Yesterday, news outlets started reporting that former Reds player Ryan Freel had died, and since then, that’s been confirmed. Ryan Freel committed suicide on December 23, 2012. He leaves behind a wife and children.
This is obviously just too tragic, and I admit that it’s hitting me pretty hard. It seems a little funny, but because I only learned to love baseball later in life, Ryan Freel was my first favorite Reds player. It wasn’t exactly his play, although during that time he was playing some of his best seasons ever – ~.370 OBP, over 30 stolen bases, and I appreciated that. I really like that there was a scrappy, gritty, grindy player who could also get on base and was objectively good at baseball.
I also liked his eccentricity. His ‘Farney’ interview is now infamous, and at the time, I just adored it. There was always something a little different about it than his teammate Adam Dunn’s silliness, but that was almost more fascinating to me. And, of course, I found his style of play entrancing. Certainly, Ryan Freel enjoyed the game of baseball, but more so, he played with an intensity and an abandon that I rarely see.
After Ryan was traded for Ramon Hernandez, he didn’t have a very long career – playing less than 100 games after leaving the Reds. He just sort of drifted out of the baseball scene – though the news sources report that he was coaching youth baseball players as part of an organization called Big League Development.
Of course, even as a player, there was a dark side to Ryan Freel, including a number concussions incurred as part of playing, and some alcohol problems. I’m starting to wonder how these things may have contributed to Freel taking his own life, but that’s just speculation, and I don’t have a lot of information here.
I’d rather remember Ryan Freel’s good days: stolen bases, superman catches, and a jersey that was always dirty. Thank you, Ryan, for all the joy you’ve brought us. My thoughts and prayers, for what good they’ll do, are with you and your family.