Nationals’ Wilson Ramos kidnapped in Venezuela; authorities pledge ‘all-out hunt’

November 10, 2011

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped on Wednesday night from his family home in Valencia, Venezuela where he was playing with Tigres de Aragua. As Adam Kilgore reported:

Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has been kidnapped in his hometown of Valencia, Venezuela, according to his Venezuelan winter league team.

Ramos, 24, had gone home for the winter and planned to participate in roughly 10 games with Tigres de Aragua, starting Thursday. He is one of the Nationals’ best, most promising players, a rookie this past season who became the Nationals’ regular catcher.

Four people, armed, went into Ramos’s family’s house Wednesday night and took Ramos, and only Ramos, out of the house, put him in a green vehicle and sped away, according to multiple news reports out of Venezuela. Ramos’s family has not established communication with the kidnappers, the reports said.

In a crime and safety report this year, the State Department described kidnappings in Venezuela as “a growing industry.” In 2009, according to an estimate in the crime and safety report, “there was an alarming 9.2 incidents of kidnapping per 100,000 inhabitants in Venezuela.”

Many of the kidnappings that take place in the country are so-called “express” kidnappings, in which armed men drive a victim around and take money before returning him. The crime and safety report stated that “groups that specialize in these types of crimes operate with impunity or fear of incarceration.”

Venezuelan officials confirmed that Ramos was alive around midday on Thursday, and found the vehicle used in the abduction. As Juan Forero and Adam Kilgore explained:

Police Thursday discovered the four-wheel-drive vehicle armed men used to kidnap Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, an important clue that the country’s Justice Minister said could help authorities track down the young ballplayer a day after he was abducted from his family’s home.

The Ramos family had yet to hear from the kidnappers, a close family friend said. But a Venezuelan police Twitter feed reported without elaboration that Ramos is alive. “State law enforcement officials confirm ballplayer Ramos alive,” it said.

The Nationals and Major League Baseball said the league’s Department of Investigations was working in concert with Venezuelan authorities.

“Our foremost concern is with Wilson Ramos and his family and our thoughts are with them at this time,” MLB and the Nationals said in a joint statement. The statement said the ballclub and league had “been instructed to make no further comment.”

The vehicle was found in the town of Bejuma, about 25 miles west of this industrial city in central Venezuela, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said.

“Right now, we are in an investigative phase, collecting evidence, to try to find him,” El Aissami said.

El Aissami made his comments just hours after the gunmen arrived at Ramos’s family’s home in the Santa Ines district of Valencia, forced him into their vehicle and sped away. The abduction of the 24-year-old catcher, a promising player who had recently returned to his homeland to play in the winter league, has garnered broad media attention in a country obsessed with its baseball stars and also painfully aware of the growing scourge of kidnappings and other violent crimes. Ramos’s salary is the league minimum, $415,000.

The Nationals and MLB issued a joint statement in response to the kidnapping, and another Nats player in Venezuela, Ryan Tatusko, confirmed the team was in contact with him about possibly leaving the country:

“Our foremost concern is with Wilson Ramos and his family and our thoughts are with them at this time. Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations is working with the appropriate authorities on this matter. Both Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have been instructed to make no further comment.”

Minor league pitcher Ryan Tatusko, one of the Nationals’ players in Venezuela to play winter, said the Nationals called him first thing this morning to ensure he was safe. The Nationals are going to inform him “ASAP” if he’s staying or leaving the country, Tatusko said.

The Ramos family has still not heard word from the kidnappers and is urging the public to remain calm and not spread rumors, a close friend of the Ramos family said. 

“We don't have any information,” wrote Marfa Mata on Twitter. “The kidnapers haven’t call yet. Please we must keep calm.” 

Mata helped Ramos adapt to the United States after he arrived here to play in the minor leagues for the Minnesota Twins. 

Meanwhile, about a dozen players who played for the Nationals’ organization in 2011, mostly minor leaguers, remain in Venezuela for the winter league. I asked a team official if there were plans to bring them home. The team has not commented. The president of the league has said games will go on. 

More from The Washington Post

Venezuela vows all-out hunt for Wilson Ramos

VIDEO: Nationals catcher abducted in Venezuela

Opinion: Wilson Ramos’s unsurprising abduction

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