Former baseball star and Jacksonville native Ryan Freel was suffering from a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he committed suicide last year, his family announced Sunday at a mass remembering the Englewood graduate.
The report from the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and Sports Legacy Institute was presented to Freel's mother and stepfather, Norma and Clark Vargas, and to representatives from Major League Baseball on Dec. 11 at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista.

There, evidence confirmed that Freel was suffering from Stage II CTE when he committed suicide on Dec. 22, 2012. The family learned of the findings on the same day that MLB announced that it approved a ban on home-plate collisions.

Freel, who retired in 2010 following an eight-year career in the majors, was reported to have suffered “nine or 10” concussions in his career. Clark Vargas said that the report on Freel will be published in a medical journal early next year.

"Oh yes [it's helpful], especially for the girls," Norma Vargas said of Freel's three children. "We adults can understand a little better. It's a closure for the girls who loved their dad so much and they knew how much their dad loved them. It could help them understand why he did what he did. Maybe not now, but one day they will."

Freel became the first baseball player to have his brain studied by the leading Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, and first to be diagnosed with the incurable disease that has been found predominantly in the brains of athletes who participate in contact sports such as football and boxing.