Ryan Freel, a former Cincinnati Reds player, was found dead Saturday of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Jacksonville, Fla., according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Freel, 36, retired after the 2009 season after a series of concussions and other injuries. He spent six of his eight seasons with the Reds and finished with a career .268 average and 143 stolen bases.
“RIP Ryan Freel!! Great teammate, great guy,n loved his family!” former Cincinnati Reds player Sean Casey tweeted. “Such a sad day today with his passing!Awful news!Prayers are with his family!”
Freel, an outfielder and infielder, once said he estimated he had sustained up to 10 concussions. He missed 30 games in 2007 after a collision with a teammate caused a concussion, and he made several highlight reels throughout his career for running into outfield walls while making a catch.
“Really hurt by his passing!” Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said on Twitter. “You'll never will be forgotten.”
Freel was once quoted by the Dayton Daily News as saying he had an imaginary friend named Farney. “He's a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him,” Freel was quoted as saying. “Everybody thinks I talk to myself, so I tell 'em I'm talking to Farney.”
The Reds issued a statement of condolences. "The Reds family is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Freel,” the organization said. “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 had consecutive seasons of 37, 36 and 37 steals from 2004 to 2006. He leaves behind a wife and three daughters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.