Perez hopeful Ramos will be returned safely

Perez hopeful Ramos will be returned safely

Perez hopeful Ramos will be returned safely
ATLANTA -- As he received calls from David Ross, Martin Prado and others on Thursday, Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez found himself anxiously awaiting a call from his brother in Venezuela with what he hoped would be good news regarding Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos.

Ross and Prado were among the many Major League players who spent most of Thursday concerned about Ramos, who was kidnapped at his parents' home in Santa Ines, Venezuela, on Wednesday night. Investigators have located the vehicle used during the abduction.

But as of early Thursday evening, Ramos had not been found and his abductors had not contacted the young catcher's friends or family to request a ransom.

Perez was happy to hear Prado is with his mother in Orlando, Fla. He had initially thought the Braves veteran was in Venezuela this week.

Venezuela is not the same beloved homeland Perez left at 18 years old after signing his first professional contract with the Braves. In fact, it is much different than it was just 15 years ago, when he first started his role as Greg Maddux's personal catcher.

"It's sad, because we love our country," Perez said. "Most of our family is there and we want to be there."

After completing an impressive rookie season with the Nationals this year, Ramos returned to Venezuela to spend time with his family and continue honing his baseball skills. Perez said he has been told the kidnappers spent a few days tracking Ramos as he traveled from his parents' home to a nearby stadium.

"Everybody in Venezuela knows that baseball players make a lot of money," Perez said. "They think all of us are millionaires, and that's what they're looking for."

There was genuine concern in Perez's voice as he took time Thursday evening to talk about Ramos, a young catcher who he was introduced to five years ago as he played one final season in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Like many young catchers from his country, Ramos grew up a fan of Perez, who was one of the first Venezuelans to serve as a catcher in the Majors. Now Perez finds himself an admirer of the talents possessed by Ramos. This past year, they took time to talk to each other whenever the Braves and Nationals played.

"He's one of my guys," Perez said. "He's a great kid. We hope for the best. It's sad. It has to happen to somebody famous to let everybody know how bad things are in Venezuela."

After Perez last played in the Venezuelan Winter League, he returned to his native land during each of the next three offseasons to serve as a coach or manager. But he has opted to stay in Atlanta the past two winters.

"I was afraid something might happen to me," Perez said. "You could not go anywhere. I just stayed in the hotel. You could not go anywhere just because you're Eddie Perez or just because you've got money or just because they didn't like you."

When Perez returns to Venezuela to simply visit, he informs just one of his brothers and surprises the rest of his family with a stay that he limits to two weeks. He spends most of this visit confined to a family member's home.

"It's bad the way you do it," Perez said. "But if you want to be safe, that's the way to do it."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.