MLB Grandpa Wants Cards For Granddaughters

A Florida gentleman named Patrick Freel is taking up a collection of baseball cards. By themselves the cards are worth nothing much, being known in the collecting trade as "commons," but to this gentleman the cards he seeks are worth a fortune in education for his grandchildren.

The cards are of their father, Ryan Freel.

Approaching Father's Day, Patrick Freel tells Yahoo! Sports's Mike Oz he's feeling his mortality enough these days — by his own telling, he's survived one heart attack already — that he wants to be as certain as he can be that his three granddaughters have as much as they can have of their father.

Ryan Freel was a utility player whose way of playing the game often crossed the line from hard nosed to bull headed, making him a fan favorite in Cincinnati especially, but causing him no end of concussions and, in due course, the conditions that drove him to take a gun to himself at his Jacksonville, Florida home in 2012.

A diagnosed bipolar, Freel posthumously became baseball's first player to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the concussion-induced illness that can still be diagnosed only after death. His three children were forced to let go of a tortured father; his father was forced to the unthinkable, having to bury his son.

The elder Freel is described as a friendly fellow who's liable to call you "pal" the first time he meets you. This may, Oz says, be the reason why a single Facebook post turned into a quiet crusade that seems to have spread quietly around the country. The generosity of baseball's collectors has provided Patrick Freel with enough of his son's cards to fill a single binder. One binder down, two more to go.

It began when he messaged Michael Christian, a Montanan who operates a sports collectibles business in his spare time. The two men had never met until Freel's query. Christian merely pounced and reached out to his network of fellow card collectors, across several Facebook groups.

From there, it snowballed to a good extent when one of the Facebook posts was copied to Twitter, then re-tweeted thousands of times, Oz notes. The goods began arriving this week, apparently. Some donations included a game-used glove Ryan Freel gave a fan in 2002 and maybe a jersey or three.

For Christian this outpouring is typical of why he involves himself in the sometimes surrealistic business of baseball cards and memorabilia, which has given him the chance to assure Patrick Freel that he's going to have a very fat and deep volume of material to bequeath his granddaughters. The accumulated cards thus far show Ryan Freel across his career, from his minor league years to his terms with the Reds, the Royals, the Blue Jays, and even the Orioles at the bitter end.

The elder Freel seems to prefer posing in a Reds cap and team jacket of the style worn by his son during his days there from 2002-2008. But he'll take whatever can be provided from his son's playing days, for his granddaughters' sake. "I want to give them something to remember their daddy by," he tells Oz. "I love those grandchildren to death. I just want to make sure that they're taken care of before I go."

The address, if you have any Ryan Freel baseball cards or memorabilia to donate, is Michael W. Christian, 3737 Corwin Street, Bozeman MT 59718. Three little girls will appreciate it even more than their grandpa does.

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