Despite the horrific kidnapping situation involving Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, Mike Rizzo plans to continue scouring the fertile breeding grounds of Venezuela for talented baseball players. All but five organizations have shut down baseball academies in the volatile country, but Rizzo plans to continue investing human and financial resources to scouting Venezuela in the future despite the fact that Ramos is not the only player to have encountered danger in Venezuela in recent years.
Ramos' kidnapping was the first incident where a player was abducted, but Diamondbacks catcher Henry Blanco's brother was killed in 2008, and former major leaguer Ugueth Urbina's mother was held for nearly six months before authorities rescued her from kidnappers.
Two of Rizzo's hires as Nationals GM are proof positive of his commitment. Rizzo first hired Johnny DiPuglia from the Boston Red Sox following the 2009 season, and just recently hired former Dodgers scout Ron Rizzi to bring his expertise and familiarity with Venezuela and its talent to the Nationals organization. Rizzo had planned on Rizzi spending at least a month each winter in Venezuela, and those plans aren't about to change:
"There are instances that happened all the time down there. I've been involved in several; I don't want to go into them, but there were several times where I was put in positions where it was very uneasy, very dangerous to be in," Rizzo said. "But that's part of your job. You have to scout down there. You try and be as safe as you can, take as few risks as possible and try and get your job done."
Stay tuned here and at Federal Baseball for more news and discussion about the Wilson Ramos kidnapping story as it becomes available.