One of the Washington Nationals’ key players is missing in Venezuela, where he was reportedly abducted from his mother’s home Wednesday evening. Wilson Ramos, the 24-year-old starting catcher for the Nationals, was taken at gunpoint by four men and forced into an orange SUV in the Santa Ines area of Valencia, according to news reports out of Venezuela.
Ramos’s family has not made contact with the kidnappers, according to the Washington Post, but the Venezuelan police kidnapping unit, the Body of Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations, known as CICPC, are investigating. Ramos is the first Major League Baseball player to be taken in Venezuela, but family members of baseball players have been targeted before. Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Henry Blanco’s brother was taken and killed in 2008 while a year later Texas Rangers Yorvit Torrealba paid a ransom for the return of his 11-year-old son. Pitcher Victor Zambrano’s mother was also rescued in a raid.
Ramos returned to his native country to play in Venezuela’s winter league with the Aragua Tigers, beginning Thursday. “I don’t know what’s going to happen now,” Enrique Brito, a friend of the Ramos family and winter league official told the Post. “It’s going to be bad for the culture, for the league, for everything.” It’s common for Major League Baseball players and minor league players to participate in Venezuela’s winter league, which leaves some baseball officials to question how Ramos’s abduction will affect the future of the league.
Ramos, who was acquired when the Nationals traded closer Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins, has emerged as one of the team’s most promising players. He finished his first full season hitting .267 with 15 home runs and 58 runs batted. Drew Storen, a relief pitcher for the Nationals, expressed his concern over Twitter. “Extremely upsetting news about Ramo. Thoughts and prayers with him. Scary situation.”
Kidnappings in Venezuela have become as much of a pastime as baseball. In 2009, a crime and safety report cited “9.2 incidents of kidnapping per 100,00 inhabitants in Venezuela.” The U.S. Department of State called kidnapping “a growing industry” in the South American nation.
But Jose Grasso, president of the Venezuelan Baseball League, told Bloomberg that there will be increased security following the Ramos kidnapping.
“We need to transmit the message to MLB that we do watch out for the security of our foreign players in the country and that we’ll tighten security,” he said.