Unfortunately, the kidnapping of professional athletes and their family members isn’t anything new in Latin America. The latest case involves Venezuelan native Wilson Ramos of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals. The catcher was kidnapped at gunpoint on Nov. 9 outside of his parents’ home by four men.

The 24-year-old Ramos had a fine rookie season by hitting 15 home runs and 52 RBI while batting for a .267 average. He’s no superstar, but Venezuelans know where his family lives in the city of Valencia and know that he makes pretty good money at his profession. He went home for the winter to play ball to prepare himself for next season.

The good news in the case so far is that the stolen vehicle used in the kidnapping was found, but the bad news was there wasn’t any demands received from the kidnappers in the hours following the abduction. It’s a case of déjà vu for some Venezuelans because of the past incidents involving Major League players who jail from there.

Criminals usually go for the wealthiest native players they can find in an attempt to extort money from them. They become well known in their native land and everybody knows who they are and what they’re worth financially. Back in 2009 Colorado Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba saw his son and two other family members kidnapped Venezuela. Fortunately they were released soon after a ransom of $1 million was demanded, but not paid.

A year earlier, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, was held up at gunpoint and had his watch, wallet, and car stolen. After the ordeal he said he was thankful he wasn’t harmed because material things are easy to replace while life and limbs aren’t. one of the most famous abductions came in 2005 when Ugueth Urbina, who was then pitching with the Detroit Tigers, found out that his mother had been kidnapped. She was eventually saved by Venezuelan police after a shootout with the kidnappers.

Some of the Venezuelan players have their own security teams in place and will travel with bodyguards while installing high-tech security measures in their homes. Many local players go home to Venezuela to play winter ball because the money’s pretty good and the quality of play is high. Quite a few Americans go down there to improve their games or as a means to revive their flagging careers.

Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong of the San Francisco Giants played there last year and his fine play earned him a minor-league deal. He also played in Venezuela six years earlier. He said he felt pretty safe due to the team’s security measures and his own awareness. He said he ate most of his meals in a mall close to his hotel and it was full of security people. But he added that he usually went with a couple of other people and rarely on his own.

Ryan Tatusko, a minor leaguer with the Nationals, is also pitching in Venezuela this winter and he said the team provides foreign players with 24-hour guarded housing and makes sure they’re driven by trusted drivers. They also take charter flights and are offered security whenever they’re not playing as well as in the team’s dugout. However, native Venezuelans aren’t offered the same type of security and obviously they aren’t being protected well enough.


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