It’s a tragic day in the sports world, as former Angels infielder Luis Valbuena and former Pirates second baseman Jose Castillo were killed in what was thought to be a car accident after playing in a winter ball game in Valbuena’s native Venezuela last night. They were 33 and 37 years old, a free agent and a retired ballplayer.
They were with former Diamondbacks player and winter ball teammate Carlos Rivero. According to Athletic reporter Fabian Ardaya, their car was being driven by Rivero’s driver. Rivero and his driver survived.
New details emerged today (per Maria Torres and John Dreker) that the accident was actually a planned attack by thieves who regularly throw rocks onto roads in order to cause crashes and then rob victims. Valbuena and Castillo were not wearing seatbelts and were ejected from the car. The thieves then looted and robbed their bodies.
Valbuena made his debut with the Mariners in 2008, and went on to play for the Indians, Cubs, Astros, and Angels. In eleven seasons in the big leagues, he had a career .226 batting average, with 114 home runs 367 RBIs. He was designated for assignment and subsequently released in early August of this year after struggling at the plate; he was a free agent this offseason.
Castillo spent the first four years of his career in Pittsburgh before splitting the 2008 season between San Francisco and Houston. He and Valbuena were in Venezuela for winter ball with Cardinales de Lara, on their way from Caracas to Barquisimeto.
Venezuela’s crime rates have been rising for years. In 2017, over 73 Venezuelans died a violent death every day. In April 2018, the US Department of State listed Venezuela as a Level 3, meaning people should reconsider traveling there.
There’s nothing more to be said other than that their deaths are a horrible loss to the baseball world, their friends, families, and fans. Keep their loved ones in your prayers.
Photo: Google Images