The mother of Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Elias Diaz has been kidnapped in Venezuela.
The incident, which occurred Thursday afternoon, was first reported by local media in Diaz's native country. It came as the fourth-year catcher was preparing to report to the team's spring training camp in Bradenton, Fla.
Later in the day, the team issued a statement from club president Frank Coonelly:
“We are all shocked and deeply concerned for Elias’ mother, as well as for Elias and his entire family. 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.”
Kidnappings of the relatives of famous people have become fairly common in Venezuela during the nation's current political turmoil.
Many Venezuelan major leaguers have been forced to hire security personnel to keep their families safe. And as USA TODAY Sports reported in July, some of the more prominent players have been reluctant to return home.
“I don’t want to leave Venezuela. I wish I could live in my country. It’s the best country in the world,’’ Chicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s a shame that we Venezuelans can’t live in that beautiful land because we have such a bad, corrupt government.’’