Jeremy Affeldt has experienced the struggles of playing for a small market team (Kansas City) and the joys of playing for a World Series championship team (San Francisco). But the relief pitcher says there’s nothing he can’t handle as long as he continues to rely on his relationship with God.
Chad Bonham: Tell me about your upbringing.
Jeremy Affeldt: I was raised in a Christian family and I attended a Christian school. I knew who God was but I didn’t really get too in depth into my relationship with Him. I started reading the Bible and I started going through some thing with the school counselor and it started to come alive to me. I started understanding that Jesus is alive and the Bible is really the living Word. My attitude started changing. I started seeing people as human beings that Jesus loved and since Jesus loved me, I need to start loving them. It was an interesting time in my life and I even apologized to a lot of people in my class for how I treated them.
Bonham: How does your faith play out in the clubhouse?
Affeldt: I need to love my teammates and serve them. I have a lot of fun with them too. I hang out with them. I joke around with them. But I also have times where I serve them. If someone wants a bottle of water, I try to go get it for them. I haven’t always been the best at being a servant, but I’m trying a lot harder to do that. I try to show my teammates by loving on them and asking how their families are doing to show them the Gospel. I want to encourage my teammates because this is a game of failure so the more I can do that with the guys, the better off they’ll be.
Bonham: How do you deal with baseball’s daily grind?
Affeldt: When I go out there, I know I’ve worked really hard at being consistent in throwing strikes. I try my best to know my body and how certain pitches feel out of my hand. If I make a great pitch and the guy hits it, I can’t control that. I can throw a pitch down the middle and the guy might pop it up. I can’t control what happens after I throw a baseball. So I’ve got to believe that God’s given me a talent to be the best I can possibly be and when I go out there I have done everything that I can possibly do to prepare to pitch that day. Everything else is out of my hands. Ultimately as a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe God has my destiny in my hands. The Bible says that hard work brings success so I know that if I work really hard at becoming the best that I can be, I’ve got to believe that those principles are going to come to pass. I’m going to have success. I can only control certain things. I can’t control the outcome of a situation. But I can work hard. I can prepare. I can do everything I can possibly do and then sometimes God’s going to go the rest of the way.
Bonham: What do you believe is your responsibility as a Christian athlete?
Affeldt: My responsibility as a believer is the Great Commission—to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Baseball is part of the world. That’s going into the world. Baseball is a huge, worldly, materialistic place. It’s my responsibility to go into that world and preach the Gospel. I have a platform and part of my responsibility is to use that platform that God has given me to bring Him glory. Ultimately, that is who I am. Baseball is what I do. It’s not who I am. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I need to use what I do to show people who I am. You can’t compromise your values but you can’t let your values compromise your faith and keep you from spending time with people who don’t share your values.
Read more from this conversation with Jeremy Affeldt in the upcoming Fellowship of Christian Athletes book Greatest Leader Ever. Click on the title to find out how to purchase a copy (set to release November 2011).