Maypearl’s Blake Doolan grew up in the southeast suburbs of Houston in Pasadena, Texas. He grew up playing little league baseball since he was six years old. He was a coach’s son, so playing baseball was in his blood.
As he got older, Doolan attended Sam Rayburn High School and played as an outfielder throughout high school. In 1984, he was promoted to the Texans’ junior varsity team his freshman year. In the summer of ’84, Doolan played on the American Legion team. The American Legion team was basically a varsity tryout team. If a certain player played well during the summer, that player was eligible to play on the varsity the following season.
Doolan played for the American Legion squad and made it all the way to the state championship game at Richards Park in Waxahachie.
“I remembered coming up here because the field was gorgeous and we had a blast,” Doolan said.
Doolan’s team didn’t fare well in the state title game and lost to Spring Westfield. Doolan said that before the game, several of his teammates were messing around in the hotel room and injured themselves. They ended up playing with only nine players in the title game.
In 1985, he played on the varsity as a sophomore where he led his team in hitting and eventually led his team to the state championship game. Despite a good effort, the Texans didn’t win the state title that year either. Doolan lettered all three years in baseball and earned all-district honors each year. He was selected to the all-greater Houston team for the ’85 state team and lettered two years in football.
Doolan had several mentors while he played in high school. One of them was his father Gillette Doolan and another was his high school coach, Al Campo. However, there was a third person that gave him some advice that he still believes in today. That person was none other than former Houston Astro and Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan.
Doolan said he first met Ryan when he was working as part of the grounds crew for the Astros while he was in high school. He said that in between innings, Ryan would ask him about his future plans but more importantly he would offer up sound advice.
“The advice he gave me was No. 1, always work hard,” Doolan said. “No. 2 was always remember where you came from. He taught me more about life than he did about baseball. One other thing that sticks out in my mind that he said was, never forget about the fans. They’re the reason why you put on that uniform everyday.”
Ryan tried to convince Doolan to attend his alma mater at Alvin Community College but Doolan chose a different path. He admitted that telling Ryan that he wasn’t going to Alvin was one of the hardest things he had to do.
After a successful high school career, Doolan earned a full baseball scholarship to San Jacinto Junior College and another scholarship to Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana-Monroe).
San Jacinto, located in Houston, Texas, is known for its rich baseball tradition. The school has the winningest junior college program in the nation with five national championships, four-time national runner-up, six Cy Young awards and has turned out players like Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
Doolan took advantage of the full ride offers and decided that’s where he was going to go. As an outfielder, he led his 1989 San Jacinto team to a win in the Junior College World Series. A year later, he transferred to Northeast Louisiana University.
While there, he came down with a condition known as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Basically that condition is when your collarbone and ribs crimp a vein. He said that his arm turned the color of his blue jeans and the arm became the size of his leg. He was in ICU until surgery was performed to remove a piece of his rib that was next to his collarbone.
After undergoing rehab the following year, his fastball improved from around an 88-89 mph fastball to 93-94 mph in part due to his surgery. The operation eliminated much of the friction that he had in that part of his body.
After graduating from college, he expected to enter the work force and was set to begin a new job until his mother encouraged him to attend a tryout camp for the minor leagues. Two weeks later his mother called him and said, “Blake you did it, you got drafted!” Doolan responded saying, “that’s not funny mom,” as he continued thinking she was playing a joke on him. Doolan’s mom said that she was serious and played a recording for him saying that the Philadelphia Phillies had drafted him.
Doolan was picked up by the Phillies in the 33rd round of the 1992 amateur draft. He played six years for the Phillies organization and spent most of that time playing for its double A minor league team, the Reading Phillies.
Up until this point in Doolan’s career, he had always been an outfielder. The Phillies organization drafted him as a pitcher after they saw him throwing the ball in the tryout he attended. Doolan credits his minor league coach Larry Anderson for the success he was able to have.
“He told me I threw a lot like Greg Maddox so he had Maddox work out with me,” Doolan remembers. “He taught me a lot of things but more importantly he taught me the mental part of the game, which was a huge part of pitching.”
His most successful season for the Phillies was his 1995 season. He helped lead his team to an Eastern League Championship that year. He was 11-5 on the mound and led all Phillies minor league relief pitchers with a 2.22 ERA. He ended the year with 16 saves and struck out 50 batters.
He played so well that year that he was selected to play on the National all-star team. His parents were able to watch him play in Shreveport, Louisiana, against the American league all-stars led by Nomar Garciaparra.
Doolan’s baseball career came to an end in 1998. His career was cut short by a painful injury to his right elbow. He tore the common collateral ligament in his elbow while he was working out in the off-season. Doctors repaired the torn ligament from a piece of Doolan’s achilles tendon. However, he was never the same after that. He tried making a comeback but the pain in his arm was too much to deal with.
Despite the disappointing end to his career, he kept things in perspective.
“It was fun,” Doolan said. “I got to live the dream that many kids have. Many 5’11” guys don’t get a chance to do what I did.”
He admits there has been times when he wishes he could go back and do things over again but one of them is not baseball. He acknowledges that baseball has been good to him.
“Baseball paid for my career, it made me into a better person,” he added. “It showed me how to work hard, it kept me out of trouble and it paid for my college education.”
He points to the fact that if you work hard at something you love doing, it’s going to pay off in the end.
Doolan still does what he loves. He loves the game of baseball and he enjoys teaching kids the things he learned along the way. He does both on a regular basis. He holds pitching and hitting clinics at his home and conducts summer camps for all ages.
When he’s not involved in clinics or camps, Doolan operates a physician-recruiting firm, United Recruiting Group that he’s worked at for 10 years. He’s a position recruiter putting medical teams together for hospitals, clinics and multi-specialty groups.