Former big league utility player Ryan Freel was found dead yesterday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 36.
Freel was a 10th round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1995 but did not reach the majors until 2001. But it wasn’t until 2003 when Freel got his big break with the Cincinnati Reds. His best seasons came between 2004 and 2006 stealing 30 plus bases each of those campaigns. He also possessed a solid glove whether he played in the outfield or at second and third base.
Off the field, Freel had a couple of DUI arrests but stopped drinking after 2006. However, by that time, injuries caught up with him and his playing time declined. Indeed, Freel’s hard nosed playing style resulted in a long history of concussions. Freel finished his big league career in 2009 splitting that season with the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs and the Kansas City Royals.
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Freel returned to his hometown to coach young players with an organization called Big League Development.
I leave you with Freel hitting a single off 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee during an interleague game that year.