From the moment he stepped on the field, there was never a doubt that Ryan Freel loved to play the game of baseball.
It was evident in the way he played the game.
He sprinted down the first baseline every time. He ran into walls in the outfield. He even dove for a fly ball in Spring Training.
That's just the way Freel played.
"He was a fun player to watch," recalled Reds Legends camp organizer Mike Wagner.
This week Freel is bringing the passion and enthusiasm that made him a fan favorite while he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds to Patriot Park in Marietta as one of six former Cincinnati players taking part in this year's annual Reds Legends youth baseball camp.
"It feels like I'm actually still playing, the love you get from the fans," Freel said.
Known for his all-out hustle on every play, Freel was a versatile force on the diamond over the course of his major league career.
Freel posted a .268 batting average as well as 22 home runs, 122 RBI and 143 stolen bases during the course of his career with the bulk of his nine years in the big leagues spent with the Reds.
With the Reds, Freel literally was prepared to play every position on the field except pitcher. Now he's bringing all the knowledge he gained at basically eight positions on the field to young ball players.
"It's a blessing to play both the outfield and the infield, steal bases, hit a little bit," Freel said. "If I didn't play all those positions I probably wouldn't be able to give as much back now."
Giving that knowledge back to young players isn't something totally new to Freel as he's also taken to coaching a travel team in his hometown.
And while he's the teacher, Freel is also a student as he's learning all the challenges that can come with coaching young baseball players.
"You're really got to be patient. It's a really hard game. Hitting is the hardest thing to do in all sports," Freel explained.
Patience was something Freel stressed when working with young players.
After all, each kid is different and what works with one isn't necessarily going to work with another. That's true of all aspects of the game, particularly hitting.
"Our brains are like computers. One kid may not understand one way, so you may have to go at it from a different angle," Freel said.
At the Reds Legends camp, Freel spent Monday working with outfielders but his versatility is expected to have him working all over the place during the three days of the camp.
On Monday, Freel stressed the most basic fundamentals of the outfield - from setting the feet properly when catching a fly ball to hitting the cutoff man. But he didn't just stop with the outfielders.
He also showed cutoff men the proper way to receive a throw from the outfield and set the feet to deliver a throw home and speed up the relay.
"He's teaching the boys the outfield. They can't help but walk away learning," Wagner said.
Freel's intent was to help young players increase the rate in which they perform plays, thereby changing the outcome of some of the game's closest plays.
"Those bang-bang plays, where it's out and safe by a split second, that changes just by teaching the basics," Freel said.
When he was done passing on part of his baseball knowledge, Freel was surrounded by the crowd of young kids seeking his autograph as they showed their appreciation for a guy who played the game hard.
It's that appreciation from fans that Freel appreciates most, and it's part of why he considers the Reds his team. Freel also played for Toronto, Baltimore, the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City before his retirement last year.
"I always consider Cincinnati being home for me," Freel said.
The annual Reds Legends camp got underway Monday and continues today before concluding on Wednesday at VFW Field, which has been renamed Patriot Park.
Patriot Park is located behind the Lafayette Shopping Center in Marietta.
"The first day was great. I had a great time," Freel said.