The car used in the kidnapping of a Washington Nationals catcher was found about 30 miles from where he was abducted.
Wilson Ramos, a 24-year-old who just finished his rookie season with the Nationals, was kidnapped in Venezuela Wednesday evening. He was taken away in an orange Chevrolet Captiva SUV by four armed men in Santa Ines in central Carabobo state, the spokeswoman for his Venezuelan League team, the Aragua Tigers, said on her official Twitter account.
“This is sad, worrisome and true that Wilson Ramos has been kidnapped,” Katherine Vilera wrote.
The SUV was stolen early Wednesday near Plaza Bolivar in downtown Valencia, about five miles from Ramos's home. Ramos was inside his home with his family during the kidnapping about 6:45 p.m., the Associated Press reported. A person close to Ramos' family, who asked not to be quoted by name out of safety concerns, said the catcher was at home with his father and brothers when several men “entered the house and took him away.”
The SUV was found in the Montalbán neighborhood of the small city of Bejuma. The interior was set on fire before the SUV was abandoned, Lapatilla reported.
There's been no report on whether kidnappers have yet to contact his family with a ransom request.
Some of Ramos's Nats teammates sent their thoughts and prayers via Twitter.
Ramos was in his native country to play winter ball. He was slated to play his first game with the Aragua Tigers on Thursday.
NBC Sports reported on Thursday afternoon that Venezuelan authorities said Ramos is still alive.
Venezuelan law enforcement said in a statement that a high-level team of kidnapping and intelligence experts had been dedicated to the case.
At 1 p.m., the Washington Nationals issued a joint statement with Major League Baseball on the kidnapping:
"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."
U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said that although Ramos is not a United States citizen, the agency is closely monitoring the situation. Toner said the State Department is ready "to help in whatever way possible."
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 percent 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.
The abduction appeared to be the first case involving a Major League Baseball player. 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 in a “commando-style operation” 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.
Around the same time, the mothers of five Brazilian soccer players were abducted in Brazil, including those of star strikers Robinho and Luis Fabiano.
Fans supporting Ramos and his family have started a website, FreeWilsonRamos.com.