MLB players killed in Venezuela car crash 'staged by bandits'

Claudine Varela
Dec 10, 2018
10:44 A.M.

Former Major League players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have tragically died in a car crash believed to be orchestrated by suspects attempting road robbery.


Four people have been arrested in connection to the death of Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo who died in a car crash in Venezuela on Thursday.

Reports suggest the suspects, who were discovered with the victims’ belongings when arrested, may have thrown rocks on the roadway which caused the vehicle Valbuena and Castillo were taking to veer off the road. Both were not wearing their seatbelts and the impact ejected them from their seats. Two other passengers, former major league player Carlos Rivero and the driver survived.


Newly turned 33-year-old Valbuena (his birthday was on November 30) played his final game with the Los Angeles Angels in August and returned to his home in Valenzuela in the fall to play in the Venezuela Winter League. He plays for Cardenales de Lara which is based in Barquisimeto.

The incident occurred after a game while the victims were traveling back to Barquisimeto from Caracas. He and his teammate, Castillo, 37, had separate personal business to attend to with the United States Embassy which is why they opted to travel home separately from the rest of their team.


By Friday afternoon, the Cardenales de Lara players were hoisting the caskets of their deceased teammates and parading it around the bases in their stadium in Barquisimeto. The flags at the stadium were also flown at half-staff and three games scheduled that day were canceled.


Valbuena played seven seasons in the major league for four teams including the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Angels. He ended his career with a .225 batting average, 114 home runs and 367 RBI’s.

Meanwhile, Castillo, who played from 2004 to 2008 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, and Houston Astros left a legacy of 218 RBI’s, 39 home runs and a .254 batting average.


On Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tweeted in mourning for the two players.

“I join in the mourning that has overwhelmed the Venezuelan baseball family and all of its fans.”

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred also released a statement honoring them.

“This is a very sad day for our sport as we mourn the deaths of Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo.


“It is clear by all the stories today that they loved baseball and made an impact on their teammates and the clubs they represented. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to their families, friends and fans, particularly those in their native Venezuela.”

Several major league team players also followed suit and offered their condolences.



News of Valbuena and Castillo’s death coincides with another car crash that claimed the life of former Los Angeles Rams legend Isiah “Butch” Robertson. The 69-year-old was reportedly driving a limo at an unsafe speed when his vehicle swerved, causing a three-car collision involving a pick-up truck and another car. Robertson was the only casualty in the incident.

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