Ramos' family hopes, prays for his return

Ramos' family hopes, prays for his return

Ramos' family hopes, prays for his return
Whether crouched behind the plate at Nationals Park or sitting on the porch with his brothers while his mom cooked dinner for her boys at her home outside of Valencia, Venezuela, catcher Wilson Ramos always felt the safest around his home base.

Those who know him best call him "Pipo" and speak in present tense when talking about the abducted catcher. They ask that you do the same.

"Pipo is a really strong man, but he's sensitive, too," said Marfa Mata, Wilson's longtime friend who handles his public relations in Venezuela. "He's kind, but he takes his time to find out who a person is before making friendships. He's careful."

Kathe Vilera, the spokesperson for Ramos' Winter League team, Tigres de Aragua, describes Ramos as a nice person, who is also "a family guy, considerate and down-to-earth."

There are many who do not know Ramos, 24, at all. Undoubtedly, there will be some who will know him as the first known Major League player to be kidnapped in Venezuela. But Wilson Abraham Campos Ramos is much more to those that know him.

Ramos is a son, a brother, a friend and a proud Venezuelan. He could be your neighbor's son. He's also a rising star in the National League, but that doesn't seem to matter very much right now.

"He loves to sit on the porch with his brothers and play with the neighborhood kids," Mata said. "He's always available for pictures and everyone in community loves him because he's an idol. Everybody knew where he lived, and they knew he would come. This year, he played the whole season, and everyone was trying to get date when he was coming to say hello and take a picture."

Ramos was taken by four armed gunmen in front of his mother's house 15 minutes south of the Venezuelan city of Valencia at approximately 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, and has not been heard from since. On Friday, Deputy Justice Minister Edwin Rojas told the Associated Press that investigators are continuing to gather evidence and already have descriptions of the kidnappers from witnesses. Venezuelan security expert Luis Cedeno told the AP that Ramos' abductors could be linked to one of the Venezuelan criminal groups that focus on high-profile kidnappings.

Ramos' kidnapping happened in front of several witnesses, including his brothers and neighbors, Mata said.

"He tried to stay calm because they had a gun on his head and said 'If you move, I kill you,'" said Mata, who has worked with Ramos since 2009. "The man put one arm on his neck and gun on his head and got in a SUV. The brothers followed them, but got lost, and now they are devastated. They thought could do something and didn't react fast enough."

The Ramos brothers now spend their time worrying and praying for their brother's return. They try to remain patient because they know that's what "Pipo" would want them to do. Wilson is the second oldest among the six children. He has four brothers and one sister. Not surprisingly, two of his younger brothers are also catchers.

"We don't have any new information and we're all working together and talking to media to keep everything calm," Mata said. "There are so many things out there, and people putting up false rumors, and it's so hard on the family. We don't want to make more trouble for him, and we want to make the environment safe for Wilson. We share what we know and we pray. Everyone is praying."

Vilera and Mata have kept the public informed through updates on their Twitter accounts. Vilera, who operates the official Twitter account for the Tigres, saw Ramos at Estadio Jose Perez Colmenarez, the home stadium of the Tigres, almost every day.

Mata, who is a reporter by trade, has been giving Ramos lessons in media training. The sessions are a challenge at times, she says, because the quiet-natured Ramos would rather play baseball or teach a child about sports than stand in front a camera and talk about it.

She's also teaching him English.

"After games, I've seen him pull over and park his car and take time to sign autograph for kids," Mata said. "He is always taking photos. The fans love him and he loves the kids, too."

Ramos loves the children so much that he started a baseball academy near Valencia to help train future ballplayers and keep kids off the streets. He donates caps, shoes, hats, gloves, bats and balls because he wants to help the children in his country.

Ramos has been living his big league dream. He was signed by the Twins as an amateur free agent in 2004, and is coming off his first full season in the big leagues. Now, his loved ones wait for the nightmare to come to a peaceful end.

On Thursday, Major League Baseball and the Nationals issued a joint statement that said, "Our foremost concern is with Wilson Ramos and his family, and our thoughts are with them at this time. Major League Baseball's department of investigations is working with the appropriate authorities on this matter. Both Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have been instructed to make no further comment."

Players in the Venezuelan Professional League began to wear ribbons on their uniforms in honor of Ramos. A group of Nats fans organized a candlelight vigil outside of Nationals Park on Friday. Major League players are expressing themselves through Twitter.

"Wilson Ramos situation is very sad. ... No respect for human life. Greed, money-loving people are killing this world," tweeted Indians manager Manny Acta.

"Extremely upsetting news about Ramo," teammate Drew Storen tweeted. "Thoughts and prayers [are] with him."

There is a history of kidnappings in Venezuela, but there are also reasons to have hope.

A son and brother-in-law of big league catcher Yorvit Torrealba were released one day after being abducted in 2009, and the mother of former pitcher Victor Zambrano was rescued after a three-day kidnapping ordeal later that year. Four years earlier, the mother of two-time All-Star pitcher Ugueth Urbina was rescued five months after she was kidnapped.

In the meantime, everybody waits.

And prays for Ramos.

"Wilson is kind of quiet and he doesn't want attention," Mata said. "He is not the type of guy to show his wealth or walk around with bodyguards. He's a man of the family and the community here. But when you don't know what has happened and you are not getting information, it is very hard."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.