Photo By: Courtesy of Cathy Fitzpatrick-Platt
Appearing at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Jeremy Affeldt, relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, discusses how he balances his gift with his calling.
Meet Jeremy Affeldt, 33-year-old relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, World Series champion, soon-to-be published author, husband, father, committed adversary of human trafficking and childhood poverty – and preacher.
Affeldt recently spoke to approximately 4,700 attendees at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church sites, recalling his young start as a Major Leaguer, his disappointment with life in the midst of it, and a turning point, as told in his book, “To Stir a Movement: Life, Justice, and Major League Baseball,” published this month by Beacon Hill Press.
Affeldt described a life young boys dream of – drafted at 17, straight out of high school, by the Kansas City Royals and playing Major League Baseball by the age of 22.
“I thought I finally had reached what I was called to do … and now I’m just going to ride the coattails of success and be this popular guy,” he said.
But expectations and reality do not always mesh, as he learned while playing for a team on a losing streak.
Four years into his life as a Major Leaguer, “I hated the game,” Affeldt said. “I was miserable. I had no joy. I did not like going to the ballpark. I was part of two teams that had lost over 100 games a year.”
One day as he sat, angry and frustrated, in a Kansas City church, a buddy and spiritual mentor walked in, sat beside him, put his arm around him, and listened.
Affeldt said he told him, “Man, I’m done. I don’t want to play this game. I’m tired of failing. I’m tired of getting hurt. I’m tired of losing. … I don’t understand if God has called me into baseball why I’m so miserable, because this doesn’t make sense to me.”
His friend recommended a book, “The Vision and the Vow” (Relevant Books, 2004) by Peter Greig, which tells of a German count who vowed with boarding school buddies to live by three tenets: loving God, loving their neighbor and using the platform given them to preach the gospel.
Affeldt said he tried to reconcile Greig’s vision with the one he had of himself.
“The vision of a Major League athlete is contracts, strikeouts, home runs, wins, losses, RBIs, doubles, Gold Gloves, Cy Youngs and how big can I be on my next contract,” he said. “It’s all about me.”
After being traded to the Colorado Rockies, he heard the message of love again, this time while reading the 12th chapter of Mark in the Bible. And, he said, he got it. His gift was playing baseball, but his calling was loving God and loving people.
“A true vocation is when you take your gift and you mix it with the calling of a human being,” he said. “You will find your joy.”
Affeldt said he’s found it.
“When I pitch, I pitch with complete joy,” he said. “I stand on that mound and I pitch with everything I have, because that is my worship, because that’s what he has gifted me in.”
Addressing his calling to love, Affeldt said, “I pitch for the least of these.”