2 die in Venezeula crash

For­mer ma­jor league play­ers Castillo, Val­buena killed

The Denver Post - - SPORTS | OFF & RUNNING - By Fabi­ola Sanchez

CARACAS , VENEZUELA» For­mer ma­jor league play­ers Luis Val­buena and Jose Castillo were killed in a car crash caused by high­way ban­dits who then robbed them, of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

The 33-year-old Val­buena and 37-yearold Castillo died late Thurs­day when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an ob­ject placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Here­dia said on his Twit­ter ac­count.

He said four peo­ple have been de­tained af­ter be­ing found with prop­erty of the ath­letes.

Val­buena and Castillo were team­mates on the Car­de­nales de Lara team in the Venezue­lan win­ter league and were re­turn­ing from a game in the cap­i­tal when the crash oc­curred en route to the city of Bar­quisimeto.

Third base­man Car­los Rivero was in the car and sur­vived, ac­cord­ing to the web­site beis­bol­play.

Val­buena, an 11-year ma­jor league vet­eran, hit .199 with nine homers and 33 RBIs in 96 games this year for the Los An­ge­les An­gels, who re­leased him on Aug. 7.

”I will miss Luis’ ban­ter, smile, gen­uine love for his team­mates, and, of course, the bat flips,” Astros man­ager AJ Hinch said in a state­ment. “He was a beloved per­son whether he was on our team or across the field.”

Val­buena hit .226 with 114 home runs over 11 big league sea­sons with the An­gels, Seat­tle, Cleve­land, the Chicago Cubs and Hous­ton.

”Luis was al­ways smil­ing and was one of the hap­pi­est play­ers in base­ball,” Astros gen­eral man­ager Jeff Luh­now said in a state­ment. “He pro­vided joy to his team­mates and our fans. He helped our fran­chise turn a cor­ner in 2015 and pro­vided many cher­ished me­mories.”

Castillo played five sea­sons with Pitts­burgh, San Fran­cisco and Hous­ton. He had a .254 av­er­age with 39 home runs.

Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro said in a tweet that “I join in the mourn­ing that has over­whelmed the Venezue­lan base­ball fam­ily and all of its fans.”

Base­ball Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred is­sued a state­ment call­ing it “a very sad day for our sport.”

“It is clear by all the sto­ries to­day that they loved base­ball and made an im­pact on their team­mates and the Clubs they rep­re­sented,” he said, ex­press­ing “my deep­est con­do­lences to their fam­i­lies, friends and fans, par­tic­u­larly those in their na­tive Venezuela.”

The Venezue­lan Pro­fes­sional Base­ball League an­nounced that all three sched­uled games Fri­day were can­celled and it said flags will fly at half-staff in all sta­di­ums for three days.

League pres­i­dent Juan Jose Avila told Union Ra­dio that he was eval­u­at­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of for­bid­ding play­ers to travel in pri­vate cars to move be­tween games, say­ing if the play­ers had been on the team bus, “noth­ing would have hap­pened to them.”

Venezue­lan teams tend to travel in buses pro­tected by se­cu­rity forces.

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