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Star Wars, love and a reliever

When you think about the life of a professional athlete, you probably imagine Valentine's Day spent with a loved one on a trip to Napa Valley or a helicopter ride in Hawaii. And while that is likely happening this Feb. 14, there are just as many MLB players celebrating with heart-shaped donuts, dinner at Cracker Barrel or a card hidden in luggage before they leave for spring training.

Oakland Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and fiancée Eireann Dolan don't craft any lavish plans at this time of year because the pair has already established a more casual tradition for the holiday: Taco Bell.

Dolan orders double-decker tacos -- beans, no meat (she's a vegetarian) -- and he orders, well ... "Everything," she said.

If they decide to really get crazy, she said, they might end up doing a puzzle too.

The relaxed celebration necessitated by the crazy schedule of a baseball player doesn't bother Dolan at all, but Doolittle got in a romantic gesture before the offseason ended.

An unabashed Star Wars nerd, Doolittle dressed the couple's dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Stella, as Princess Leia and stationed her next to an R2-D2 replica doll to lure Dolan into a room filled with candles, where he presented her with the bauble and uttered, "Marry me, Eireann. You're my only hope."

Of course, Dolan, who has indulged Doolittle's Star Wars obsession, understood the reference.

"He's really into it, and I tolerate it. That's what relationships are: compromising and tolerating their obsessions," Dolan gamely joked.

A keen sense of humor has always been the cornerstone of the pair's relationship, and it was instrumental in what brought them together in the first place.

The two were introduced virtually, over Twitter, by Doolittle's former teammate, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy and Dolan were collaborating on a comedy writing project in L.A. at the time, and he thought the two would be a great match. After McCarthy told Dolan he had a teammate he wanted her to meet who was "super funny, super nerdy," Dolan asked his name.

Her response?

"That sounds fake," Dolan recalled in a phone conversation with ESPN.com, laughing about the fact that she later Googled Doolittle to ensure it wasn't a ruse.

The two traded texts and interacted occasionally on Twitter after that. Then McCarthy made another bid to link the pair when, in a 2013 interview with ESPN The Magazine, he named Doolittle and Dolan the two funniest people he followed on Twitter.

Eventually, a work trip brought Dolan -- a professional speech writer and correspondent for CSN California who studies Theology at Fordham University -- to Phoenix, Doolittle's neck of the woods. He asked if he could take her out for frozen yogurt. She acquiesced and quickly discerned some differences between them. She has an unorthodox fro-yo approach that often combines the Flavor of the Day with disparate confections, such as Swedish Fish and Captain Crunch or Mochi and hot fudge. Doolittle was a bit more straightforward. "You're not going to believe this ..." she began, sounding horrified at his regular order: plain vanilla with "maybe some Reese's Pieces" if he's feeling adventurous.

Nevertheless, they hit it off. It has been four years since that first date, which Dolan now dubs their "frozen yogurt-versary."

That first date -- low-key and devoid of pretense -- was an apt foreshadowing of their relationship, one that has been both defined and galvanized by the rigors of a 162-game MLB season and the scheduling issues it presents.

Said Dolan: "The blessings baseball has given us far outweigh the downside."

Doolittle and Dolan have not only engaged fans on social media and piqued interest with their hilarious banter, but they have also invested heavily in the Oakland community. The two have been vocal champions for several social issues in recent years, purchasing and donating tickets for A's Pride night in support of the local LGBTQ community, hosting Syrian refugees for a Thanksgiving dinner and lending fierce support to veteran charities.

Next up for the pair: planning their nuptials.

Although Dolan joked about a courthouse wedding, she is eyeing the Unity Temple, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed church in her hometown, Oak Park, Illinois, for their venue.

As far as the date, the wedding will take place in the offseason -- naturally -- sometime in January 2018. No word yet on whether there will be a Star Wars theme.

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