For more than a few fans, baseball is a kind of religion. Lately, Eireann Dolan’s life seems to be the perfect marriage of her passion for the two. Dolan, who’s working on a master’s degree in pastoral studies at Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, recently eloped with Sean Doolittle, closing pitcher for the Washington Nationals.
Dolan confesses to being “not athletic at all,” but she’s always been a fan of the game and is a self-described stats and sabermetrics geek. She grew up in Chicago going to White Sox games and watching her brothers play. Baseball is also all over her Twitter feed, where she reveals herself to be a droll and thoughtful observer of sports, politics, and culture.
A Multireligious Upbringing
Dolan was also powerfully influenced by religion. Her family alternated between attending Catholic Mass and a Unitarian church, where her mother was the religious education director. And one of her grandmothers is an ordained Episcopal minister.
“I remember my mom giving sermons at Unity Temple as a kid, and then, when we went to St. Pat’s, it was difficult to see that only men could do that,” Dolan said recently over coffee at a café near Nationals Park and the Washington, D.C., home she shares with her husband and two dogs. “You almost get vertigo watching it.”
Fueled by a desire to understand why women don’t have an equal role in the church, Dolan pursued theology and religious studies in college, spending three years at L’Institut Catholique de Paris (her father was working in Amsterdam at the time, and she already spoke French) before graduating from the University of San Diego.
A Shared Sense of Humor
In 2015, Dolan took a job covering the Oakland A’s for Comcast SportsNet. A multitasker, she also worked as a speech writer (which she does full time now) and tried her hand at comedy writing.
A friendship with pitcher Brandon McCarthy, then a starter for the A’s and a fledgling comedy writer himself, led to an introduction that changed Dolan’s life. McCarthy thought she and his teammate Doolittle might hit it off. Five years and one Star Wars-themed marriage proposal later, the pair made it official on October 2.
We had the afternoon off so we eloped and we’ve never been happier pic.twitter.com/NrVB7Klf3R
— Crinehold Niebuhr (@EireannDolan) October 3, 2017
That capped a busy stretch for the couple. Doolittle was traded from the A’s to the Nats in mid-July, reporting to the team about 12 hours later.
“It was an adventure, and you learn what you’re capable of,” Dolan said, laughing. She admitted guiltily to asking for one academic extension, directing her professor to her Twitter feed if he didn’t believe the reason.
A Passion for Social Causes
About that Twitter account. Dolan and Doolittle have a teasing, playful relationship online, with Dolan recording a video tossing out all of Doolittle’s stuff (including his Love Actually DVD) after he lost the “Face of MLB” contest to Buster Posey, or posting his awkward high school photos.
But they also use the platform to promote causes they believe in, including LGBTQ rights, aid to Syrian refugees, support for military veterans, and mental health issues. Those values drew the pair together, according to Doolittle.
“I would say that our general mission in life is firmly rooted in the Beatitudes and the imperative of Matthew 25:40,” he said of his and his wife’s commitment to social justice. “We are called to have an option for the marginalized, the oppressed, the ‘least among us.’”
In that vein, Dolan hopes ultimately to engage in one-on-one prison ministry with inmates and parolees.
She applied to Fordham’s online master’s degree program in pastoral studies late last year and started taking courses last spring, calling the program “very portable with my life.” She’s planning to increase her course load from one to two courses per session next year, and she’ll take an intensive on-campus session next summer.
In the meantime, she’s also planning a wedding.
“My big, Irish-Catholic family felt left out,” Dolan said of their elopement. So there will be a January ceremony in Chicago. She added, with a wink, that she’s counting on the cold weather to keep the guest list down. “It’s Darwinism as a wedding!”