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MLB player's mother kidnapped

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The Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training on Monday, but baseball is the last thing on one player’s mind.

Catcher Elias Diaz’s mother has been kidnapped in Venezuela, according to Meridiano, a Venezuelan news outlet.

The news was first announced by Venezuelan journalist Mari Montes via Twitter.

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Per the report, Diaz’s mother went missing Thursday afternoon in the state of Zulia. Diaz was born in Maracaibo, Zulia’s capital.

Pirates president Frank Coonelly released a statement Thursday in which he said the organization is pursuing all methods to support Diaz and his family.

“We are all shocked and deeply concerned for Elias’ mother, as well as for Elias and his entire family,” Coonelly said.

Diaz’s situation is one that many Venezuelan-born players fear amid the ongoing civil unrest in the socialist country. Thousands have been imprisoned during a period of protest against the Venezuelan government.

Last season, Diaz’s teammate and fellow Venezuelan Francisco Cervelli led an initiative that encouraged Venezuelan-born MLB players to post videos on social media in support of those protesting in their home country.

In 2011, Wilson Ramos, then playing for the Washington Nationals, was kidnapped when he went back home to Venezuela during the offseason.

Ramos was seized at gunpoint outside of his family’s home and taken captive for two days. He was rescued after a police raid, and eight people were arrested and charged with kidnapping.

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Over 100 players from Venezuela appeared in the majors last season, and many of them return there during the offseason to play in the Venezuela Fall Leagues.

Per Baseball-Reference.com, 376 Venezuelan-born players have made it to MLB. That is the second-most among any foreign country, trailing only the Dominican Republic.

Diaz is coming off his first full season in the big leagues. He had 200 plate appearances in 2017 after having a combined six PAs in 2015 and 2016. He hit .223 with one home run and 19 RBIs.

Diaz signed with the Pirates as an international free agent in 2008 and made his pro debut a year later. He played for eight minor league or foreign league teams before sticking with the Pirates’ roster.

He is expected to enter the season as Cervelli’s backup at catcher for the Pirates, who lost several players in the offseason, including Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen.

Of the 46 players who played for the Pirates when they last made the postseason in 2015, only seven of those players remain, including Diaz. He has two more years of pre-arbitration before entering arbitration in the 2020 season.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
Location
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