Ryan Freel’s time with the Cincinnati Reds was “must watch” baseball.
The Cincinnati Reds signed Ryan Paul Freel in December of 2002. Freel, a native of Jacksonville, Florida made a career out of playing baseball as hard as he could. Ryan Freel was the epitome of a gritty ball player.
“Utility” is a word that describes an athlete who can play many different positions. Ryan Freel was mostly found in center field during his 6 year stint with the Reds. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for fans to see Freel penciled in at 3rd base, 2nd base, or any other outfield spot. You could guarantee when Ryan Freel was on the lineup card, you were watching a special player.
We miss the hustle.
You go to a high school baseball game these days, and you see the same tendencies that you see at the major league level. Nobody runs out ground balls to the second baseman anymore because there is no sense of urgency. Anyone who watched Ryan Freel play baseball would say that he didn’t lack urgency. It’s hard to watch today’s outfielders let up on fly balls in the gap on a consistent basis. Freel gave everything he had every single game. A true competitor in every sense.
While this league misses players like Ryan Freel, the greatest game in the world needs guys like Freel to set an example. Baseball is supposed to be played with passion. Center fielders out there today wouldn’t dive straight into the wall, chasing down a ball in the gap, to get an out in the bottom of the third inning. Ryan Freel wouldn’t think twice about it if it helped his team win. Any Reds fan can appreciate that. Freel played ball with a special intent. Even though he didn’t have Ken Griffey Jr.’s Power, or Joey Votto’s ability to get on base, he had heart.
Ryan Freel began to become an everyday player for the Cincinnati Reds during the 2004 season. Due to the way he took the field, he made a deep impact on a fourth grader from Eastern Kentucky. So I began to start watching the Reds consistently. As a kid, I was a baseball player from nearly the time that I could walk. When I watched a player like Ryan Freel, I felt like I needed to play the game as he did.
Freel’s uncommon ability to play 5 different positions on the baseball field made him a unique asset to the Cincinnati Reds. Ryan Freel was never an All-Star. He wasn’t the guy who slugged 40 home runs a season and hit for a .315 average for a career. He played for 6 seasons on a Reds team that finished better than fourth place in the NL Central, one time. Ryan Freel was a man who played the game with a motor that never quit. He was the definition of utility player.
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Therefore, as a fan of baseball, I wish there were more guys like Ryan Freel in the league today. There needs to be more who play because they love the game. From the outside looking in, I credit Ryan Freel as a major part of why I love baseball.