Jeremy Affeldt offered some unusual advice to the dozen or so high school athletes attending the Fresno Grizzlies' Hot Stove Gala on Tuesday night:
"If your only dream is to play sports at the professional or college level," the San Francisco Giants left-hander said, "your life will be miserable."
But he wasn't trying to scare the athletes or anyone else among the crowd of 350 at the Grizzlies' annual season-launching event at Pardini's restaurant in northwest Fresno.
"Use the sport as an advantage to do good things for other people," he said.
Affeldt continued the question-and-answer session to share the four target areas of his charity Generation Alive: world hunger, human trafficking, providing clean water to Third World countries and helping orphans.
"I want to change the face of what a pro athlete looks like," Affeldt said.
It was a few years before he started Generation Alive that he realized his passion wasn't on the mound.
"The game became shallow and pointless," Affeldt said in an interview before the dinner. "I seriously thought about quitting. I remember thinking between 2002 and 2006 about how much I hated the game of baseball."
But in the Q&A session, Affeldt shared the story of an interaction he had with a young girl in Colorado that changed his mind about baseball.
He told the crowd he came across the girl who was dressed in tattered clothing, shivering in the blistering cold and was beaten up with a black eye.
Affeldt said she shied away when he first approached, but he reassured her with one simple sentence:
"I'm not here to hurt you," he told the girl, then added, "I just want to know if you're hungry."
Affeldt went to the nearest Starbucks and bought her some food but later had one regret.
"I never asked her what her story was," he told the crowd.
Still, he said, it left him with a positive feeling.
"I realized I had given her hope and she gave me hope at the same time. She didn't know who I was, but I realized I have a platform as an athlete. It's the only reason I still play the game."
Also joining Affeldt at the gala were San Francisco Vice President/Assistant General Manager Bobby Evans and Giants bullpen coach Mark Gardner, the former Fresno State, Fresno City College and Clovis High star pitcher.
The gala benefits the Grizzlies Community fund.
Top high school softball and baseball players also were honored per tradition, including Female Athlete of the Year Claire Stucker (Bullard), Male Athlete of the Year Jack Labosky (Clovis North), Team of the Year Clovis North baseball and Coach of the Year John Hollett (Selma High baseball).
The Grizzlies awarded local coaching great Jack Hannah with the Al Radka service award. He thanked the crowd by leading a vigorous rendition of "God Bless America."
And the winner is ...
Al Radka Award: Jack Hannah
Gus Zernial Male Player of the Year: Jack Labosky of Clovis North
Gus Zernial Female Player of the Year: Claire Stucker of Bullard
Team of the Year: Clovis North baseball
Coach of the Year: Selma baseball's John Hollett
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