Former Reds player Freel found dead in apparent suicide
Ryan Freel, a former Major League Baseball player known for his fearless play but whose career was cut short after eight seasons by a series of head and other injuries, was found dead Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Freel, who was 36, died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted shotgun wound, sheriff's office spokesman Shannon Hartley wrote in an email Sunday. The medical examiner will make the final determination of the cause of death.
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"RIP Ryan Freel!! Great teammate, great guy,n loved his family!" former Cincinnati Reds teammate Sean Casey tweeted. "Such a sad day today with his passing!Awful news!Prayers are with his family!"
The speedy Freel spent six of his eight big-league seasons with the Reds and finished his career in 2009 with a .268 average and 143 steals.
"Really hurt by his passing!" Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said on Twitter. "You'll never will be forgotten."
Freel drew attention in 2006 when he was quoted by the Dayton Daily News as saying he had an imaginary friend, 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 Jacksonville native thrilled fans with his all-out style, yet it took a toll on his career. During his playing days, he once estimated he had sustained up to 10 concussions. Freel missed 30 games in 2007 after a collision with a teammate caused a concussion so severe he had to be taken off the field in an ambulance.
Freel showed no fear as he ran into walls, hurtled into the seats and crashed into other players trying to make catches. His jarring, diving grabs often made the highlight reels, and he was praised by those he played with and against for always having a dirt-stained uniform.
Selected by the Toronto in the 10th round of the 1995 amateur draft out of Tallahassee Community College, Freel made his big-league debut in April 2001 with the Blue Jays. He signed a minor-league deal with the Reds in November 2002 and stayed with the club through 2008, when a torn tendon in his right hamstring caused him to miss the final 103 games of the season. He was traded to Baltimore at that December's winter meetings and split the 2009 season among the Orioles, Cubs and Royals.
"The Reds family is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Freel," the Cincinnati Reds 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."
Jacksonville.com reported that Freel was hired as baseball coach at the St. Joseph Academy on June 28 this year and then "backed away" from that position.
Freel also had trouble related to alcohol. He was arrested in Northern Kentucky in April 2005 and was charged with drunken driving, careless driving and driving with an open container in a motor vehicle. A month later, he pleaded guilty. The following January, he was arrested at a pool hall in Tampa, Fla., and charged with disorderly intoxication, a misdemeanor. Prosecutors settled the case by having Freel do community service.
Report: Swisher, Indians reach deal
A person familiar with the negotiations said Nick Swisher has agreed to a $56 million, four-year contract with the Indians. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because the agreement had not been announced. The 32-year-old Swisher spent the last four seasons with the Yankees and took advantage of the short porch at Yankee Stadium. A switch-hitter who plays outfield and first base, he hit .272 this year with 24 homers and 93 RBI. His agreement was first reported by the New York Daily News.
Anthony's late surge carries Knicks
Carmelo Anthony scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, rallying the New York Knicks to a 94-91 victory over the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night. New York trailed from the opening minutes until Anthony scored eight straight points down the stretch. J.R. Smith added 19 points and Tyson Chandler had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who will fly to Los Angeles later Sunday for their Christmas Day game against the Lakers. Nikola Pekovic had 21 points and 17 rebounds for the Timberwolves.
■ Danny Green scored a career-high 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs spoiled former league MVP Dirk Nowitzki's season debut with a 129-91 rout of the visiting Dallas Mavericks. After missing the Mavericks' first 27 regular-season games, Nowitzki entered with 6:28 left in the first quarter to a hearty mix of cheers and boos. Nowitzki, who underwent surgery on his right knee Oct. 19 after battling soreness the previous season, quickly picked up a rebound for Dallas and finished with eight points — going 3-for-4 from the field — and six rebounds in 20 minutes. Darren Collison scored 15 points to lead Dallas, which lost its third straight.
■ Joe Johnson scored 22 points, Gerald Wallace had 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists and the host Brooklyn Nets held on to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 95-92. Jrue Holiday led Philadelphia with 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
■ Paul Millsap scored 18 points, Gordon Hayward added 17 and the Utah Jazz survived a fourth-quarter rally to slip past the host Orlando Magic 97-93. Orlando cut the lead to one in the waning seconds, but came up empty at the foul line attempting to tie it. Arron Afflalo had 20 points to lead Orlando.
Ole Miss erases 13-point deficit in win
Murphy Holloway scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Mississippi back from a 13-point first-half deficit to beat San Francisco 85-78 in a consolation game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Sunday. Ole Miss (9-2) made 9 of 19 shots from three-point range. Cody Doolin led the Dons (5-6) with 20 points.
The last word
After Calvin Johnson's 10th and final catch against the Falcons on Saturday night — a game in which the Lions receiver broke three NFL records, including Jerry Rice's single-season yards mark — he jogged over to the sideline to give the football to his father, Calvin Johnson Sr., and told him not to let it go. Not even if someone from the Pro Football Hall of Fame wants it?
"Oh no. That's my ball."