November 11, 2011 by staff
Ramos Kidnapping, As Venezuelan investigators try to rescue kidnapped Washington Nationals star catcher Wilson Ramos, the case underscores the uneasy interdependence between America’s baseball industry and Venezuela’s pool of desperate and ambitious teenagers.
A crime-ridden and unstable nation led by a president locked in bitter antagonism with Washington, Venezuela provides a pipeline of talented but inexpensive ballplayers for the $7 billion-a-year business that is Major League Baseball.
The 24-year-old Ramos was kidnapped Wednesday by gunmen in a dangerous section of Valencia, where he was visiting his mother. Valencia is small industrial city about two hours west of Caracas. Though he had just played his first full MLB season in Washington, D.C., Ramos was home in Venezuela to play in what is called the Winter Leagues. As of Thursday, police said, they had found the abandoned car used for his capture, but kidnappers had not made contact with the family.
Venezuelan ballplayers returning from the U.S. for visits are often said to be treated like folk heroes in Venezuela. “More often than not they have a false sense of security because they think everyone is in love with them,” said David Tinsley, a former DEA agent who runs 5 Stones Intelligence, a security company. “But a lot of people just see them as a cash cow, as high-level chattel for exchange.”
Wilson Ramos’s unlikely path to success in U.S. baseball formally began seven years ago, when he was just 16 years old, a Venezuela boy signed up by the Minnesota Twins’ talent scout. It’s an event that most boys in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela can only dream of as a way out of poverty and into glory.
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