Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos found safely, reports say
(AP, ABC7) Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was found safely after he was kidnapped earlier this week in Venezuela.
Venezuelan police rescued Ramos on Friday, two days after he was kidnapped, officials announced.
Mike Rizzo with the Washington Nationals released the statement:
"I am happy to announce that I have spoken directly with Wilson and he assures me he is unharmed but eager to be reunited with his family. He asked me to thank all who played a role in his rescue, and all those who kept him and his family in their thoughts and prayers. I join Wilson in thanking the many law enforcement officials in Venezuela and investigators with Major League Baseball who worked tirelessly to ensure a positive ending to what has been a frightening ordeal. The only detail that concerns us tonight is that Wilson is safe. The entire Washington Nationals family is thankful that Wilson Ramos is coming home.”
Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said on state television that Ramos was "safe and sound" and that he was rescued by police. He said the circumstances weren't immediately clear.
Information Minister Andres Izarra initially announced the news on Twitter, saying: "The baseball player Ramos found alive by security forces in mountainous zone."
Ramos was found in the mountains near where he was abducted, according to NBC sports.
Adam Kilgore, a Nationals beat write for the Washington Post, also wrote on the social networking site that Ramos agent, Gustavo Mercado, confirmed Ramos was found safe. Mercado was with Ramos family, Kilgore said. Ramos was "on his way back home," he wrote on the Washington Post website.
The 24-year-old player, who had returned to Venezuela after his rookie season, was just outside the front door at his home Wednesday night when an SUV approached, armed men got out "and they took him away," said Ramos' agent, Gustavo Marcano.
Authorities said Thursday that they had found a stolen SUV used by the kidnappers abandoned in a nearby town.
The abduction was the first known kidnapping of a major league baseball player in a country that has dozens of players on big league rosters in the U.S., and it brought a renewed focus on worsening violent crime in Venezuela.
Security has increasingly become a concern for Venezuelan players and their families as a wave of kidnappings has hit the wealthy as well as the middle class.
Bodyguards typically shadow major leaguers when they return to their homeland to play in Venezuela's winter baseball league, but it was unclear what precautions, if any, Ramos was taking while at his family's home.
Major League Baseball officials said it was the first kidnapping of a major leaguer that they could recall. Fans in both Venezuela and Washington had held candlelight vigils and prayed for his safe release.