Skip to content

“Some days, the Reds’ usually frenetic utilityman would simply sit in his chair and stare into his locker…”

Dec 23, 2012, 5:15 PM EDT

freel getty Getty Images

Marc Lancaster served as the Reds beat writer for the Cincinnati Post from 2004-2006 and developed a close relationship with Ryan Freel, who was at the peak of his MLB career during those three seasons.

Freel, a husband to Christie and father to three daughters, took his life with a shotgun at his family home in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday. And now Lancaster is offering a unique perspective on the kind of man Freel was and the sort of internal issues that he struggled with in a special remembrance for CBSSports.com:

It became almost a daily routine in the Cincinnati Reds’ clubhouse in the mid-2000s. Ryan Freel would do something, or say something, or a look a certain way, and those who were around him on a regular basis immediately could deduce whether “Good Freel” or “Bad Freel” had showed up to work that day.

The difference was stark. Some days, the Reds’ usually frenetic utilityman would simply sit in his chair and stare into his locker, not interacting with anyone about anything. Other days he would bounce around the room, greeting anyone in his path – teammates, clubhouse attendants, reporters – with over-the-top enthusiasm and occasionally a bear hug.

Head on over to Eye On Baseball and read the whole thing. We’ll steal just one last line:

As former major league outfielder Rocco Baldelli said on Twitter Saturday night“Lets pay better attention to the ones we love.”

  1. thebadguyswon - Dec 23, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Spare me the “great guy” stuff. The man left three kids and a wife behind. Tortured soul for sure…but lets not turn Ryan Freel into an angel.

    • atlrod - Dec 23, 2012 at 5:51 PM

      Yeah! We all know that great guys never have mental/emotional health problems. What an asshole he was for losing hope in life. Now is definitely the appropriate time to emphasize the selfishness of suicide. Good call.

      • wfs266 - Dec 23, 2012 at 8:53 PM

        Asshole

    • hammyofdoom - Dec 23, 2012 at 6:22 PM

      Okay usually I try not to be combative here since I really do respect most point of views (even the ones I dont agree with) but really, fuck you. It’d be different if the guy was entirely sane and he decided to have a pity-party for himself and took it a step too far and shot himself. No, this guy obviously had some sort of serious mental disorder that may or may not have been caused by something around 10 concussions sustained during his playing career and from what I’ve heard about him he seemed to be an incredibly troubled individual. Ideally no one would kill themselves for it really does end up harming those around you but from this article above the guy was obviously not all there for one reason or another and it’s not like he just got fucking bored and decided to blow his brains out

      • thebadguyswon - Dec 23, 2012 at 6:24 PM

        Hugs and kisses to you too, sweetie.

    • mauldawg - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:25 PM

      You( thebadguys) are a piece of crap!

      • thebadguyswon - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:49 PM

        Why? 20 people agreed with me. Obviously the man suffered. But he had four people that cared for him. Jesse Ventura said it best….”if you are really at rock botton, then there’s only one direction you can go.”
        Is what I said cold? Yes! But the man chose his problems over what this would do to his family. WEAK.
        It doesnt contribute to a stigma…its what suicidal people need to look at.

      • atlrod - Dec 23, 2012 at 9:41 PM

        Hahaha… the Internet is awesome. “20 people agreed with me! How wrong can I be?!” Well… it just means that 20 other insensitive, ignorant assholes have figured out how to construct English words on the Internetz. It means nothing. You and (now) 28 of your closest friends have no idea how mental illness works, chemically. You have no idea what the man was going through. Your advice is tantamount to walking up to someone with depression and saying, “How about you just choose to be happy instead?”

        Because they’re chemically unable, you half-wit. That’s why. Kinda of like me telling you to “just be empathetic” or “just be smarter.” That’s a totally useless exercise.

    • craggt - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:40 PM

      Seriously go away and never come back. It’s stupid attitudes and comments like this that cause mental illnesses to continue to be stigmatized and not taken seriously.

    • jyoung1891 - Dec 23, 2012 at 8:46 PM

      Speaking as a father whose bipolar daughter eventually took the same path,…aw. screw it. You aren’t worth trying to explain it to.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Dec 23, 2012 at 10:12 PM

        Sorry for your loss – as a father, I can’t even begin to imagine what that was like

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Dec 23, 2012 at 10:10 PM

      The article is not abuot turning him into an angel, or anything close to that. It is trying to undertsand why.

      You claim elsewhere to be thinking of his wife and kids. Don’t you think they are wondering that same question? Why did this happen? And if they are wondering, what is wrong with those who knew him exploring the dual sides he had? Rather than quote Jesse Ventura as your “expert” on mental health issues, why not contribute something useful. And if you are truly concerned about his wife and kids, don’t publish comments on the internter trashing theire husband/father. Who are you to judge?

    • jdillydawg - Dec 24, 2012 at 12:51 AM

      I agree with thebadguys here. Seriously, the guy blew his head off with a shotgun in his own house according to the article. “Welcome home, honey, sorry about the mess…”

      Sure, let’s blame it all on mental illness, seems to be the buzzword of the season lately. (then again, I gotta figure most NRA card carrying members are pretty mental, but that’s another story).

      Suicide. I don’t begrudge someone who needs to deal with their demons by checking out, but really, what purpose does it serve to splatter your brains all over your house? That’s just mean.

      • marionleam - Dec 24, 2012 at 3:38 AM

        Honestly? Errrr, I’m no expert but complaining that someone with a mental illness didn’t make a rational decision is a bit like complaining that water is wet, the Yankees have too much money or that Ozzie Guillen talks rubbish…

    • sultryabyss - Dec 24, 2012 at 8:51 AM

      As an individual with what seems to be the same major mental illness as Freel, I must echo the same disdain for your comment. People have been saying it was a selfish act, and it is. It is the most personal and singular decision an individual can make that is normally not dictated by reason and logic. To him, it may have been the only rational decision he could make to exert some control over his life. It was a selfish decision, but only in that he could see it no other way. It is comments like these that show our nation is woefully uniformed about the state of mental illness. My thoughts are with his family during this season and I hope they have supports to rely on.

    • badbiker - Dec 25, 2012 at 8:21 PM

      Asshole.

  2. chrisdtx - Dec 23, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    It’s exactly that kind of attitude that allows these types of things to happen, dude. Guy obviously needed help and no one cared.

    • paperlions - Dec 23, 2012 at 6:10 PM

      Caring and recognizing signs that someone needed help are different. Just because you saw something doesn’t mean you know what you saw….most people have no idea how to interpret their own behaviors, much less those of others.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Dec 23, 2012 at 6:36 PM

        I bet if you said the wrong thing to Freel on one of his “off days” and you were going to be scrapping with the guy. I know people who are bi-polar, and other than medication, there isn’t anything the average person can do to help them except leave them the F alone when they are having a bad day.

    • Cris E - Dec 23, 2012 at 11:57 PM

      You don’t know that. Sometimes you can see something like this in someone you know and you can’t get through to him. There are a thousand stories out there, all painful, and you just can’t know unless you were there. Times like this are for empathy and sympathy. Let it go at that.

    • anybodyinhere - Dec 27, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      You can’t always assume that no one cared. My family has a history of depression (myself included), and in our case due to whatever screwed up chemical imbalance that exists in our minds, getting a particular kind of help makes it worse — in our case it was taking Adderall. When my son was younger he began having issues with ADHD, and we tried several different meds used to treat that. Nothing worked. We put him on Adderall and he began having bouts of OCD and believed inanimate objects were alive and had feelings. For example, if he was in the lunch line and he didn’t like the kid behind him, he would step out of line and skip lunch because he didn’t want any of his money to possibly go to the kid if the kid needed change. Couldn’t throw out a paper, used drink container, or anything else. Around the same time, I was seeing a different doctor on my own for depression and we were all seeing a family counselor due to the upheaval caused by having a kid with a 150 IQ failing out of school (on the few days he actually stayed there). In the family counseling session, my wife indicated that she was frustrated with my inability to complete a lot of the tasks that I started, and the counselor suggested that it could be ADHD as well, so we all conferred with the doc prescribing my meds (he was part of the same practice) and he decided to add Adderall to what I was already taking. My son and I actually began taking the drug about a week apart. I didn’t develop the OCD — what I got was a a month-long bi-polar episode. Life for my family was hell. At one point I considered suicide, and I did think about my family, but it was because I blamed them for my state; in my scrambled brain I was only so messed up because my son’s problems put us in family counselling and my wife’s inability to accept me as I was led me to the drug cocktail that was making me even crazier. Clearly people cared, clearly I was getting help. But when I was thinking about ending it all, it was to teach those caring people a lesson. Pretty screwed up.

  3. raysfan1 - Dec 23, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    Makes me wonder if he had an undiagnosed or untreated bipolar disorder.
    Very sad.
    Also very sad that his wife/daughters will now inevitably always associate Christmas with their husband/dad’s death.

    • southpaw2k - Dec 23, 2012 at 8:45 PM

      I read an article on Deadspin a few years ago where Ryan Freel said there was a guy named Farney in his head with whom he’d have regular conversations with. Like if Freel made a diving catch in the outfield, Farney would congratulate him and Freel would thank him right back. No disrespect to Freel’s memory, but it definitely sounds like he had some kind of mental disorder. Here’s the link if you want to read the article:

      http://deadspin.com/193311/ryan-freels-little-friend

  4. cur68 - Dec 23, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    Man, that sucks. To have to live like that, knowing something was wrong, fighting it every day. Eventually it got too much for him, I guess. I sure hope this isn’t a case where he needed medical care and his loved ones couldn’t get it for him. I used to see that a lot when I worked in the States. Even so, its unimaginable what his family is going through right now. All those concussions, all those ups and downs . . . its just sad. Upon reflection about his issues I do note that its not unheard of for someone with a history like Freel’s to take other lives just before they take their own. I’m certainly glad he didn’t go that route. Frankly, I wish he’d made the choice to get help rather than end it all. He had a young family and a lot to live for.

    • historiophiliac - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:52 PM

      I thumbed you down because of the part about choosing to get help. I’m guessing you know it isn’t really that simple, but it sounds otherwise so I put my two cents in.

    • rrdevine - Dec 23, 2012 at 8:33 PM

      Why do you think he didn’t try to get help? There’s no evidence one way or another if he was on medication, in therapy, or not. He may well have been working on the issue, with qualified doctors, but just not having any luck in finding the right treatments.

      Sure, meds and therapy can help – but figuring out the right medications is incredibly difficult, and the process of testing each different chemical to see if this is the right one, can even make things worse in the short term.

      The need for more focus on mental health is not just a matter of getting treatment to the needy – it’s also a matter of developing better treatments and diagnostic methods.

    • cur68 - Dec 23, 2012 at 8:39 PM

      I’m not getting into a debate about choice or any of that with either of you. You make some good points, and I agree with some and disagree with others but its just too sad and I could care less about being right or even being wrong. The poor man killed himself, left a young family behind. Ultimately our understanding of why he did this can’t help him.

      I have a lot of sympathy for thebadguyswon up above us in the comments. Its been my experience that people who think that way are the ones that are left behind by someone who made the decision to end it all. Honestly, what else does one feel about someone who literally abandoned them? Freel’s children are going to be wondering that. Often they think “will I do this, too?” or even worse; “It was my fault”. I’ve seen a lot of anger towards the departed by loved ones. Mostly its anger covering up loss, fear and guilt. I wish this hadn’t happened, that’s all.

      • historiophiliac - Dec 23, 2012 at 10:50 PM

        I wasn’t trying to start a debate or troll. I was giving you the courtesy of telling you why I thumbed it down, but I guess I shouldn’t have bothered.

  5. whodeyx - Dec 23, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Such a sad story. Ryan Freel was a huge fan favorite and had a cult following here during his prime. I bought his jersey (to this day, my first and only jersey purchase) and followed the guy even after he left the reds. Quite a bummer, best wishes for his family and loved ones.

  6. randygnyc - Dec 23, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    I have a close family member that suffers from bi polar disorder with psychotic episodes that last for weeks at a time. The mental illness is the most severe case I’ve ever encountered. I’ve personally had this person hospitalized on 2 occasions. Authorities also have had her taken to the hospital. All 3 times she was held for 72 hours and released with prescriptions she discontinued using shortly thereafter. It will be no surprise to me if/when she takes her own life. I just pray she spares her 4 year old son (who my wife and I have tried to get custody of). All this to say that sometimes family try to help but the person won’t accept help. Sometimes they’re too sick to realize it. Mental health services are most often woefully inadequate and/or incompetent.

    • hammyofdoom - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:00 PM

      Like I said in the first post about Freel’s suicide Bi polar disorder apparently runs in my dad’s side of the family, and the stories I’ve heard about my dad are goddamned terrifying. He went undiagnosed, but there were at least 4 suicide threats that were made in the relatively few years my mom knew him, he self medicated with alcohol/cocaine/marijuana plus god knows what else and yet some days he would be the happiest and most charming guy on the planet. Sounds a lot like Mr Freel here

  7. irishpatsfan - Dec 23, 2012 at 6:50 PM

    To anyone sitting on their self-imposed little thrones telling the world how selfish he was , why no one should feel sorry its obvious your understanding of mental heath issues matches only your humanity and kindness to anyone you don’t understand !!!

    • thebadguyswon - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      Tell that to his kids.

      • weaselpuppy - Dec 23, 2012 at 9:31 PM

        So,let me see here…..berating a guy for not broadening his thinking while under duress from internal and external input with little control involved on either…….and continuing then to berate people that ask you to broaden your thinking on a subject you don’t have control of.

        The great part about irony is it is lost on the stupid.

        Now, Freel was actually ill, not in control of his responses to varying degrees. People that simply won’t change their responses due to stubbornness, lack of vision or empathy, or just plain being a prick/dumbass/scared little boy who can’t take criticism? Well, unlike Freel and his family, they deserve nothing but the ugliness that is their own small lives.

      • thebadguyswon - Dec 23, 2012 at 9:40 PM

        LOL

      • indaburg - Dec 23, 2012 at 9:50 PM

        Hopefully, one day his daughters will come to the understanding that their dad was sick and that ultimately, he died from his illness.

        I once volunteered for a suicide hotline and many of the callers truly believed that their loved ones would be better off without them. In the throes of their depression, they believed that what they were doing was actually a selfless act, to alleviate those around them of the burden of living with them. Of course, it makes no sense to us, but that’s part of the sickness.

      • thebadguyswon - Dec 23, 2012 at 9:52 PM

        I hope so too. I really do. And I wish Freel would have gotten help.

      • joegolfer - Dec 25, 2012 at 12:38 AM

        Folks should stop trying to convince “thebadguyswon” that Freel couldn’t control his actions because of his bipolar disorder. It’s fruitless to expect this idiot to understand or be caring.
        “thebadguyswon” is probably some silly high school boy who hasn’t lived enough of life to have empathy for others, or to have seen people who have suffered with actual bipolar disorder. I’ve seen a few that had to go to the emergency room. Trust me. At that point in their life, they were absolutely incapable of thinking rationally, much less thinking about the impact their decisions would have on their family.
        My the Freel family be able to remember Ryan for the better parts of his life rather than solely the tragic end.

      • forsch31 - Dec 26, 2012 at 4:20 PM

        A friend of mine, who also dated my sister, killed himself. Another friend of mine tried to do, but failed, and we got her the help she needed.

        Judgmental, soulless, gutless wonders like thebadguyswon claim they’re thinking about “his kids,” “his wife,” but what they really are doing are soapboxing on blood they’ve never known.

        As someone who has been part of the wreckage left behind from a suicide, do me a favor, thebadguyswon. Shut the hell up. You. Know. Nothing.

      • thebadguyswon - Dec 26, 2012 at 9:03 PM

        Kiss my ass.

  8. crankyfrankie - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    To look into the future and feel you have nothing left to live for is tragic. To look at your wife and kids and feel they’d be better off without me is probably as low as anyone can feel. He , probably we are all guessing, decided that he would do his family more harm than good by sticking around. As lonely as everyone feels at times rather than criticizing this man we should be thankful we have never felt that low or if we have than someone or something pulled us back from the abyss.

  9. chill1184 - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Based on the blurb it sounds like he might have been suffering from this

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder

  10. chaseutley - Dec 23, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    This story really makes me hurt. I really wish I knew how to help a person like this.

    • indaburg - Dec 23, 2012 at 10:04 PM

      It’s not easy, chase, and way beyond the scope of a basebll blog. One thing–never shy away from asking someone who is seriously depressed or who you suspect is suicidal, “Are you planning to kill or hurt yourself?” People are scared of asking that question to a depressed person because they think, “I’m going to give that person that idea.” No, you won’t. If the person is distressed, has a plan, and the means to execute the plan, call 911. If in doubt, call anyway.

      • raysfan1 - Dec 24, 2012 at 12:14 AM

        Perfectly said, indaburg.

        Please, everyone, re-read what she wrote and remember it. You just might save a life by doing what she said.

  11. lazlosother - Dec 23, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    If you have never battled depression or bipolar disorder you have no idea what it can be like. It isn’t a rational disease. Intellectually one knows that there is no reason to feel as helpless one does. Things should be great but they aren’t. The closest I can come to describing it is having enormous tidal of waves crashing through the mind, washing any ability to determine one’s outlook or disposition away. The feeling can be physical, the head rattles and hums and you can’t stop it. Maintaining identity may be all a person can manage, and after a while one might do anything to make the shit stop.

    I feel for Ryan and his family. Suicide isn’t a person who checked out as far as I can see, it’s a person who lost. And it’s a pretty fucking sad loss.

  12. hustleandflomax - Dec 23, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    When I was 5 years old, my dad committed suicide. Growing up, I couldnt help but wonder how different his life might have turned out if I was never born. As I got older, I understood. Life is not easy for a lot of folks. It’s easy for someone on the outside to pass judgment and casually throw terms like ‘selfish’ around as if they have a fucking clue what other people are going through. I read my dad’s suicide note just this year for the first time. he killed himself way back in 1977. He was tormented by terrible feelings if inadequacy and insecurity-at that moment in time, it felt like his only choice. None of us could posssibly understand the depression some people feel. Holidays sometimes magnify it even more. The only thing to do is be compassionate to those left behind. Just my 2 cents.

  13. randygnyc - Dec 23, 2012 at 11:43 PM

    Hustleandflomax- sorry about your dad.

    Being in the trenches with my sister in law has taught me a lot about something I knew very little about previously. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It can effect people despite race, gender, upbringing, education or religion. Although there are theories, I’m convinced it’s also genetic, although, of course, not every generation is effected.

    What I most want to say is that regarding Freel, his family most certainly knew of his struggles. Serious mental illness can be hidden, but not from people who see you everyday. Besides from the occasional inappropriate remarks, you wouldn’t know my sister in law was ill. The fact is, she’s a functional invalid. She can’t even provide herself with the most basic necessities.

    Many of these chemical brain imbalances can be corrected with medications. Unfortunately, once a balance is achieved, the person often believes the medication is no longer necessary. It becomes an insidious cycle. Very sad and very destructive. Our medical communities can’t force people to take medications (I’m not advocating that). I don’t have any answers. Just first hand, eyewitness observations (nearly 20 years).

  14. cosanostra71 - Dec 24, 2012 at 3:00 AM

    RIP Ryan Freel

  15. cubsisles72 - Dec 24, 2012 at 6:57 AM

    Thankfully Ryan freel with his mental, chemical imbalance chose to do it this way and people have sympathy for his condition. Do these same empathetic people feel the same way for the chemically imbalanced Lanza who took out 26 people ahead of him at Newton elementary I wonder. Or is that chemically imbalanced different?

  16. trllturner18 - Dec 24, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    and no one thought to talk to him to try to figure out what was wrong? We really need to stop being so selfish as a society

  17. yahmule - Dec 24, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    A smarter man than I said “the mind’s potential is beyond it’s comprehension”. This potential can be realized through staggering achievements as well as through tragic acts of destruction. The sad truth is we make never know what causes people to take their own lives. We can only take solace in knowing Freel didn’t physically harm anyone else when he took these drastic measures. If leaving this world was the only way he could find peace I certainly won’t begrudge him his decision. I’ll simply send out my sympathies to him and the people directly affected by his departure.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Colby-on-Colby crime in Toronto
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. H. Street (3492)
  2. C. Lee (2685)
  3. H. Ramirez (2354)
  4. M. Trout (2316)
  5. Y. Puig (2065)
  1. D. Price (2058)
  2. B. Belt (2027)
  3. J. Segura (2024)
  4. T. Tulowitzki (2002)
  5. J. Papelbon (1978)