How Ryan Freel Became a Mystery and Hero to Me

Back when I first received my first generation Xbox along with Halo 2, I didn't know about about baseball outside the Diamondbacks. I was a 14 year old, who couldn't play a particular position very well, but was mostly used in a utility role (mostly 2nd, SS, OF, C). Yet, I somehow wanted to be involved in baseball for the rest of my life. I may have been terrible playing wise, but I only wanted to get better knowledge wise.

MVP Baseball 2005, perhaps my favorite baseball game to date, gave me more knowledge than any other game.

I recall my dad coming home from a long day work as I was playing my newly bough Halo 2, and a conversation ensued.

"Hey, son" my dad said as he opened by bedroom door, "I stopped by Fry's Electronics and got you this."

"What is it?" I responded as I had only known that Fry's was a local grocery store and not an electronics store at the time.

"It's a baseball game, and Manny Ramirez is on it" he says with a smile as he hands me the newly bought game.

"Thanks Dad!"

I instantly remember ejecting the Halo 2 disc, and inserting MVP Baseball 2005.

I played a quick game, and there were a flurry of new players on the Diamondbacks I had never heard of. Players like Shawn Green, Troy Glaus, Brad Halsey, and Lance Comier, I had no idea who they were. I was just a 14 year old kid, who didn't pay much to the media, and paid more attention to the likes of Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, and Craig Counsell.

I began to learn that players switch due to free agency and trades, hence I then understood how transactions worked.

I learn this mostly from playing my favorite mode in the game called "Owner Mode".

First off, if anyone has ever played the franchise mode in the MLB the Show Series, it is very similar to it, except there are various different and unique features. You have the option of creating a new stadium, along with adding upgrades to features such as the scoreboard and seats. The goal of this specific mode was to last 30 years as an owner. I never made it that far.

The most I had lasted in this specific mode was 10 years, as after that it bored me a bit. I enjoyed setting the promotions for games, the pricing on items, and maintaining the field along with the staff personnel, but after succeeding, I needed more of a challenge.

That's when I started picking teams with low payroll such as the Oakland A's.

Now I never began with the default 2005 team with any team after that, since I preferred to do a full draft with all players.

Usually, I unlocked legends as well, in order to be drafted under this fantasy draft. So players such as Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, and others were able to be drafted and help their respective teams succeed or fail.

Usually my players were very inconsistent as I enjoyed building different types of teams with different types of philosophies.

But there were two guys for some odd reason, I had always drafted in the game.

Ryan Freel and Robb Quinlan.

I recall doing my first draft and needing a third baseman. With the options dwindling down, I had seen Freel, and I recall being at awe as I saw how many positions the guy could play. I instantly drafted him there and usually plugged him where I needed.

Shortly after, I'd draft Quinlan as he'd rake against lefties and was able to play left as well, so he was more versatile compared to the other players.

Usually, I platooned both Freel and Quinlan together at third. Freel against righties and Quinlan against lefties. The platoon usually worked with Quinlan hitting around .290-.300 while Freel would hit from .280-.300.

But as you know injuries usually happen in the game of baseball. So, if I had a player get hurt throughout the season, I'd plug Freel there until that certain player got healthy again, and I'd plug Quinlan as my everyday third baseman.

Freel seemed to always succeed, I never understood why. Quinlan, on the other hand would sometimes falter, and I would have to only allow him in against lefties. But not Freel, he'd always be stealing bases, hitting for an above average, and scoring runs.

It was a mystery, but I only liked Freel more and wanted him to succeed in real life even more.

For that 2005 season, Freel was worth 2.8 WAR to the Reds, scoring 69 runs and stealing 36 bases.

After the MVP Series was no longer supported, I had to begin playing different baseball games. But regardless of the game, I always somehow ended up with Freel, and somehow he'd always succeed. Even if the game rated Freel lowly, he'd somehow find his way in the starting lineup and become an effective player.

Following that 2005 season, he had his his best season in 2006 in which he was worth 4.0 WAR as he received 500 AB's for the last time in his career.

I recall watching Baseball Tonight one night, and seeing Freel being carted off the field after he went all out on a flyball. I cringed as I watched his head and neck snap back, and I worried for the ending of his career. Luckily, he was able to come back a few weeks later, but he was never the same player.

He bounced around from team to team in his last few years, and eventually retiring in 2010.

Now with the news of Ryan Freel's apparent suicide due to a self inflicted gun shot, it makes wonder about how much had that injury could have potentially caused something like this.

As I researched, apparently Freel has had around 9 to 10 concussions in his life which is a large number.

With concussions becoming a huge issue following the many deaths of athletes most notably football players, one must wonder how dangerous concussions are.

I previously had researched and studied upon CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) for an english 101 class, and if you're interested here's a link here. But if you're not interested in reading that full essay, I'll provide the highlights.

Here's an excerpt from my essay:

" Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as dementia pugilistica, is developed in the brain after repetitive brain trauma. Specifically, it is characterized by “its physiological and neurological changes within the brain and creating a buildup of an abnormal protein called Tau” (Ziegler). The protein builds up in the brain in places where it leads to the brain malfunctioning by affecting the brain cells, and creating many dead cells within the brain. Multiple concussions and other head injuries need to be taken with great precaution as many who suffer from CTE had suffered multiple sorts of head injuries throughout their respective sports careers."

Now baseball has taken an action for concussions with a newly 7-day DL for players suffering concussions, but unfortunately it seemed as if it was developed too late.

Now I'm not saying that concussions is the reason for the death of many athletes, but it can be a large factor in it. With repeated head trauma being able to cause personality disorders, and even a brain similar to someone who's suffering Alzheimer's, we just need to be more aware and careful.

Regardless, I will truly missed Ryan Freel. I admire his style, and his stubbornness on succeeding in any video game team I own. He wasn't a big guy, and was my favorite utility player growing up. Thank you for the highlight real plays, and fun memories.

Rest in Peace.

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