Last night we heard terrible news break regarding former LA Angels third baseman Luis Valbuena and former Pirates second baseman Jose Castillo. Both men were killed in a car accident on the way home from a Winter League match in Venezuela.
As unfortunate as that news is for the LA Angels and MLB community, reports are starting to come out outlying the possibility of foul play involving a violent robbery. While no conclusions have been made as of yet the evidence seemingly points to foul play.
Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo, two extremely talented and respected MLB athletes, were found dead Thursday night (12/7/2018) at the scene of a car accident in Venezuela. However, things aren’t looking to be as simple as an “accident” in this terrible event. Reports have come out showing signs of foul play with the two MLB professionals being targeted in a robbery scheme that has sadly become standard practice for the criminal element of Venezuela. It is well-known that Venezuelan criminals target professional baseball players given their public status and income.
This happens far too often that it should; back in 2016 former Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was kidnapped for ransom in Venezuela. Earlier this year Pirates catcher Elias Diaz’s mother was kidnapped in a ransom attempt as well. It’s being reported that the crash Valbuena and Castillo were in was engineered by robbers who are being said to have placed the large rock in the road the victims crashed into.
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This is a tactic regularly employed by Venezuelan robbers, by placing an object on the road and engineering a forced stop, or in this case a crash, they will then rob the vulnerable occupants as they’re stopped and helpless. News outlets in Venezuela report that the vehicle and occupants inside had been completely looted by the time authorities arrived on the scene, adding to the evidence of foul play.
Neither Luis Valbuena nor Jose Castillo had been wearing seatbelts at the time and were ejected from the vehicle, passing away on impact. A third passenger in the vehicle, Carlos Rivero, was injured in the crash but is expected to recover. Officials are currently investigating the possibility of these deaths being a cause of criminal intent.
Luis Valbuena played through the 2018 season with the Angels before being released this past August. Over his eleven year MLB career Valbuena hit 114 HR’s with five different MLB teams, 31 of those home runs being with the Angels. Valbuena was known for his child-like joy of playing the game, from his energetic bat flips to the general happy-go-lucky energy he played the game with. Jose Castillo played professionally from 2004-2008 and accumulated 218 RBI’s across 5 MLB seasons with the Pirates, Giants, and Astros.
Our condolences go out to the family and friends of both men as well as anyone feeling affected by this tragedy.