Wilson Ramos: Kidnapped MLB Player Rescued in Venezuela

VIDEO: Washington Nationals baseball player rescued from his kidnappers in Venezuela.PlayABCNEWS.com
WATCH MLB Player Wilson Ramos Freed

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, who was abducted earlier this week in his home country of Venezuela, is a free man today after officials rescued him in a raid.

Ramos was found alive and safe Friday night, officials said.

"The truth is I'm still very nervous, but thanks to God everything turned out well," Ramos told Venezuelan state television early this morning, The Associated Press reported.

Venezuelan security forces rescued Ramos 40 miles from his mother's home in Valencia.

Exactly how authorities found Ramos was unclear but officials say he was saved in a raid during which gunfire was exchanged. At least five kidnappers were arrested in connection with Ramos' abduction, Venezuelan officials said.

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.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo also praised the good news.

"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," Rizzo said in a statement, according to the AP.

Earlier on Friday night, fans of the Washington Nationals held a candlelight vigil for Ramos outside of their stadium.

Ramos' Abduction

Ramos told the AP he didn't know who the kidnappers were.

"Three guys grabbed me there in front of my house, they took me to another SUV and from there they took me into the mountains," Ramos told the AP.

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 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 RBI 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.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.