Two former major league baseball players were killed in a car crash that may have been caused by criminals attempting to rob them in Venezuela.
Luis Valbuena, 32, and Jose Castillo, 37, were driving home from a game with the winter league club they play for, Cardenales de Lara, early Friday around 2am in Yaracuy when their SUV collided with a ‘huge stone covered in cloths’ believed to have been placed in the road by criminals, according to El Universal.
The car flipped upon impact with the rock and Valbuena and Castillo, who were in the backseat without seatbelts, were ejected through the rear window of the vehicle.
Teammate Carlos Rivero, a former infielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, was in the front seat of the vehicle alongside his chauffeur, Raul Alvarez. They both survived and Rivero is being treated for a head injury at a clinic in Barquisimeto.
Venezuelan authorities visited the accident scene Friday morning and determined a homicide investigation will be opened.
Former MLB infielders Luis Valbuena, 33, and Jose Castillo, 37, were killed in a car crash early Friday morning after authorities say their SUV flipped when it collided with a rock believed to have been placed in the road by criminals. Valbuena and Castillo, who are both from Venezuela, were ejected from the vehicle through the back window
A Twitter user shared photos of the damaged vehicle after the ‘tragic accident’ Friday morning
There have been conflicting reports about whether the passengers were robbed following the collision.
Local journalist Deivis Ramírez reported via Twitter that the criminals who placed the road obstructions looted the vehicle after it crashed.
However, Valbuena’s family members told El Informador that none of the victims’ belongings were stolen.
Carlos Rivero, a former infielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, was in the front seat of the vehicle with a chauffeur. Both survived the crash and Rivero is being treated for a head injury
Cardenales de Lara general manager Richard Gómez called the collision ‘the worst tragedy that Venezuelan baseball has experienced’.
He told El Informador the players were travelling in a caravan home to Barquisimeto from a Thursday night game against Leones del Caracas in the country’s capital.
He said players travelling behind Valbuena and Castillo ‘saw when the car lost control and could not do anything’.
‘Everything indicates that it was an instant death,’ Gómez said.
The general manager added that the accident could have been worse because the cars were all very close to each other.
He said players are told by the league to travel on the team bus, but not all do.
Valbuena played in the MLB for 11 years and was released by the Los Angeles Angels in August
The Angels posted a message about Valbuena and Castillo’s passing on Twitter early Friday
‘We are saddened by the tragic news that Luis Valbuena and former major leaguer Jose Castillo have died in a car accident,’ Major League Baseball tweeted early Friday morning.
Valbuena was in the major leagues as recently as August, when he was released by the Los Angeles Angels. He hit .199 with a .253 on-base percentage, a .335 slugging percentage, nine homers and 33 RBIs in 96 games for Los Angeles this year.
‘We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Angel Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder José Castillo,’ the Angels wrote in a tweet after the news broke.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this time of grief.’
Primarily a third baseman who also saw action at the other three infield positions, Valbuena hit a career-high 25 homers for the Houston Astros in 2015.
In an 11-year major league career, he batted .226 with a .310 on-base percentage, a .394 slugging percentage, 114 homers and 367 RBIs in 1,011 games.
Valbuena broke into the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 2008. He subsequently played for the Cleveland Indians (2009-11), the Chicago Cubs (2012-14), the Astros (2015-16) and the Angels (2017-18).
Castillo played five years in the majors, for the Pittsburgh Pirates (2004-07), the San Francisco Giants (2008) and the Houston Astros (2008). He is pictured during a 2005 game in Pittsburgh
Castillo played five years in the majors, for the Pittsburgh Pirates (2004-07), the San Francisco Giants (2008) and the Astros (2008). In 592 career games, he hit .254 with a .296 on-base percentage, a .379 slugging percentage, 39 homers and 218 RBIs.
He played mostly second base and third base.
Rivero, 30, had a brief major league stint with the Boston Red Sox in 2014. He collected four hits in seven at-bats (.571 average) while hitting a home run and driving in three runs.
He was in the minor leagues in the United States as recently as 2017, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A Reno affiliate. He played this year for Tijuana in the Mexican League.