Four armed gunman have kidnapped Major League Baseball player Wilson Ramos from his home in Valencia, Venezuela.
Ramos, who had finished his rookie season with the Washington Nationals, was in Venezuela preparing to play winter ball for the Tigres de Aragua.
Ramos, 24, emerged as the Nationals' top catcher this past season. He had a .267 batting average with 15 home runs and 52 runs batted in. He was also in the running for Rookie of the Year.
According to a report in El Nacional and another in El Siglo, Ramos was approached by four “heavily armed gunmen” near his home around 7:30 p.m. local time.
In a statement Kathe Vilera, a spokesperson for the Tigres de Aragua, confirmed the kidnapping, "It's sad, worrisome and true that Wilson Ramos was kidnapped.”
Word of the kidnapping quickly made its way up the hierarchy of governmental officials.
Tareck El Aisssami, Venezuela’s justice and interior minister said "the best investigators we have" are on the case. The vehicle believed to have been used in the kidnapping was found in the town of Bejuma, about 60 miles from where Ramos was kidnapped, he said.
This is not the first time a Major league Baseball player has been involved in a kidnapping. Back in 2009 Chicago Cubs pitcher Victor Zambano’s mother as well as the son of Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba were kidnapped. They were eventually released unharmed.
Kidnappers usually focus on the family members to extort a ransom. This is the first time a current MLB player has been kidnapped.
A 2009 Time magazine article on kidnappings in Venezuela said the country had “the highest kidnapping rate in the Western Hemisphere.”
The article continued to state that “98 percent of abductions result in a release, and most deaths usually result from a pre-existing medical condition.”
The Institute for Investigations on Coexistence and Citizen Security in Venezuela estimated that last year 1,179 kidnappings took place.
Many accuse President Hugo Chavez’s government for not providing basic security to combat the rising rate of violent crime in his country
In a statement on her Twitter account, Vilera added, "Lack of security in this country has no limits and nobody does anything! When will the kidnappings stop?"