Kidnapped Baseball Player Wilson Ramos Rescued -- Alive and Well in Venezuela

Missing Major League Baseball catcher found alive and well in Venezuela.

ByABC News
November 11, 2011, 4:19 AM

Nov. 11, 2011— -- Kidnapped Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was alive and well in Venezuela after his rescue in an air operation this evening, officials said.

"They got him," the Major League Baseball player's agent, Gustavo Mercano, confirmed to The Washington Post. "He's safe."

Ramos was with police this evening, has called his family and was on his way home, Mercano told the Post. He gained his freedom in the mountains of Montalban in the state of Carabobo in central Venezuela, the Post reported, citing Venezuelan Communications Minister Andres Izarra.

Izarra said it was "a rescue operation by air," The Associated Press reported. State television reported that three men were arrested in the kidnapping.

Ramos' mother was shown on television exclaiming, "Thanks to God!"

After speaking to her son by phone, she said, "He's fine."

Ramos's family had been waiting to hear from kidnappers who abducted Ramos as police in Venezuela mounted an urgent nationwide search for the ballplayer.

Police had said they believed Ramos was still alive, even though there has been little trace of him since he was kidnapped Wednesday. On Thursday, police said that they found the SUV used by four armed men used to abduct Ramos in Santa Ines, in central Carabobo.

Ramos, 24, was kidnapped at gunpoint in front of his family while visiting his mother's home in Venezuela. An eyewitness to the crime -- whose identity had to be protected -- described the chilling abduction.

"Suddenly and with no warning, I see the SUV stop and they're pointing at them with guns and the only thing they say is not to look at their faces," the witness said.

According to Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami, the vehicle used in the kidnapping was found abandoned in a nearby town. He said that anti-kidnapping units with top-notch investigators have been dispatched to central Carabobo state.

Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals issued a joint statement Thursday stating that the organization's Department of Investigations was "working with the appropriate authorities on this matter."

"This was a targeted kidnapping, so they were aware of where he was. They knew the money he could produce, they probably knew how much baseball players make," Chris Voss, former FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, told ABC News.

Ramos is an emerging star with the Washington Nationals, a natural whose fielding and power hitting propelled him into the role of starting catcher in only his rookie season. In 2011 he hit .267 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in 113 games. He also threw out 19 of 67 runners attempting to steal a base, a 28 percent success rate.

Ramos may be the highest profile symbol of the growing, and some say epidemic, problem of kidnapping for ransom in Venezuela. Hundreds of such abductions occur each year.

"It's a business, the victim is a commodity," Voss ABC News.

The situation appears to be worsening, especially for Venezuela's wealthy. According to ESPN, since 2004 at least three major league players from Venezuela have had relatives kidnapped. In 2009, the 56-year-old mother of retired player Victor Zambrano was rescued after a three-day kidnapping ordeal.