Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has been found alive by Venezuelan police Thursday morning, according to the police's Twitter feed. State law enforcement officials confirm ballplayer Ramos alive, it said.
NBC Sports reports that the kidnappers have yet to contact his family with a ransom request and that the abduction appeared to be the first case involving a Major League Baseball player.
Ramos, 24, who just finished his rookie season with the Nationals (batting .267 with 15 homeruns and 52 RBIs), was kidnapped from the Ramos family home in the Santa Ines district of Valencia, Venezuela Wednesday evening. He was taken away in an orange Chevrolet Captiva SUV by four armed men, according to the Twitter account of the spokeswoman for his Venezuelan League team, the Aragua Tigers.
Venezuelan police found the kidnappers' SUV Thursday morning abandoned in the Montalbán neighborhood of the small city of Bejuma about 25 miles west from Valencia and were gathering evidence, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami told reporters. Aissami also said that the discovery was an important clue that could help authorities track down Ramos.
The Nationals and Major League Baseball said the league's Department of Investigations was working in collaboration with Venezuelan authorities.
Our foremost concern is with Wilson Ramos and his family and our thoughts are with them at this time, MLB and the Nationals said in a joint statement. The statement said the ballclub and league had been instructed to make no further comment.
Ramos, a centerpiece to a rising Nationals team, had recently returned to his homeland to play winter league ball for the Aragua Tigers, and was even slated to play his first game with the team on Thursday, according to NBC Sports. It comes during a time of growing crimes in a country riddled with a violent history of kidnappings. It has especially garnered media attention because of baseball's and, by extension Ramos's, popularity.
El Aissami said that evidence-collection teams had been at the abduction scene since Ramos was kidnapped Wednesday evening and that the best kidnapping investigators were searching for a lead that would take them to Ramos.
We have the duty to find who is responsible and to rescue this countryman of ours, safe and sound, El Aissami said.
According to The Washington Post, family friend Marfa Mata said on her Twitter account late Thursday morning that the Ramos family had yet to hear from the kidnappers and urged the public to stay calm.
We don't have any information, wrote Mata, who helped Ramos adapt to the United States when he arrived to play in the minor leagues for the Minnesota Twins. The kidnapers haven't called yet. Please, we must keep calm.
The kidnapping of Ramos even led some Venezuelans to call for the suspension of at least Thursday's games. However, that won't happen.
Turning off the lights is not the solution, said Jose Grasso Vecchio, the president of the league, to The Post. The professional baseball league is not planning it.
The Post also reports that about a dozen players who played in the Nationals' organization in 2011, mostly minor leaguers, remained in Venezuela, where they are playing for their winter ball teams.
Minor league pitcher Ryan Tatusko, one of the Nationals' players in Venezuela, said the Nationals called him first thing Thursday morning to ensure he was safe. The Nationals are going to inform him ASAP if he's staying or leaving the country, Tatusko said.