Ryan Freel, whose eight-year Major League Baseball career was cut short in 2009 by concussions and other injuries, was found dead over the weekend at his home in Jacksonville, Florida. He was 36.
Police are treating Freel’s death as a suicide from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told the Florida Times-Union. The medical examiner will officially determine the cause of death.
A voicemail message and multiple telephone calls to the sheriff’s office public information department seeking comment on Freel’s death weren’t immediately returned.
Freel spent six of his eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, hitting .268 with 143 stolen bases in 594 games. He played second base, third base and the outfield, and was known for his hustle and reckless style of play.
“The Reds family is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Freel,” the team said in a statement. “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 once said he sustained as many as 10 concussions during his major-league career, and injuries limited him to 75 games in 2007 and 48 games in 2008. He sat out 30 games during the 2007 season after suffering a concussion in an outfield collision with teammate Norris Hopper, an injury that led Freel to be taken off the field in an ambulance.
Freel had 37 stolen bases for the Reds in 2004 and 2006, and stole 36 bases in 2005. After hitting .271 with eight home runs and 27 runs batted in for Cincinnati in 2006, Freel received a $2.3 million contract for 2007 and the following season got a two-year deal worth $7 million.
Freel left the Reds after the 2008 campaign as part of a trade that brought catcher Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati. Freel played with the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals during his final major-league season in 2009.
“He was a guy who was always all in, the way he tried very hard and hustled like he did,” Freel’s former agent, Tommy Tanzer, told MLB.com. “He played all out and he lived that way too.”
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