SAN FRANCISCO -- With his new book, "To Stir A Movement: Life, Justice, and Major League Baseball," Jeremy Affeldt has thrown the ultimate purpose pitch.
A typical purpose pitch backs a hitter off the plate and commands his attention. In Affeldt's case, he grabs the readers' attention by recounting his steady, lifelong march toward devoting himself to helping his fellow man.
In that sense, Affeldt's book is autobiographical. But it's not strictly an autobiography.
"I didn't want it to be the story of Jeremy and his life. There are plenty of those out there," said Affeldt, the left-hander who likely will be activated from the disabled list Friday before the Giants open a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rather, Affeldt shares his story to stimulate readers and prompt them to care more about the world around them. As the book's title indicates, he's profoundly serious about this. That should come as no surprise to anybody who's familiar with Affeldt. Through his youth ministry, Generation Alive, Affeldt supports Not For Sale, an organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking. Affeldt also strives to help the hungry, thirsty and disadvantaged by partnering with organizations such as Something to Eat, the Global Orphan Project, Living Water International and One World Futbol.
"I truly believe in the concept of love your neighbor as yourself," Affeldt told MLB.com, referring to the familiar Scripture passage (Mark 12:31). "Whether you believe in God or not, that's still a concept we need, because it's the only way society can have any kind of sanity to it. Selfishness ruins a lot of things. I'm just trying to speak from that angle.
"I don't want to be selfish. I don't want to be, 'It's all about me, not about anybody else.' I don't want to be about, 'Come cheer for me and then leave me alone.' I don't want to be that kind of athlete. I see people who don't have food, they don't have water, they're being trafficked, they don't have homes and they don't get the opportunity to become somebody great. So I believe it's those who have been given the opportunities to be great [should] help others."
As the book reveals, Affeldt's singular upbringing prompted him to develop his philanthropic perspective. The son of a U.S. Air Force bombardier, Affeldt occasionally traveled through Asia while his father was stationed in Guam. On a family vacation to Thailand, Affeldt's alert father quickly saved him from being pulled into a strip club by a stranger. Affeldt observed that what amounted to an attempted kidnapping might have resulted in his becoming a sex slave were it not for his father's intervention.
Affeldt, who began his professional career in the Kansas City organization, reserves heavy praise for ex-Royals slugger Mike Sweeney. The five-time All-Star's class and professionalism strongly influenced Affeldt.
In an intriguing instance of timing, Affeldt became curious about human trafficking shortly after he joined the Giants as a free agent in the 2008-09 offseason. Affeldt contacted David Batstone, the co-founder and president of Not For Sale, who happened to be a Giants fan and was overjoyed to hear about the relief pitcher's interest.
The book includes enough of Affeldt's baseball-related stories to satisfy zealous fans. Included among the reminiscences are his most enduring memories from the 2010 and 2012 postseasons when the Giants won it all.
But, as Affeldt pointed out, this is not a typical baseball book.
"It was written with the understanding that we've all been given a talent. We've all been given a gift," he said. "And what we do with that gift, what we do with that talent, to bring around positive change in the world is what's going to make you feel successful. I think that's what we're here on this planet to do."
Many might suggest that Affeldt, who owns a 1.37 ERA in 22 postseason appearances, was placed on this planet to throw strikes and stabilize the Giants' bullpen. But excellence on the field never was enough for Affeldt, 33. As his career lengthened, he began to sense that just being a ballplayer wasn't enough.
"I was trying to figure out at the time why I wasn't happy in the game," Affeldt said. "I figured out that doing things like this for other people and using my platform to do it gave me a lot of joy in the game. It gave me a sense of purpose in the game because, for me, just going out there and pitching every night and succeeding and winning -- or not succeeding and not winning -- there's something in me that says, 'This is it?' At the end of the day, what is the real reason for being an athlete on this scale? If it's just to say I'm an athlete on this scale, some people are fine with that. But for me it was a shallow life."
Talkative by nature, Affeldt shared these thoughts with more and more people as time passed. As he recalled, "Someone came up to me and said, 'You know, you should write a book.'"
Published by Beacon Hill Press, "To Stir a Movement" is available at Giants Dugout stores, Barnes and Noble and Costco, as well as online at beaconhillbooks.com, Amazon.com and iTunes.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less