Known on the field for his high-energy play that resulted in numerous head injuries, former Major League Baseball player Ryan Freel, 36, was found dead on Saturday in his home in Jacksonville, Fla., from what police said was a self-inflicted shotgun wound.
Freel, who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 2003 to 2008, cut his career short due to a series of injuries, including several head traumas. Over his career playing baseball, Freel admitted to having suffered as many as 10 concussions as a result of diving for balls and colliding with fellow players. One of the head injuries left him with an impaired memory.
After officially retiring in 2010, Freel returned to Jacksonville, his hometown, where he coached in a youth baseball league known as Big League Development. In June, he was named head coach of a baseball team in Florida, but resigned shortly after accepting the position.
As a player, Freel had a .268 career batting average, but was known for his ability to steal bases, having 110 steals between the 2004 and 2006 seasons.
Executive Director of the Reds Community Fund Charley Frank, who worked with Freel for years promoting the team’s community outreach initiatives, told The Florida Time Union, ''We’ve never had another one like him . . . After he came once or twice, he’d come on his own, he’d just show up. He lifted our entire program. I just can’t say enough good things about who he was. ''
The sentiments were echoed by former Cincinnati Reds teammates.
''Really hurt by his passing! . . . You'll never will be forgotten'' Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips posted over the weekend on Twitter.
Former Cincinnati Reds teammate Sean Casey also tweeted, ''RIP Ryan Freel!! Great teammate, great guy, loved his family! Such a sad day today with his passing! Awful news! Prayers are with his family!''
Freel is survived by his wife, Christie, and three daughters.
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