Washington Nationals catcher kidnapped in Venezuela
REPORTING FROM BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- The kidnapping of Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos in Venezuela is just the latest in a string of abductions in the South American country that has led many U.S. baseball clubs to abandon training centers there.
Ramos, 24, was kidnapped Wednesday night by two armed men who forced their way into his parents' house near the city of Valencia and spirited him away. Two additional men were in the getaway vehicle, neighbors said.
Although the vehicle was recovered Thursday, the family had received no communication from the kidnappers. But police said Thursday they have information that the catcher is alive.
Several MLB players' family members have been kidnapped in Venezuela in recent years, as criminals view the players and their multimillion-dollar salaries and signing bonuses as tempting targets.
Although the number of Venezuelan players on Major League rosters continues to grow, the rising violence has caused many teams to give up on training centers in the country. Five Major League teams have permanent academies in Venezuela, compared with 21 in 2002.
Academies run by the Philadelphia Phillies, which still maintains a training facility near the city of Maracay, and the Seattle Mariners reported armed robberies at their facilities in 2003.
Venezuela, which on opening day this year had 62 native players listed on U.S. big-league rosters, is second only to the Dominican Republic among foreign countries as providers of U.S. baseball talent.
-- Chris Kraul
Photo: Wilson Ramos of the Washington Nationals on June 2, 2011 in Phoenix. Ramos was kidnapped Wednesday night in Venezuela. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images