Watching Ryan Freel play defense on a baseball field has been likened to “watching crash dummies in a seat belt test” and “bungee-jumping without the bungee.”
In Cincinnati, where he spent most of his eight seasons in the big leagues, Freel’s No. 6 jersey became synonymous to fans, teammates and opponents with playing the game the right way. That meant crashing into walls, sliding headfirst, jumping and diving to get to the ball, doing whatever was needed to make the play. The constant headaches, blurry vision and spotty memory were there, too. But that was baseball for Freel.
In January 2013, Freel’s number switched to VABT-13144. He was no longer described as a 5-foot-10, 185-pound utility man. Instead, the VA Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts, labeled his specimen type as “fixed brain fragments.”