Report: Pirates catcher Elias Diaz's mother kidnapped in Venezuela
The mother of Pirates catcher Elias Diaz was kidnapped in Venezuela, according to reports out of the country Thursday.
Venezuelan journalist Mari Montes reported on Twitter that Diaz's mother was kidnapped in San Francisco, in the state of Zulia. Diaz was born in Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia.
"We are all shocked and deeply concerned for Elias' mother, as well as for Elias and his entire family," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. "We have Elias' mom and Elias' entire family in our prayers. We are using all of the resources available at the Pirates and Major League Baseball to support Elias and his family during this incredibly difficult time. As we work with authorities on his mom's safe return, we will withhold further comment and ask that you please respect the family's need for privacy."
Diaz was in the United States to prepare for spring training, according to a report on the Venezuelan website Meridiano. The Pirates signed the 27-year-old as an international free agent in 2008.
Unrest in Venezuela has led to a rise in kidnappings and other violent crime, an economic crisis and shortages in food and medicine as President Nicolás Maduro cracked down on opposition. The United States imposed sanctions on Maduro and other Venezuelan officials in 2017.
Major league players from Venezuela, including Pirates Francisco Cervelli and Felipe Rivero, have spoken out about the crisis and against Maduro's government in the past year. Cervelli posted an Instagram video last May that pleaded for an end to the violence. Rivero last month began collecting donations of baby formula, diapers and baby wipes to sneak into Venezuela.
Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos, formerly of the Washington Nationals, was kidnapped in Venezuela in 2011 but later rescued.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.