Ryan Freel, who played most of his MLB career as a Cincinnati Reds utility man, was found dead in his home on Saturday afternoon of an apparent suicide. He was 36 and last played in 2009.
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.
Of course, we have no idea if concussions played a role in Freel’s death, but this is more discouraging, circumstantial evidence of an utterly tragic trend.
Be sure to read CBSSports.com’s powerful remembrance of Freel by C. Trent Rosecrans.