KC Royal pitcher chases the heart of King Jesus
By Lee Warren
July 12, 2005
KANSAS CITY – Kansas City Royal relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt is passionate about life, baseball, and his faith in Christ and he’s unafraid to show emotion in any realm of his life. He’s a fan of John Eldredge’s wildly successful book Wild at Heart that invites men “to recover their masculine heart, defined in the image of a passionate God.” And Affeldt also points to a book written by Erwin McManus called That Barbarian Way that has prompted him to do what he calls “chase the heart of the King.”
“Everything is an adventure when it comes to the King,” Affeldt said. “So when I look at chasing the heart of the King, I look at trying to figure out the adventure that I’m on because I know that there are a lot of people in our sport today, and in the world today, who look at Christians as boring people because we live the secluded life. I think it’s the opposite. I think we live in a world that has way more adventure, and way more risk than a person who doesn’t necessarily believe what we believe.”
Affeldt is anything but boring and secluded. He’s a fiery competitor who doesn’t see a conflict between his faith and his competitive nature. Instead he sees his faith as the driving force behind it.
“I risk it all every day,” Affeldt said. “I’m a very angry competitor when I compete on the mound—fists in the air, I want to beat everybody I face. I get mad when I get taken out. I’ll grab bats and bust them. I’ll throw my glove on the bench, and I’ll tell you right now, every time I get done, whether I win or fail, I give glory to the King. When I’m out there on the mound you don’t see my language going off the hook. I’m not cussing up a storm.
“Can I say I’ve never cussed? No. I have. Can I say I’ve never done it in a game? No. I have. I’m a competitor and sometimes things come out that shouldn’t come out, but I’m not afraid of going out there and acting like a competitor and knowing that I’m doing it for my King.”
Ironically, Affeldt was born into a military family that he considered to be a traditional Christian home. He says that he doesn’t necessarily see eye to eye with his parents regarding the faith, but he’s quick to point out that he has great respect for them and all they’ve done for him. They supported his athletic endeavors but didn’t push him into trying to make a career out of athletics. They believed that God was in control of his future and at the young age of 18, the Royals selected him in the third round of the 1997 June free agent draft.
He worked his way through the Royals minor league system and made the major league team out of spring training in 2002 with an outstanding fastball and a knee-buckling curve ball. His role on the pitching staff has changed often from starting pitcher to closer since he arrived on the big league team—partly due to the club’s need for him to fill varying roles and partly due to his multiple injuries.
His injuries, including a pulled groin muscle and a recurring blister problem on his pitching hand, have been a source of frustration for him, but through it all God has challenged Affeldt to trust Him more.
“It’s a frustrating thing when you believe in a God that you know could heal you at the drop of a hat,” Affeldt said. “But you can’t see eternally. You see second by second. But if you take yourself out of the frustration and you look at life as an adventure it’s almost like it’s a great experience because you don’t know what’s next.”
He shares part of his adventure with other believers on the team like Mike Sweeney, Tony Graffanino, Scott Sullivan and John Buck. He looks to them to keep him accountable.
“If you don’t hang around them, then you catch yourself going places where you don’t necessarily think you should be going because you get bored and want to hang out with somebody,” Affeldt said. “With these guys, on the road you can say, ‘I shouldn’t have turned on the TV last night. It wasn’t good. HBO was on and it was something I shouldn’t have done.’ You can tell guys, ‘I need some help. I need to hang out with you tonight.’”
As of this season, Sweeney and Graffanino have gone a step further regarding accountability and it’s helping other believers like Affeldt to stay on track spiritually.
“Mike Sweeney and I started getting adjoining rooms on the road,” Graffanino said. “We have an area between the two rooms where we’ll hang out together, watching television, and spending time together fellowshipping. We made an accountability pact with each other that we won’t watch TV when we’re away from each other.”
Their pact has created a safe environment for other believers on the team like Affeldt to congregate. While the 2005 season has been a difficult one for the Royals—who currently sit at the bottom of the American League Central Division—believers on the team are growing spiritually as they discuss Scripture, share their struggles and have fun together.
Affeldt, a 1997 graduate of Northwest Christian (Wash.) High School, created the Jeremy Affeldt Foundation to benefit youth groups across the country. His wife, Larisa, co-chaired the 2003 Annual Royals Wives Food Drive to generate more than 12,000 pounds of food.