Today is supposed to be the big day for the newly re-named Miami Marlins. Tonight the team unveils its new uniforms and, perhaps, a new blockbuster signing.
But at least five players on the 40-man roster probably won't be celebrating. Their fellow countryman and ballplayer Wilson Ramos was kidnapped on Wednesday from his home just outside Valencia, Venezuela.
Marlins pitcher Anibal Sánchez was married last weekend but has cancelled his honeymoon trip back to the South American country following Wilson's shocking disappearance.
Venezuela has long had one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world, a grisly phenomenon that inspired the 2005 movie Secuestro (Kidnapping) Express. The U.S. State Department recently calculated that there were 9.2 kidnappings per 100,000 people.
Authorities say they believe Ramos is still alive, but his disappearance has spooked fellow Venezuelan big-leaguers.
Ramos hit .267 with 15 homeruns in his rookie season last year. He had returned home to play ten winter league games for the Aragua Tigers when four men in a four-by-four snatched him from his home south of Valencia.
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He isn't the first Venezuelan pelotero to be touched by violence, but normally it's ballplayers family members who are targeted. In 2008, the brother of Arizona Diamondback catcher Henry Blanco was kidnapped and killed. A year later, Yorvit Torrealba's son was kidnapped but the Texas Rangers catcher paid a ransom and he was set free. Also in 2009, the mother of ex-pitcher Victor Zambrano was rescued three days after being grabbed.
The five Venezuelan players on the Marlins' roster are pitchers Anibal Sánchez, Edward Mujica, and Omar Poveda, and second basemen Omar Infante and José López. Mujica is also from Valencia.