A's Pride Night takes on greater significance

A's Pride Night takes on greater significance

OAKLAND -- The A's stood in solidarity with a grieving community on Tuesday night, honoring the victims of the worst mass shooting in American history during their second annual Pride Night.

The celebration was perhaps muted, but the significance was amplified.

"In addition to standing with the LGBT community, I think it's also a chance for us as Americans to show this kind of hatred and these kind of terrorists that they're not going to change our way of life," reliever Sean Doolittle said. "People are still going to continue to stick together, and they're not going to defeat us with that kind of stuff."

It was the middle of the night in Cincinnati when Doolittle and his girlfriend, Eireann Dolan, heard of the horror unfolding at a gay nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people would be killed, and another 53 wounded, early Sunday morning.

"We were like, I hope they still have Pride Night," Dolan said on Tuesday. "I hope this doesn't impact that, because that's a really great opportunity, if we do have it, to show that there's a great support system out there that supports you no matter who you love, no matter who you are, and there's no reason to be afraid."

When the A's announced plans for their inaugural Pride Night last year, the news drew some negative reaction on Twitter, which prompted Dolan, who proudly has two moms, to offer to purchase all unwanted tickets to the game and donate them to a Bay Area charity for LGBT youth.

Dolan quickly became the unofficial voice of the event. Moving forward this year, in the wake of the shootings, proved paramount to her, and also to the A's, but the decision didn't come without questions.

"How do we do it respectfully enough when this whole community is in mourning?" Doolittle remembered thinking.

"It did feel a little strange, only because of what happened the other day, and we felt like we couldn't move forward without acknowledging what had happened and how much that affects this community," Dolan said. "I think it means more because it shows that after last year, after how big a success it was, that there is a community here that wants this, that needs this, and that is ready to accept everybody and sees them as sports fans first."

The A's dedicated this year's Pride Night to the Orlando victims, replacing the ceremonial first pitch with a silent tribute. Doolittle and Dolan, along with University of San Francisco women's basketball coach Jennifer Azzi, joined members of the local LGBT community in passing a ball that was placed on the mound as a symbol of remembrance.

The anthem was then performed by the Oakland East Bay Gay Men's Chorus in front of the fans -- many of whom took advantage of a Pride Night ticket that included an A's Pride rainbow headband, with portions of the proceeds benefiting a trio of Bay Area charities: AIDS Project of the East Bay, Our Space and Rainbow Community Center.

"Obviously, what happened here recently is devastating, but this is something, like Sean is saying, that takes even more precedence today for us," manager Bob Melvin said. "Our organization, we're all inclusive, as is the area, and to be able to do something like this, especially at this particular time, feels good, and I know everybody around here is excited about this. Baseball's baseball, but real life is quite a bit more important, and we're celebrating that here."

Added Doolittle: "One of the things about this country -- you're supposed to be free in this country to be who you are, and to express yourself however you please and to live your life doing what makes you happy.

"When innocent American citizens are attacked doing something just having fun, living their lives, that should make people just as mad as it being an attack on the LGBT community. These were innocent Americans just having a night out having fun."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.