing this heart-breaking story, Desmond asked pressing questions about Major League Baseball like “Why isn’t there an academy like that in every single community?” and “Why aren’t accessible, affordable youth sports viewed as an essential opportunity to affect kids’ development, as opposed to money-making propositions and recruiting chances?”
After spending time at his former Little League field at his home in Sarasota, Fla. recently, Desmond could no longer wonder these questions without looking for a solution. In the post, he promised he will use his time away from baseball to help the youth in his hometown and provide them opportunities as he did for so many children in Washington.
Even after Desmond left the D.C. area in 2015, his legacy and impact on the Washington youth live on through the vibrant Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. A number of current players continue to promote youth education programs there, including Doolittle who held an anti-bullying workshop at the facility in 2019 with his wife Eireann Dolan.
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