They huddled outside the center field gate, hunched against the cold in Washington Nationals jackets and hats, joined together in hope and helplessness. Hours before word broke about Wilson Ramos’s release, about 40 fans gathered Friday evening outside Nationals Park in a fan-organized candlelight vigil to support the 24-year-old catcher abducted Wednesday outside his home in Valencia, Venezuela.

The Nationals had been urged by authorities to remain as silent as possible regarding the case, so they did not officially sanction the event. They did provide coffee and hot cocoa, and the tables became the center of the small congregation.

Alicia Durfee, 26, a season ticket holder from Arlington, organized the event. She had been scrolling for updates about Ramos on MASN’s Web site Thursday when she read a comment from another fan suggesting a vigil. She ran with the idea, sending out messages to her friends and Nationals fans on her two Twitter accounts.

“It caught fire like I couldn’t believe,” she said.

John Holmes, 20, saw one of the tweets and decided he had to be there. He runs a fan blog, Nationals Inquisition, and had been glued to the computer at his home in Fairfax for hours, searching for updates on Ramos, hoping to read that Ramos had been found safe.

“I was devastated by the news,” Holmes said. “He’s not just a great player. He’s very good with his fans, very dedicated.”

At the rally, people lit candles and shared what they had read about Ramos. They reminisced about the walk-off home run he hit against the Seattle Mariners. One woman sang. Some people held signs. Others wore Nationals hats with the phrase “Free Wilson” taped to the front. Lynn Lacey clutched a teddy bear dressed in a Nationals jersey and a catcher’s mask.

“It’s a tragedy,” Lacey said. “I wanted to come show my support for Wilson’s family. I just want him to come home safe.”

Durfee had not been much of a baseball fan until two years ago, when her boyfriend introduced her to the Nationals. “Something about this team just really dragged me in,” she said.

Ramos became one of her favorite players. He seemed invincible to her. When he was abducted, Durfee thought about her friends who were his age.

Durfee had briefly interacted with Ramos three times, most recently in September at a picnic for season ticket holders. She posed for a picture with him and said, “Hi, Smurfette,” a joke about the costume Ramos had worn during a rookie-hazing prank. Ramos cracked up.

“I almost felt like I knew Wilson,” she said.