- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2011

After more than 48 hours in captivity, Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was freed from his kidnappers late Friday night.

The Venezuelan Information Minister confirmed that Ramos was found safely by authorities in Montalban, a mountainous area of Carabobo state. Carabobo is the state in which Ramos‘ hometown of Santa Ines is located. Ramos was rescued roughly 10 minutes away from where the car used to abduct him was found abandoned on Thursday morning in Bejuma.

The Venezuelan Internal Affairs minister reported that the authorities had three kidnappers in custody so it was presumed this was a rescue operation and ransom was not involved. One of the kidnappers was said to be a Colombian “linked to paramilitary groups and to kidnapping groups.”

Fear and worry gave way to an outpouring of emotion and joy late Friday night when the Venezuelan authorities informed Ramos‘ family that they had rescued the 24-year-old and would be bringing him home shortly. As the news spread across Venezuela and the world, it was announced inside the ballparks of the Venezuelan Winter League over the public address systems – which ignited pandemonium.

Chants of “Wil-son!” “Wil-son!” broke out in the ballparks and the same could be heard over the phone during an interview conducted outside of the Ramos family home.

Roughly an hour after the news of his rescue broke, Ramos spoke on the phone with his mother, Maria Campos, according to Marfa Mata, a close family friend of the Ramos family.

“Calm down,” Ramos said. “I’m going home.”

Campos was overjoyed at the news, exclaiming on television, “Thanks to God!”

“Thanks to my country, to my neighbors and to my family who were supporting us,” she continued, according to the Associated Press.

Asked what the scene in Venezuela was like immediately after the news broke, one source responded, “Noisy. Wonderful.”

Ramos had recently purchased a new home for his family in a much more affluent area of Valencia and they were planning to move into there Dec. 1. According to a source with knowledge of the family’s plans, they were packing their current house – which is in a much poorer area – in the days leading up to Ramos‘ abduction. It is believed that Ramos and his family will need bodyguards after this incident. Several of the more prominent and wealthy Venezuelan baseball players like Melvin Mora and Miguel Cabrera – a good friend of Ramos‘ – travel with four and five bodyguards at all times when they are in Venezuela, in fear of falling victim to something like this.

According to the president of the Venezuelan winter league, Jose Grasso, Ramos went for a routine medical exam before he was brought home to his family but he was well and healthy. The joy among his Tigres de Aragua teammates was said to be immense as they wrapped up a 9-4 victory over Maracay.

“Thank you God,” tweeted fellow countryman and Nationals teammate Jesus Flores. “You are great and full of mercy. My teammate and friend Wilson Ramos has been rescued. So happy for him.”

In Miami, fellow Venezuelan’s Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez were with their Florida Marlins teammates at the team’s new uniform unveiling when they were informed of the news that Ramos was free. They broke out into a celebration.

“Really?” Infante asked, a source who was there told The Washington Times. “And then he and Anibal just started jumping and everyone was celebrating.”

Late Friday night, investigators told Ramos‘ family that they had honed in one on particular mountainous area of Carabobo and they were working directly in that area. Just more than an hour later, the news spread that Ramos had “appeared,” and the family was then informed that Ramos was safe and with the authorities. As of 12:30 a.m. on Friday in Venezuela, Ramos had yet to be reunited with his family, though, as he was going through what was termed “standard procedure,” and giving a statement to the police.

The Nationals, who were instructed not to comment on the matter after a brief statement issued in conjunction with Major League Baseball on Thursday, issued a statement from general manager Mike Rizzo to express the team’s joy and relief at the news.

“The news from Venezuela tonight is reassuring. Though the details are limited and we have not yet talked directly with Wilson, we are thrilled with reports that he has been rescued and is being safely returned to his family.

“We greatly appreciate all the prayers and thoughts of all who have joined us in wishing for this conclusion to what has been a nightmarish 48 hours. We are eager to see Wilson and let him know just how many all over the world have been waiting for this news.”

As the hours passed early in the day on Friday, the challenge to remain positive continued to grow. In an interview with The Washington Times early in the day, Mata said the family was “trying to have faith, but, you know, it’s not easy.”

They were celebrating deep into the night, though, as it was just after midnight in Venezuela when Ramos, wearing a black bulletproof vest, was photographed by Kathe Vilera, the Tigres de Aragua’s official spokeswoman. She sent the photo out on twitter with the words, “Here is Wilson Ramos safely.”

Fifty-three hours after he was taken from them, it was the sight everyone had waited to see.

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