SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeremy Affeldt has donated time and effort for years toward ending human trafficking and slavery. Recently, Affeldt gave something else to the cause: his presence.As he took a weeklong sojourn to Asia, Affeldt felt an unmistakable deepening of his devotion toward helping innocent victims worldwide -- though it might not have been possible to fathom his commitment growing any stronger. Affeldt took his first overseas trip to observe what Not For Sale, the organization that's striving to help vulnerable people everywhere, has achieved and has left to accomplish. The left-handed Giants reliever accompanied Not For Sale founder David Batstone to South Korea and Thailand, departing Dec. 27 and returning last Thursday. Instead of celebrating New Year's Eve with his wife, Larissa, and three sons, Affeldt happened to land in Bangkok close to midnight local time on Dec. 31 and watched airport employees suddenly don party hats and bellow with joy. As a ballplayer, Affeldt spends an excess of quality time away from his family. But he needed to see what and whom he was supporting. "I already had the passion, but now it's solidified," Affeldt said Monday. "You've got to fight for these people. That's why we're here. For me to be fortunate enough to do what I do for a living, to be able to be free like I am, to be available to have a platform, I want to use it to the biggest scale that I can." Affeldt's chief role with Not For Sale is to serve as ambassador for its Free2Play campaign, which funds athletic programs for victims of human trafficking. The initiative has been responsible for building baskeball courts and soccer fields far and wide. Affeldt has recruited about 20 Major Leaguers, including teammate Brandon Belt, St. Louis' Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia, Arizona's Ian Kennedy, Paul Goldschmidt and Cliff Pennington and Boston's Stephen Drew to join Free2Play. Affeldt and his counterparts raised $150,000 last year; he hopes to double the membership and the amount of money raised this year. "Maybe," Affeldt mused, "I'll take them to that area of Thailand to see why Not For Sale started." Affeldt emphasized that Free2Play's significance extends beyond ensuring that fields are lined and balls are inflated. "The creativity of just being able to play will give them the freedom of being able to dream and try to become what they're destined to become," said Affeldt, 33, who signed a three-year, $18 million contract extension last November. Affeldt's tour included a speech he delivered to a church group in Seoul, South Korea. He also was particularly struck by a visit to Chiang Rai, Thailand, where Not For Sale had established a village for more than 100 youths rescued from slavery or prostitution. During Affeldt's two days at the village, seven boys saved from trafficking joined the group. Affeldt noticed that when those youths' shirts became soiled, they threw the garments on the ground instead of keeping them for laundering.
"They weren't used to saving them, because in life, they'd steal them after they got dirty or old. They have to live that way," said Affeldt, who posted a 2.70 ERA in 67 appearances last season before pitching 10 1/3 shutout innings spanning 10 postseason outings.The extent of malnutrition was considerable. Affeldt saw 9- and 10-year-old kids who were smaller or barely as big as his 5-year-old son, Walker. Affeldt noted that the village had ample supplies of rice and eggs, among other staples, to feed the kids. One indignity escaped the availability of sports, meals or clothes. Many children, Affeldt observed, hailed from tribes claimed by neither Thailand nor neighboring Myanmar. They were people without a country. Not For Sale has tried to place such youths in boarding schools. But the problem remains. "If you think about that, it's almost an impossibility to live," Affeldt said. "You're just basically tossed aside as rubbish. They don't like you or care about you or your existence." So Affeldt rarely rests.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.