Thursday, November 10, 2011

Washington Nationals Catcher Kidnapped While Visiting Family in Venezuela

Professional baseball player Wilson Ramos, 24, a fast-rising catcher seen for the Washington Nationals [DC] baseball team, was kidnapped by gunmen on Wednesday (November 9) from his family's home in the central state of Carabobo, some 95 miles from the capital of Caracas. Ramos was abducted by four gunmen in the town of Santa Ines at roughly 1845 hours and taken away in an SUV.

Ramos is considered one of the Nationals' key young players as they try to become a contender in the National League East. As a rookie in 2011, he hit .267 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in 113 games. He also threw out 19 of 67 runners attempting to steal a base, a 28% success rate that ranked third among qualifying catchers in the National League. Washington acquired Ramos from the Minnesota Twins in a trade for All-Star relief pitcher Matt Capps in July 2010.

COMMENT: As most of our readers know, ransom kidnapping is a frequent occurrence in Venezuela. Actually, after a 22-year career with the US Department of State where I protected foreign dignitaries and another 20 years in protecting CEOs for multinational companies, I'm very surprised that the National League would permit Ramos to be vulnerable to kidnapping in Venezuela, where virtually anyone of means goes to the top of kidnappers' lists.

Having worked a number of ransom kidnappings in Latin America, it is predictable that Ramos' family or the National League may not hear from the kidnappers for a number of days, sometimes even weeks. Such a tactic is to take advantage of emotional fear on the part of the family so that a quick ransom agreement can be assured. Normally, kidnap victims are well cared for given the fact that doing so is the only negotiating strength that the kidnappers have.

Yet, in Venezuela, which is home to dozens of major league players, the families of wealthy athletes have been periodically targeted by kidnappers in hopes of a hefty ransom.

In November 2009, the then 56-year-old mother of Victor Zambrano, who retired after pitching for four teams during a seven-year major league career, was rescued after a three-day kidnapping ordeal. Zambrano's mother was abducted nine days after the former pitcher's cousin, Richard Mendez Zambrano, had been kidnapped and later killed.

In June 2009, Colorado Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba's then 11-year-old son and brother-in-law were kidnapped and released a day later.

The mother of former player Ugueth Urbina, who was a two-time All-Star pitcher while playing for six teams, spent more than five months in captivity until she was rescued in early 2005.

This report will be updated as information becomes available.

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