For someone who amounted to part-timer, Ryan Freel gave a lot of joy to baseball fans. He exhibited a colorful, sometimes bizarre personality and demonstrated an acrobatic, sometimes reckless style of play that took a toll on his career. He was fun to watch and write about. But he also was troubled. And now we are left to wonder why he took his own life.
Freel was found dead at his home*in Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday afternoon, victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound,*police confirmed via the Florida Times-Union. Freel was 36 years old, leaving a wife, Christie, along with at least two daughters, notes
First Coast News of Jacksonville reported his death first.
Freel played in parts of eight major league seasons, seeing action in 594 games — 544 with the Cincinnati Reds — and four other teams, from 2001-2009. He batted .268/.354/.369 with 143 stolen bases and 22 home runs. He logged most of his innings in the outfield, particularly center, but was known for having enough versatility to play third base and second.
He also was known for going all out. He dived into the grass, the dirt and the stands chasing after balls. He would crash into fences. He would collide with teammates. And all of the violence against his body caused him significant harm. Freel said in 2007 after a particularly brutal collision with teammate Norris Hopper that he had "probably nine or 10" concussions in his life, but he couldn't remember for certain.
Former teammate Brandon Phillips said on Twitter he was "Really hurt by his passing," and that Freel wouldn't be forgotten.*The Reds also released a collective statement:
"The Reds family is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Freel. His teammates and our fans loved him for how hard he played the game, and he loved giving back to the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."
Freel was a funny guy, too.