Two professional baseball players died in a highway robbery gone wrong in Venezuela when they crashed their car while dodging a booby trap placed by bandits, according to reports.
Luis Valbuena, an 11-year major league veteran, and former major league infielder Jose Castillo were killed Thursday when the car overturned while trying to avoid a boulder placed in their path, El Nuevo Herald reported.
Carlos Rivero and Raúl Álvarez, two of their teammates on local winter league team Cardenales de Lara, were also injured in the crash but survived, the paper reported.
The thieves then stripped the athletes of their belongings — and four people were later arrested while allegedly holding the loot, officials said.
“We want the public to know that we have succeeded in DETAINING 4 individuals that were found with some of the belongings of the Major League Baseball players,” tweeted Julio León Heredia, the governor of Yaracuy state.
Placing rocks in the road to force motorists to stop is a common trick used by bandits in Venezuela, according to El Nuevo Herald.
The players were en route from Caracas to Barquisimeto, where Cardenales de Lara is based.
A number of Venezuelan-born major leaguers have moved their families out of the country because of rampant crime and their big-money contracts have made them prime targets for thieves and kidnappers in the impoverished nation.
Valbuena was in the major leagues as recently as August, when he was released by the Los Angeles Angels.
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.
Valbuena broke into the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 2008. He subsequently played for the Cleveland Indians from 2009-11, the Chicago Cubs from 2012-14, the Astros in 2015-16 and the Angels from 2017-18.
Castillo played five years in the majors, for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2004-07, and the San Francisco Giants and the Astros in 2008.
Rivero, 30, had a stint with the Boston Red Sox in 2014.
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