Major League Baseball is mourning the losses of Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo after the former infield journeymen lost their lives in a car accident in their native Venezuela early Friday morning, December 7.
Reuters reports that authorities in the state of Yaracuy have detained four men believed to have been responsible for the wreckage from which the lifeless bodies of 33-year-old Valbuena and the 37-year-old Castillo were retrieved. Initial reports indicated that the ex-Astros teammates wound up in a crash after the driver of the vehicle they were riding in veered into the opposite lane in order to avoid a rock that came sliding towards them from the side. However, investigators soon determined that foul play may have been involved considering bandits from the area were known to set objects in the middle of the road in order to stage robberies of unsuspecting motorists.
Sure enough, Yaracuy Gov. Julio Leon Heredia would later confirm that the individuals who had been brought into custody were found to be in possession of some of the players' belongings, according to the Associated Press. Valbuena and Castillo were two of four people who happened to be present in the totaled SUV. The driver survived, as did Carlos Rivero, who himself enjoyed a brief stint with the Boston Red Sox in 2014.According to what Cardenales de Lara team spokesman Gustavo Andrade told the Los Angeles Times, Valbuena and Castillo were traveling from a Winter league game they had just played in to a meeting they were scheduled to attend in the United States Embassy when the tragedy took place.
The team was quick to pay tribute to the deceased, with Cardenales players carrying Valbuena and Castillo's caskets through their stadium in Barquisimeto before the sun had gone down late that evening. On Saturday, local fans followed up by lining up outside of a chapel in Lara so that they could contribute last words to the late second and third base tandem.
Valbuena and Castillo played in a total of 16 professional seasons between them, with Valbuena taking the field with the Angels, the Mariners, the Indians, the Cubs and the Astros in 11 big league campaigns, and Castillo taking the field with a Pirates, Giants, and Astros uniform on over the course of his five year career at the highest level. While neither man made much of a dent in the record books statistically, per Sporting News, both have been receiving heavy praise and condolences from Nelson Cruz, Alex Bregman, Collin McHugh, Edwin Jackson, Eric Young Jr., Justin Anderson, Ender Inciarte, Dontrelle Willis, Justin Anderson, and many others who recall their valuable presence in the locker room.