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PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — Former Pittsburgh Pirates player Jose Castillo was killed late Thursday night in a car crash in Venezuela.
According to reports, both Castillo, 37, and MLB free agent Luis Valbuena, 33, were killed when their car hit a rock in the road, and crashed.
They played for the same team in the Venezuelan winter league, and both played in Thursday night’s game.
We are saddened by the tragic news that Luis Valbuena and former major leaguer José Castillo have died in a car accident. pic.twitter.com/C3nILO00SE
— MLB (@MLB) December 7, 2018
The team said their vehicle overturned as they were heading to the city of Barquisimeto after a game in the capital, Caracas.
The Pirates had high hopes for Castillo, an infielder, when he joined the team in the late ’90s. He spent 10 years with the Pirates organization before going on to play for the Giants and the Astros.
Valbueno who was released by the Los Angeles Angels earlier this year.
Initial reports are the crash was caused by a “rock” in the road, a common tactic used by those trying to rob unsuspecting athletes. Earlier this year, Pirates Catcher Francisco Cervelli, talked to KDKA-TV about the growing violence in Venezuela.
“It is something that we hear every day. Of course I’m concerned. Every day is something new, every day it’s getting worse and I don’t know when it’s going to end,” he said at the time.
Political unrest is common in Venezuela, leading to high rates of theft and kidnapping. Elias Diaz knows all about that. His mother was snatched and held for ransom earlier this year.
“I try not to think about it, but when I got a moment, my mind is going back,” he said earlier this year.
Other players on the team feel the pressure of escalating violence from back home while trying to focus on the game they love here in the U.S. Felipe Vazquez talked about that fear.
“There’s nothing that we can control since it is the government or whatever is going down there. We don’t feel safe anymore because anything can happen,” he said.
Vazquez tweeted today: “What happened with Castillo and Valbuena it’s a clear example of what going on in Venezuela nobody cares bout anyone, what’s next they gonna try to find who did it not gonna find anyone!”
What happened with Castillo and valbuena it’s a clear example of what going on in 🇻🇪 nobody cares bout anyone, whats next they gonna try to find who did it not gonna find anyone! Just gonna pay someone to say he did it and it’s free after a few days you’ll see!
— Felipe Vazquez (@F_Vazquez73) December 7, 2018
The Pirates released a statement on Twitter, saying: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Pirates infielder José Castillo. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Pirates infielder José Castillo.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/yKw7soe8Ic
— Pirates (@Pirates) December 7, 2018
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