Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sports, Men, Dads, Sons, Friends...Ryan Freel and More

I was going through a box today of older cards when I came across one card that made me have to stop and think.  Before I go on, I'll show you what that card was:

The 2005 Fleer Ultra Ryan Freel #123.  Here Freel poses with one of his children.  Freel died on Decmeber 22, 2012 to a single self inflicted gun shot to the head, leaving no good byes.  To ones who watched Ryan's career would know that he was one of the hardest players on the field, but all too frequently Freel would end up on the ground with head injuries.  Many Freel fans will remember seeing these images:

Freel during his career as a utility player was said to have had 10 concussions.  By age 34 he was out of baseball, battling alcohol addiction, voices in his head, depression, and cognitive problems.  At age 36, according a Jacksonville Newspaper Freel had dinner by himself at an Outback, went home, and left this world without one goodbye.

Look at the number of players recently that have committed suicide:

Ryan Freel                 2012
Mike Flanagan           2011
Hideki Irabu              2011

Jovan Belcher           2012
O.J. Murdock          2012
Kenny McKinley      2010
Junior Seau               2012
Ray Easterling           2012
Dave Deurson          2011

Wade Belak            2011
Derek Boogaard     2011
Rick Rypien            2011 

In doing just a quick research on suicides in just the NHL, NFL, and MLB I noticed there was a huge spike just in the past few years.  Almost every single one of those listed above had troubles with head trauma, depression, and alcoholism.  Also in the recent rash of players getting DUIs and alcohol related issues have been just as many that have been linked to PEDs.  We as fans and collectors look at these players as superhuman, but they are no different than anyone of us.  The difference is that we place them automatically on top of the world, and just because they make millions we expect them to play straight.  Almost every single succide listed above the player had alcoholism problems and have problems with DUIs.  Not saying just getting a DUI=high odds of suicides, but leagues and player unions need to treat DUIs as a real issue not just sweep it under the rug like it was the players first time they ever drank.

Josh Hamilton - Nearly had a serious relapse  last year. Lost many productive years to drugs and alcohol.

Lenny Dykstra - Now in jail for greed, but also suffered drug and alcohol problems throughout his career.

Famous Skateboarder - Shaun White Resisting Arrest/Drunk/Fighting
Who can forget the Redwings Prospect last year arrested for DUI dressed as a Teletubby?

Mark Grace - In jail for multiple DUIs

Former Rockie/Current Astro - Alex White DUI issues

Delmon Young - Alcohol Related Issues

Carlton Fisk - DUIs

Todd Helton - DUI

Ryan Leaf - (NFL) jail drugs

Tony LaRussia - DUIs

Shin Soo Choo - DUI

Coo Coo Crisp - DUI

Derek Lowe - DUI

Adam Kennedy - DUIs

Austin Kerns - DUIs

Miguel Cabrera - DUIs

Dontrell Willis - DUIs

Scott Olsen - DUIs

That is just a small sample.

If you listed those players above with out the photos you would think this was a starting lineup of an All Star Team, but depression almost always is linked to alcoholism   DUIs and or alcohol related issues should be dealt with by the MLB and MLBPA just like PEDs are.  Instead of suspensions, it should be mandatory that they seek help.  How many people do you know that have DUIs say that they don't have a problem?  They are just one more DUI away from jail time, hurting, or killing someone.  I am encouraged by players who flat out say that they have an issue to the whole world, such as Josh Hamilton, and Miguel Cabrera.  Those people who say they have issues may have players and friends help watch over them, such as the Texas Rangers organization always helping Hamilton, and the Tigers with Cabrera.  It is those players who keep failing under the radar by saying they don't have an issue, and before you know it, they are in too much trouble, or gone all together.

As a member of the United States Army and having suffered several blasts to the head in Iraq, I manned up and seeked help in 2008, and even several years since I've left the army I still seek treatments weekly.  I never had any DUIs but I suffered from depression and drank more than I should.  When I drank I heard voices like I was still in war.  For years I denied having PTSD or depression because I didn't want to look weak to others.  Instead all I was doing was hurting myself and my family.  I could have been easily like Ryan Freel, leaving this earth without saying goodbye, but I rose my hand and said I have a problem.  I hope to see a end to all the unnecessary deaths and DUIs with again making it mandatory for players with issues.

Just words of encouragement for maybe anyone battling depression or alcoholism:

I "Jason" for years denied I had problems with drinking during my army days trying to mask my illness of war, I seen only selfishly seen what I wanted, not reality.  It wasn't till I seen the ones I loved hurting from something that I could control to make a change.  All I did was said I had a problem to the ones I loved, and asked for help.  Since then people have been very supportive.  So I hope some of these players man up, and not just say "it was an error of judgement".

Thanks for reading, and I hope to maybe reach someone out there!


  1. Well said. Just wish the MLB community would admit that it itself has a problem, and does something to fix it.

  2. Incredible post! Have to admit I almost skipped reading this, and I'm glad I didn't.

    Hopefully all society figures this out at some point not just sports.

  3. What a bold post, Jason. Thank you for telling your experiences as a result of your military service.

    When I see that card, I see that baby who is now a 9-year-old boy that doesn't have a dad around anymore, and has to figure out what the hell happened. That's too much for him to deal with. I hope all these guys in pro sports can get the help they need.


No negative comments please, this blog is for fun and not intended as a business...just a collector giving some views.