Kidnapped MLB Catcher: "They Risked Their Lives to Save Mine"
Wilson Ramos was in his native country to play in Venezuela's winter league. (Getty Images)
"I am very happy for the rescue operation they carried out. Very thankful to the government and the national army," Ramos told reporters Saturday.
"I didn't expect them. Where they were holding me captive was a very remote place, basically a jungle, and see, I was praying to God to bring me home safely to my family and look at these guys, they risked their lives to save mine and I am very thankful."
Ramos was found by security forces in Montalban, a mountainous region about 60 miles from the north central Venezuelan town where he was last seen.
Ramos is healthy and unharmed, authorities said.
"We are happy to see him rescued safe and sound," Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said. "We informed the country that we had taken responsibility for the investigation and rescue and today we can say we did it."
Ramos, a rising star for the Washington Nationals as a rookie this past year, was in his native country to play in Venezuela's winter league.
But before his first game with the Aragua Tigers, gunmen kidnapped him Wednesday night from his mother's home in Santa Ines, a team spokeswoman said.
On Thursday, authorities said that they had found the sports utility vehicle they believe was used in the kidnapping and had created sketches of two of the gunmen.
Washington Nationals officials applauded the news.
"I am happy to announce that I have spoken directly with Wilson and he assures me he is unharmed," said Mike Rizzo, the team's general manager. "He asked me to thank all who played a role in his rescue, and all those who kept him and his family in their thoughts and prayers."
Ramos, 24, emerged as the team's top catcher this past season. He had a .267 batting average with 15 home runs and 52 runs batted in.
Though soccer reigns in most Latin American countries, baseball rules in Venezuela, which routinely feeds players to major league teams in the United States.
That pipeline has been transformed in recent years because of violence.
As Venezuela's economy has stagnated, crimes such as kidnapping and murder have risen. According to the National Institute of Statistics, 16,917 people were kidnapped between July 2008 and July 2010, or about 23 kidnappings a day.
Baseball players who play professionally in the United States, whether in the major or minor leagues, are typically targeted for their money, though Ramos' case is the first time a player has been snatched. Usually, a family member is held for ransom.
"Government, please do something because Venezuela is crumbling with so much insecurity while you say that Venezuela is safe," Venezuelan baseball player Jose Castillo wrote on his Twitter account.
Melvin Dorta, a Venezuelan playing professionally in the U.S. Atlantic Independent League said there are lots of opportunities in Venezuela, but also pitfalls.
Dorta has played for the Aragua Tigers and is a friend and former teammate of Ramos.