Freel gained some notoriety in August of 2006 when The Dayton Daily News reported that Freel talked to an imaginary voice in his head named Farney. Said Freel: "He's a little guy who lives in my head who talks to me and I talk to him. That little midget in my head said, 'That was a great catch, Ryan,' I said, 'Hey, Farney, I don't know if that was you who really caught that ball, but that was pretty good if it was.' Everybody thinks I talk to myself, so I tell 'em I'm talking to Farney." Freel later said that Farney's name arose from a conversation with Reds trainer Mark Mann: "He actually made a comment like, 'How are the voices in your head?' We'd play around and finally this year he said, 'What's the guy's name?' I said, 'Let's call him Farney.' So now everybody's like, 'Run, Farney, run' or 'Let Farney hit today. You're not hitting very well.'"
On December 22, 2012, Freel was found dead at his Jacksonville, Florida home as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.