Giving back is part of Freel's game11/27/2007 11:13 AM ET
By George Castle / Special to MLBPLAYERS.com
In the hustle category, Ryan Freel might be a 15 on a scale of 10.
And if the truth be known, Freel sometimes might even tire himself out. Cincinnati announcer Marty Brenneman speculated that if Freel ever tried to play 150 or more games a year, he'd burn himself out because he plays so hard.
He's busy enough filling in everywhere in the lineup. In each of the last three seasons, Freel has made starts at five different positions. He's still had the energy to pace the Reds with 110 stolen bases during that time.
The 31-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., native doesn't rest when he's away from baseball, either. Ever since he broke into the game, he has believed in using his stature to give back to the community in which he plays.
"This game has been so good to me," Freel said. "The biggest part of this game is in giving back to the community. The money is great, and the scheduling is pretty good -- give back to the community, and teach boys and girls what life is all about.
"It's not just about playing baseball. There's a lot more involved. If you could get through to a couple of kids and try to help them out, it's all worth it."
Freel began his good work while still a farmhand in the Blue Jays' system.
"Even while I was in Triple-A, in Syracuse, I got two or three awards for doing community service," he said. "You can have positive influence whenever you're in uniform. I did a lot of hospital visits, reading in schools, talking about life in general, baseball clinics. I like to teach baseball, but also teach kids to listen to your mother and dad, go to school, say your prayers, hang out with good people. Just how to deal with life situations and how to handle them."
Now, with the Reds, he regularly meets with underprivileged children on their excursions to Great American Ball Park.
"They play games at the ballpark, we talk to them, they have a different word, or concept, of the day and we talk to them," he said. "It's a word or theme that's not just about baseball, but about life."
Freel also visits hospitals and schools in the Cincinnati area. He's happy to be focused on one specific market rather than spreading himself too thin.
"I wanted to get some time in, get established as a guy people would look to (for community work)," he said. "In Cincinnati, it's a lot easier to do than nationwide."
Freel's next step is to establish his own foundation.
"It's about time for that," he said. "Absolutely, I'm going to look into doing that. I've already talked to my agent about setting some stuff up."
What Freel does for the community isn't a chore. It's an obligation he gladly fulfills.
"It's a big part of the game," he said. "You have to give back, there's no doubt about it."