Ryan Freel’s family is donating his brain to science for study of head trauma

13 Comments

Ryan Freel committed suicide via gun shot last week at age 36 and now his family is hoping that science can provide some answers about a possible link to his numerous concussions as an athlete.

Freel’s brain tissue will be sent for testing at the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, where many former NFL players have been studied post-mortem for evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Freel’s ex-wife Christie Moore Freel shared some revealing details about her home life during 11 years of marriage, telling Mike Tierney of the New York Times:

I don’t know how many times he would talk about sliding into second or third base and blacking out or seeing stars. I cringed that that’s who he was–all-out, full throttle. It was very hard to watch. … I know a lot of people say they weren’t shocked by it, but I really was. I really thought, at some point, the answer to all of this would come along for him. It just never did. I’m very hopeful. We certainly believe there is some sort of connection.

Freel’s step-father told Tierney that the family believes he sustained at least 15 concussions and his ex-wife shared the story of a Venezuelan winter league game in which Freel had to be hospitalized for a concussion after crashing through an outfield wall.

Tierney’s article also includes further details about Freel’s memory loss and mood swings and other post-concussion symptoms, plus a whole lot of very sad stories and comments from his family. Hopefully at least the studying of his brain tissue can provide them with some answers and perhaps help future athletes in Freel’s position.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

Getty Images
3 Comments

The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

3 Comments

Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.