Ex-major leaguers Valbuena, Castillo die in Venezuela crash

Ex-major leaguers Valbuena, Castillo die in Venezuela crash
Players from the Cardenales de Lara baseball team carry the caskets of teammates and former major league players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The two were killed in a car crash caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday. Valbuena and Castillo died late Thursday when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an object placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Heredia said on his Twitter account. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas) (Nestor Vivas)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Former major league players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed in a car crash in Venezuela caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday.

The 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died late Thursday when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an object on the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Heredia said on his Twitter account. Officials said some bandits place or throw objects on highways to force vehicles to stop or crash so they can rob the occupants.

Heredia said four people have been detained after being found with property of the athletes.

Valbuena and Castillo were teammates on the Cardenales de Lara team in the Venezuelan winter league and were returning from a game in the capital when the crash occurred en route to the city of Barquisimeto.

Third baseman Carlos Rivero was in the car and survived, according to the website beisbolplay.

FILE - In this May 25, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Angels third baseman Luis Valbuena throws out Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier on a sacrifice bunt during the fifth inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
FILE - In this May 25, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Angels third baseman Luis Valbuena throws out Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier on a sacrifice bunt during the fifth inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File) (AP)

Valbuena, an 11-year major league veteran, hit .199 with nine homers and 33 RBIs in 96 games this year for the Los Angeles Angels, who released him on Aug. 7.

FILE - In this July 30, 2006, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Jose Castillo is greeted in the dugout by teammates after hitting a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth off San Francisco Giants closer Armando Benitez during a baseball game in Pittsburgh. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar, File)
FILE - In this July 30, 2006, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Jose Castillo is greeted in the dugout by teammates after hitting a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth off San Francisco Giants closer Armando Benitez during a baseball game in Pittsburgh. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar, File) (AP)

"I will miss Luis' banter, smile, genuine love for his teammates, and, of course, the bat flips," Astros manager AJ Hinch said in a statement. "He was a beloved person whether he was on our team or across the field."

FILE - In this June 8, 2014, file photo, Chicago Cubs' Luis Valbuena connects for a double against the Miami Marlins during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Chicago. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles, File)
FILE - In this June 8, 2014, file photo, Chicago Cubs' Luis Valbuena connects for a double against the Miami Marlins during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Chicago. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles, File) (AP)

Valbuena hit .226 with 114 home runs over 11 big league seasons with the Angels, Seattle, Cleveland, the Chicago Cubs and Houston.

FILE - In this June 11, 2006, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Juan Bautista (19) is congratulated by teammates after batting them in with an eighth inning grand slam against the San Francisco Giants, during a baseball game in San Francisco. From left are Jose Castillo (14), Bautista (19), Nate McLouth and Ronny Paulino (56). The Pirates beat the Giants 7-5. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/George Nikitin, File)
FILE - In this June 11, 2006, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Juan Bautista (19) is congratulated by teammates after batting them in with an eighth inning grand slam against the San Francisco Giants, during a baseball game in San Francisco. From left are Jose Castillo (14), Bautista (19), Nate McLouth and Ronny Paulino (56). The Pirates beat the Giants 7-5. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/George Nikitin, File) (AP)

"Luis was always smiling and was one of the happiest players in baseball," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a statement. "He provided joy to his teammates and our fans. He helped our franchise turn a corner in 2015 and provided many cherished memories."

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2007, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Jose Castillo reacts after swinging for a strike against the Chicago Cubs during a baseball game in Chicago. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2007, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates' Jose Castillo reacts after swinging for a strike against the Chicago Cubs during a baseball game in Chicago. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File) (AP)

Castillo played five seasons with Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Houston. He had a .254 average with 39 home runs.

FILE - In this May 27, 2006, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Jose Castillo (14) leaps over Houston Astros' Adam Everett (28) to complete a double play on Astros' Jason Lee (not shown) at first base to end the 14th inning of baseball game in Pittsburgh. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
FILE - In this May 27, 2006, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Jose Castillo (14) leaps over Houston Astros' Adam Everett (28) to complete a double play on Astros' Jason Lee (not shown) at first base to end the 14th inning of baseball game in Pittsburgh. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File) (AP)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in a tweet that "I join in the mourning that has overwhelmed the Venezuelan baseball family and all of its fans."

FILE - In this July 27, 2008, file photo, San Francisco Giants' Omar Vizquel, left, and Jose Castillo look toward fans while standing in the dugout during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, in San Francisco. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE - In this July 27, 2008, file photo, San Francisco Giants' Omar Vizquel, left, and Jose Castillo look toward fans while standing in the dugout during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, in San Francisco. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) (AP)

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement calling it "a very sad day for our sport."

FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Angels' Luis Valbuena celebrates after hitting a three-run home run off Oakland Athletics' Chris Smith in the second inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, FIle)
FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Angels' Luis Valbuena celebrates after hitting a three-run home run off Oakland Athletics' Chris Smith in the second inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, FIle) (AP)

"It is clear by all the stories today that they loved baseball and made an impact on their teammates and the Clubs they represented," he said, expressing "my deepest condolences to their families, friends and fans, particularly those in their native Venezuela."

FILE - This is a 2017 file photo showing Luis Valbuena of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)
FILE - This is a 2017 file photo showing Luis Valbuena of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. Former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela. MLB tweeted late Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, the 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died. Both were playing for Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan league. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File) (AP)

By late Friday afternoon, the coffins with the players' bodies had arrived in Antonio Herrera Gutierrez stadium in Barquisimeto where they were received amid tears by their teammates. A Mass was held to bid them good bye.

Players from the Cardenales de Lara baseball team carry the caskets of teammates and former major league players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The two were killed in a car crash caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday. Valbuena and Castillo died late Thursday when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an object placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Heredia said on his Twitter account. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas)
Players from the Cardenales de Lara baseball team carry the caskets of teammates and former major league players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The two were killed in a car crash caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday. Valbuena and Castillo died late Thursday when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an object placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Heredia said on his Twitter account. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas) (AP)

The Venezuelan Professional Baseball League announced that all three scheduled games Friday were cancelled and it said flags will fly at half-staff in all stadiums for three days.

The caskets with the bodies of former major league baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo are carried by fellow players on the team Cardenales de Lara, after arrival at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The two were killed in a car crash caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday. The 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died late Thursday when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an object placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Heredia said on his Twitter account. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas)
The caskets with the bodies of former major league baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo are carried by fellow players on the team Cardenales de Lara, after arrival at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The two were killed in a car crash caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday. The 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died late Thursday when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an object placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Heredia said on his Twitter account. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas) (AP)

League president Juan Jose Avila told Union Radio that he was evaluating the possibility of forbidding players from traveling in private cars to move between games, saying if the players had been on the team bus, "nothing would have happened to them."

The caskets with the bodies of former major league baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo are draped with their uniforms and surrounded by teammates from Cardenales de Lara, during a Mass at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. A farewell ceremony for the two former MLB baseball players who died late Thursday. Cardenales de Lara of the Venezuelan league said their vehicle overturned as they were heading to the city of Barquisimeto after a game in the capital, Caracas. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas)
The caskets with the bodies of former major league baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo are draped with their uniforms and surrounded by teammates from Cardenales de Lara, during a Mass at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. A farewell ceremony for the two former MLB baseball players who died late Thursday. Cardenales de Lara of the Venezuelan league said their vehicle overturned as they were heading to the city of Barquisimeto after a game in the capital, Caracas. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas) (AP)

Venezuelan teams tend to travel in buses protected by security forces.

The caskets with the bodies of former major league baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo are draped with their uniforms and surrounded by teammates from Cardenales de Lara, during a Mass at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The two were killed in a car crash caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday. The 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died late Thursday when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an object placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Heredia said on his Twitter account. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas)
The caskets with the bodies of former major league baseball players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo are draped with their uniforms and surrounded by teammates from Cardenales de Lara, during a Mass at a baseball stadium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. The two were killed in a car crash caused by highway bandits who then robbed them, officials said Friday. The 33-year-old Valbuena and 37-year-old Castillo died late Thursday when their SUV crashed as it tried to veer around an object placed in the road, Yaracuy state Gov. Julio Leon Heredia said on his Twitter account. (AP Photo/Nestor Vivas) (AP)

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