When I think of Ryan Freel, I think of Farney.
Farney was the imaginary little man living in Freel's head. He was the reason, apparently, why it was not at all odd -- for those of us who had the pleasure of being around Freel during his playing days -- to see Freel talking to himself as he walked around the clubhouse or headed out to the field.
"Everybody thinks I talk to myself," Freel told the Dayton Daily News in 2006, "so I tell 'em I'm talking to Farney."
You never knew what to make of Freel. Or Farney, for that matter. A grown man owning up to an imaginary friend? That's either colorful and quirky or, well, a little frightening. And ultimately, "colorful, quirky and a little frightening" is probably the best way to describe Ryan Freel's personality.
Freel was found dead Saturday in his Jacksonville, Fla., home, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police told the Florida Times-Union. He was 36. And as is typically the case with suicide, the grief quickly gives way to the questions. And the questions force those of us who knew Freel to look back.
I covered the Reds in 2005 for MLB.com and, therefore, spent a lot of time around Freel. He was/is one of my favorite athletes I've dealt with in this business, for a number of reasons.