Ryan Freel left us December 21, 2012 at the age of 36. He is survived by three beautiful daughters, Ava, Alex and Aliana Freel. The children's mother Christie Freel, his mom and dad Norma and Clark Vargas, his father Pat Freel, brother Patrick Freel, his grandparents Oscar and Zenaida Rodriguez, nephew Ethan Freel, niece Ellie Freel, a large extended family and numerous friends that love him unconditionally.
Ryan Paul Freel was born March 8, 1976 in Jacksonville, FL. He attended Sacred Heart elementary, Sandalwood high school, and graduated from Englewood High School. Ryan attended Tallahassee Community College.
Ryan was raised by Norma Vargas his Cuban-American mother who, being hard working, worked 16 hours a day as a teacher and also had a house cleaning business in Jacksonville. He credited her for his perseverance, integrity and gritty, all-out style of play. Ryan also always loved a joke and had a goofy side.
In 1995, he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 10th round of the 1995 amateur draft. Ryan played 6 seasons in the Toronto minor league system before making his Major League debut on April 4, 2001. On November 18, 2002, he signed with the Cincinnati Reds. In five seasons with the Reds, Ryan hit .270 with 22 home runs, 104 runs batted in, and 134 stolen bases. His best season for the Reds was in 2004, when he hit .277 with 3 home runs, 28 RBI, 37 stolen bases, and 74 runs scored in 143 games. He played second base, third base and the outfield; and was known for his hustle and reckless style of play.
During his tenure with Cincinnati, Ryan became the face of Cincinnati's signature outreach program, the "Reds Rookie Success League". Initially, it was hard to recruit players to visit the program due to a fear that it might be awkward for some and inconvenient for others. Ryan provided the Cincinnati Organization with their biggest breakthrough in that regard, taking upon himself to make numerous visits each summer to more than 1,500 kids and volunteer coaches. His involvement included financial support, participation in sponsor activities, photo shoots and media access. Regardless of the role, Ryan always made certain that the kids came first and that he was helping to enhance the program. His presence, caring and enthusiasm lifted the Cincinnati program to new heights.
Ryan sustained as many as 10 concussions and several injuries during his major-league career. He sat out 30 games during the 2007 season after suffering a concussion in an outfield collision with a teammate; an injury which led Ryan to be taken off the field in an ambulance. On December 2008, Ryan was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. May 2009, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. On July, 2009, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals. "He was a guy who was always all in, the way he tried very hard and hustled like he did," Ryan's former agent stated. "He played all out and he lived that way too."
During an eight-year major-league career, Ryan enjoyed a reputation among teammates as high-energy, outgoing and hilarious.
In April 2010, Ryan signed with the independent Somerset Patriots. In May 2010, Ryan decided to retire to focus on his two main passions, his 3 little daughters and his love of youth and young prospective ball players. Ryan returned to his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. His enjoyment of his experience with the Cincinnati Reds Rookie Success League lead Ryan to found and run the organization called Big League Development, Inc. as President and CEO. As well as developing the organization and running it as president, he took the time to manage and coach two traveling teams as the head coach. When the sun paints the sky in the west, stand a few moments and remember him only at his best.
Please direct all memorial donations to Big League Development Inc, a 5013c Corporation; 8808 Arlington Expressway, Jacksonville, FL 32211 to provide scholarships for under privileged youth baseball hopefuls.
A visitation will be held Wednesday, December 26, 2012 from 5-8pm at Hadage-Giddens The Oaklawn Chapel 4801 San Jose Blvd, Jacksonville FL. 32207. Funeral services will be 1pm Thursday, December 27, 2012 in the chapel of the Hardage-Giddens Hendricks Chapel 4115 Hendricks Avenue, Jacksonville FL 32207. Followed by interment in Hardage-Giddens Oaklawn Cemetery
Words of comfort can be left at www.hardage-giddenshendricksave.com
Arrangements are under the care and direction of Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home 4115 Hendricks Ave. Jacksonville, FL 32207. (904) 346-3808.