Venezuela prays for kidnapped Major League baseball star

Baseball-mad Venezuela is waiting anxiously for news of the fate of one of the country's top players, Wilson Ramos, kidnapped from his family home while on winter break from his US Major League team.

Ramos, 24, a catcher with the Washington Nationals, was enjoying a quiet evening on the family porch with his father, brother and cousin on Wednesday when a car pulled up and two armed men jumped out and frogmarched him at gunpoint into the vehicle as his relatives watched helplessly.

His family, described as hardworking and devoutly Christian, spent Thursday and Friday in the house, in a working class neighbourhood of Valencia, Venezuela's third city, with investigators waiting – so far in vain – for the kidnappers to call. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami vowed to rescue Ramos alive, adding: "We are tackling this investigation with everything we have got."

The abduction has rocked Venezuela, where baseball is a national religion and the country's number one fan, President Hugo Chávez, often puts his anti-American rhetoric to one side to pose enthusiastically for photographers with a bat, ball or mitt in his hand.

On Thursday night, a crowd held a candle-lit vigil outside the stadium of Valencia team Aragua Tigers, for whom Ramos was scheduled to play during the US Major Leagues' close season. Hand painted signs read: "No more kidnappings" and "No more insecurity", references to Venezuela's shocking violent crime statistics, which include the world's fourth highest murder rate. According to official figures, kidnappings in Venezuela have also risen more than 10-fold in the last decade, to 895 abductions in 2010.

A minute's silence was observed before the start of three Venezuelan league games on Thursday and players donned green ribbons to express their solidarity with Ramos and his family. There were also calls for this weekend's games to be suspended but these were rejected by league president José Grasso, who said it was "not a solution" to what he described as an isolated incident.

Although Ramos is the first Major League star to be abducted, relatives of several other US-based players have been targeted in recent years. These include the 11-year-old son of Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba and the brother of Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Henry Blanco. Mr Blanco's ordeal ended when he was shot and killed but the other victim was released.

Mr Chávez's government has largely been a helpless bystander to the violent crimewave, although it did pass a law in 2009 that lengthened sentences for kidnappers and allowed the freezing of victim's bank accounts to prevent ransom payments. But the kidnappings have continued to increase.

Ramos, who had just hit 15 home runs in his debut season for the Nationals, is just the latest in a long list of talented Venezuelan players signed up by US clubs. There are currently 62 of his countrymen playing in the Majors.

For those who do succeed in the US, usually earning seven-figure salaries, returning to their family homes, often in Latin America's grittiest shanty towns, is fraught with danger. And although the American clubs have strict security arrangements for their Latin American players when they are back in their homelands, it is accepted it is impossible to shield them from all risks.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a friendly, confident i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Primary Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: At Tradewind Recruitment we are currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: Physics Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind Recruitment is currently working ...

Recruitment Genius: Case Manager - Occupational Therapist / Physiotherapist

£28000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee