Ryan Freel never played for the Chicago White Sox. Hell, only four of the 594 games he played in his career were against the Pale Hose and he only managed one hit over 11 plate appearances so if you don't remember a guy whose career has been over since 2009, I don't blame you.
I do remember Ryan Freel. He was an interesting super-utility guy for some fairly uninteresting Cincinnati Reds teams. He was Ben Zobrist with speed instead of power. He had Aaron Rowand's sense of recklessness on defense and it carried over to every position he played.
He was fast and grindy and exciting as all hell. He talked to a voice inside his head named Farney, which at the time we all laughed about and found interesting and amusing. Then the head injuries started. Freel collided with Norris Hopper in 2007 and was never quite the same player. He took a pickoff throw to the head in 2009 with Baltimore and had to go on the DL. It's a pretty safe guess to say the man suffered at least two concussions in his lifetime.
They found Ryan Freel dead from self-inflicted gunshot wounds on Saturday. I didn't know Ryan Freel and won't pretend to. I don't know what he was thinking or what ultimately drove him to this. Did the concussions help lead down this road, like they have been seeming to do so with former NFL and NHL players lately? Was he suffering in other ways? We don't know.
But I always liked Ryan Freel. And as someone who has struggled with depression and at least one concussion as well as being a fan of the player, it kind of resonated with me. I've never been suicidal, though I'd be full of shit if I said there weren't bad times where thoughts that have no need to be thought didn't creep in. I'm doing much better now and talking to people about it helped so much. I don't know if Ryan Freel did the same. I don't know if it would have made a difference. I'm sorry if this is a little heavier than what I usually write and especially on Christmas Eve, but it's something I kind of felt like I needed to write. We have a pretty decent sized audience here and I sincerely hope that if we have any readers who have some troubles, they'll find someone to talk to and look for a different route.
Ryan Freel was one of my favorite non-White Sox baseball players when I was in high school. I hope he's finally found his peace.