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Former big leaguer Freel dead at 36

Former big leaguer Freel dead at 36

Former big leaguer Freel dead at 36
CINCINNATI -- Former Reds utility player Ryan Freel was found dead in his home of an apparent suicide on Saturday, the Jacksonville, Fla., sheriff's office told the Florida Times-Union.

Freel, 36, was discovered dead on Saturday in Jacksonville with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police told the newspaper.

"The Reds family is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Ryan Freel," the team 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."

An eight-year Major League veteran from 2001-09, Freel spent the bulk of his career with the Reds from 2003-08 and rose to become an everyday player and fan favorite for his gritty play and hustle.

"He was a guy who was always all in, the way he tried very hard and hustled like he did," Freel's former agent, Tommy Tanzer, said. "He played all out and he lived that way too."

A .268 hitter with 143 stolen bases in 594 career games, Freel broke out of the utility role and became a regular in 2006 while playing 132 games, mostly in center field.

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips tweeted a picture of Freel on Saturday with the words "Rest in Peace" written on it.

"Really hurt by his passing," Phillips wrote on his Twitter feed, datdudebp. "You never will be forgotten."

Injuries were often a byproduct of Freel's all-out style of play and he missed numerous games his last two seasons in Cincinnati. He was limited to 75 games in 2007 and only 48 games in 2008.

In December 2008, the Reds dealt Freel to the Orioles in a four-player trade that brought Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati.

Freel bounced around multiple organizations, including the Cubs and Royals, before retiring during the 2010 season.

Since retirement, Freel was reportedly living and working in the Jacksonville area with an organization called Big League Development, coaching local players. Freel also participated in the Reds fantasy camp in 2011.

Sean Casey, a former teammate of Freel's in Cincinnati, tweeted about Freel's death on his Twitter feed, @TheMayorsOffice.

"RIP Ryan Freel!!," Casey wrote. "Great teammate, great guy, n loved his family! Such a sad day today with his passing! Awful news! Prayers are with his family! "

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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