- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped near his home in Valencia, Venezuela, on Wednesday, a source close to Ramos’ family confirmed to The Washington Times.

Ramos, 24, was with his family at the time of the incident but was the only one taken. The source said the family had informed police and was awaiting a call from kidnappers..

Ramos was preparing to play for Tigres de Aragua, a Venezuelan Winter League team, this week while spending his offseason at home in Valencia with his family.

According to a report in El Nacional and another in El Siglo, Ramos was approached by four “heavily armed gunmen” near his home around 7:30 p.m. Venezuelan time.

Major League Baseball was investigating the situation, according to a spokesman. Venezuelan Winter League president Jose Grasso told Ultimas Noticias Daily that “all police corps are working to solve Ramos’ case.” Around midnight on Wednesday, the Nationals had not yet issued a statement on the kidnapping.

Marfa Mata, a close family friend who has helped Ramos adjust to life in the United States and covers his team in Venezuela, confirmed the news as well via Twitter.

“Sorry to corroborate the information,” Ms. Mata tweeted in Spanish. “I hope the authorities can resolve the case quickly.”

MLB players long have been targets in Venezuela, but it is believed that Ramos is the first major leaguer to be kidnapped. More often, a player´s family is targeted for ransom. Former major leaguer Victor Zambrano´s mother was kidnapped in 2009, just a few months after the son of Texas catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Zambrano´s mother and Torrealba´s son were rescued.

A 2009 Time magazine article on kidnappings in Venezuela said the country had “the highest kidnapping rate in the Western Hemisphere” but that “98 percent of abductions result in a release, and most deaths usually result from a pre-existing medical condition.”

Ramos, the oldest of six children, is considered the “man of the house,” his mother, Maria Campos, told The Times in September. Mrs. Campos, along with Ramos’ sister, Milanyela Ramos, visited the United States for the first time this past season. They watched Ramos play as a major leaguer for the first time and were able to visit with him during the season for the first time since he left home at 17 to sign with the Minnesota Twins.

It was a moment of great pride for Mrs. Campos and Ms. Ramos, one Mrs. Campos called “a dream come true,” and she fought back tears as she spoke of the path Ramos had taken to reach the majors.

Ramos is considered one of the Nationals’ best young players after a rookie season in which he hit .267 with 15 home runs. He also is expected to garner some NL Rookie of the Year votes.

As news of Ramos’ kidnapping spread via Twitter and other avenues Wednesday night, several Nationals tweeted out support of their teammate.

“Extremely upsetting news about Ramo,” closer Drew Storen tweeted. “Thoughts and prayers are with him. Scary situation.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ramo and his family,” added reliever Tyler Clippard. “This is awful, I don’t know what to think.”

• Amanda Comak can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com.

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