Listen Live Now:

2012 Rewind: How 2012 Giants taught Core Four member Jeremy Affeldt how to ‘weather the storm’

(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Giants’ 2012 World Series, KNBR will release a series of stories highlighting that special run leading up to Aug. 13’s reunion at Oracle Park.

Just across the street from where he became an October legend, it finally happened. 

On the Hotel Via rooftop bar, a long toss away from the pitcher’s mound, Jeremy Affeldt said exactly what local brewer Brandon Phillips had been waiting for. They’d talked about their shared dream of opening a brewery for years over cigars and drinks, but Phillips was never sure exactly how serious the former Giants reliever was. 

“Alright, I’m ready,” Affeldt told Phillips. “Let’s do this.” 

After retiring in 2015, Affeldt dipped his toe in the broadcasting scene, focused on his philanthropy and spent more time with his three sons. But that 2018 interaction kicked off a multi-year undertaking 1,700 miles away, one that gave him purpose: Free Roam Brewing Co. 

Affeldt’s journey has taken him from three World Series rings to a repurposed 19th Century horse stable in Bourne, Texas. He couldn’t have done it without his time with the Giants, which taught him how to deal with adversity and gave him the mantra — part sports cliché, part religion — he lives by. Affeldt likes to say the 2012 Giants, as well as the two title teams sandwiching it, “weathered the storm.” 

And after those accomplishments, with the mindset that group embodied, Affeldt feels he can tackle any obstacle, be it in business, fatherhood or otherwise. 

“Adversities are storms,” Affeldt told KNBR in a February call. “Storms come. Winds pick up. Could be hail, could be snow, could be heavy flooding. Basically chaos…But every storm runs out of rain eventually.” 

Backs against the wall

The Giants weren’t supposed to make the 2012 World Series. Their best player was coming off a gruesome leg injury that kept him out an entire year. They lost their star closer early in the year to Tommy John surgery. Their All-Star outfielder got suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. 

Then the postseason came around. San Francisco lost the first two games of the divisional round to Cincinnati at home. After battling all the way back, SF once again fell behind, this time three games to one in the NLCS to the Cardinals. 

If the 2010 Giants were a band of misfits, the 2012 group was a free solo mountain climbing brigade — a team constantly battling adversity with no margin for error and seemingly no end in sight. They were perpetually inches away from plummeting.  

San Francisco won six elimination games, tying an MLB record. Four of those wins came on the road, something no other team has ever done. 

“I just really enjoyed seeing a team go through, essentially, some pretty big chaos,” Affeldt said. “In the playoffs, it’s lose or you’re out. Both series. And really bouncing back. That’s probably the one team that proved everything about baseball to me, that it’s never over until it’s actually over. There’s potential to come back at any time. We came back in ways you should not come back. And we did it in ways that you should not come back. And you did it because guys really pulled for one another.”

Affeldt — and the rest of the Core Four — held up an umbrella to so many of those storms. But he too had to deal with personal struggles earlier in the season, when he sprained his MCL while picking up his four-year-old son. 

Like the collective Giants, he bounced back. In the playoffs, Affeldt pitched 10.1 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits across all his appearances. He struck out Miguel Cabrera, Delmon Young and Prince Fielder in order to preserve an eighth-inning 3-3 tie in the clinching World Series game. His career postseason ERA ranks third among all pitchers with at least 30 innings. 

Affeldt and the Giants came out on top. But he’d hit the mat again. 

A budding dream

While Affeldt became a local hero, both with the 2012 team and San Francisco’s other two championship ensembles, he used his platform for philanthropy. He worked with the Larkin Street Youth Services non-profit to combat homelessness and other charities that addressed child suffering and trafficking. 

He wanted to help people battling storms much greater than anything that could happen on a diamond. 

The Giants nominated Affeldt for the Roberto Clemente Award in 2010. That was also the same year the reliever famously returned $500,000 to the organization after finding a clerical error in his contract. 

In 2012, Affeldt helped found Generation Alive, a non-profit dedicated to empowering youth. He held fundraising events at 21st Amendment Brewery on 2nd Street, just minutes from Oracle Park. He and his teammates would guest-bartend, and that’s where Affeldt met Phillips, then a bartender at 21st Amendment.

“We were pretty much clearing about $250,000 in four or five hours in a night,” Phillips said. 

Phillips and Affeldt grew close, often talking about life over cigars. Affeldt would fantasize of one day opening up his own brewery. 

Phillips eventually became the brewpub’s manager. Jaron Shepherd, who also started as a 21st Amendment bartender, became the head brewer. They dreamed of their own venture. 

The foundation was being built. But they still needed someone — someone like Affeldt — to eventually pull it all together and make it happen. They could talk about it all they want. But who knew if that Hotel Via moment was ever going to come? 

In a way, it was their own storm. 

The buffalo

Affeldt likes to say all three of his sons were born in World Series years. Walker in 2007, when his dad pitched for the Colorado Rockies. Logan in 2010. Kolt in 2012. 

After retiring and a brief foray into broadcasting — Affeldt loves public speaking — he moved his family to Boerne, Texas, a small city outside San Antonio. He loved hunting, hiking, fishing and playing sports with his kids. Everything was perfect. 

Then a couple years ago, the storm of all storms came for Affeldt. He lost his marriage, which destroyed him. “I went numb a little bit,” he said. 

Affeldt recalled how the 2012 group got knocked down, but always came back stronger. Lifted each other through adversity. Now his teammates, his “herd,” were his sons. They depended on him to overcome the storm for their family. 

Affeldt learned “controllables and uncontrollables” from playing baseball. After the papers were signed, the only thing he could control was how he raise Walker, Logan and Kolt.

So he committed to showing his sons how to be a leader by remaining close with his family — he and his ex-wife have shared custody — and creating an outlet. By maintaining his character even during the worst moments of his life. 

“I wanted to show them that storms are going to hit,” Affeldt said. “I didn’t know that storm was going to hit, it kind of blindsided me a little bit. And it shocked me. I was literally lost for a little bit because I wasn’t prepared for it. And I was able to bounce back and show my boys how important it is — when storms come, you get knocked on your butt, you do everything I preach to them.” 

Affeldt needed a new chapter in his life. And he found it with Free Roam Brewing Co, an enterprise that can bring people together while supporting the communities and causes close to Affeldt via philanthropic efforts. Every beer represents a charity or cause Affeldt and his Free Roam team cares about. 

Phillips and Shepherd moved down to Boerne in the fall of 2020. The process hasn’t been easy, but the trio finally had their grand opening on March 4. They retrofitted a 19th Century horse stable, replacing three exterior walls and encountering an unexpected well right in the middle of the tap room. They worked around it, making a plexiglass floor so you can see down the 20-foot ditch. 

They wanted to keep the 1800s charm but add a modern, rustic flair. There’s MLB memorabilia, including photo of Willie Mays and a painting of Affeldt on the mound. And they had to include space for a podcast studio, where Affeldt will record his Built For The Storm show. Since the opening, Free Roam has hosted Yoga Sundays, Trivia Tuesdays, live concerts, food trucks and family game events. 

Free Roam’s most important detail? The brewery’s symbol. 

Shrouded on the bar’s walls, on every craft beer can and piece of store merchandise is a buffalo. The rare animal that runs into storms head-on, beasts that come out the other side strong, emblems of inner strength and perseverance.


Get KNBR in your inbox

Subscribe today to bring The Sports Leader to your email inbox weekly.