Power of Sports | Community Spotlight - The Sports Card Connection

Cardboard & Caring

For 8 seasons, Major League Baseball player Ryan Freel played the game he loved with reckless abandon.

Over the course of his career, his playing style earned him a cult following to go with a number of injuries, including more than 10 concussions.

After retiring from baseball in 2009, Freel struggled with alcohol and mental health issues before committing suicide just before Christmas in 2012. He left behind a wife and three young daughters.

Ryan Freel sliding under a tag at second base.

Following his death, it was discovered that Freel was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He was the first MLB player to be diagnosed with the disease.

On the back of a baseball card, Freel’s career statistics include a .268 batting average, 22 home runs, 122 runs batted in, and 143 stolen bases.

But, as Matthew Christian, a certified sports collector and creator of The Sports Card Connection, recently found out, baseball cards aren’t just a way to remember a career, they’re a way to remember the person.

Let’s try to find them some cards.

One evening, Ryan Freel’s father, Patrick, messaged Christian. He was hoping Christian’s expertise and network would be able to turn up some baseball cards featuring his son.

The search, however, wasn’t for Patrick’s personal card collection. He was on a mission to create binders of cards for Ryan’s daughters, who were too young to remember their father’s playing career.

Christian understood the significance of the request. He lost his own father when he was just 10 years old. He wasted no time reaching out to his network, and the response was incredible.

Within three days, cards came pouring in. From the United States, Canada, and even Guatemala.

In total, Christian received 3,000 Ryan Freel baseball cards meant for Freel’s daughters.

In their eyes, that’s not 3,000 new baseball cards. It’s 3,000 new memories.

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