THE FIRST SOUND of freedom for kidnapped Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was the thunderous roar of a helicopter’s blades.
The deafening noise shattered the silence of the remote Venezuelan mountains where Ramos was held for two days — and it was followed by another piercing noise. Bullets exploded around Ramos as the team of commandos that raced off the chopper exchanged shots with the catcher’s heavily armed captors.
A few chaotic moments later, the gunfire stopped — and Ramos was safe.
“There were many shots fired,” Ramos told the Washington Post Saturday. “I couldn’t do anything but get under the bed, to pray, to cry, and then I felt a great relief when I heard the police yell my name.
“That’s when I responded because I couldn’t even speak,” a shaken Ramos said. “The boys did a great job.”
Ramos — the first known Major League Baseball player kidnapped in Venezuela — was abducted at gunpoint outside his Valencia home Wednesday night. “Three guys grabbed me there in front of my house,” Ramos said. “They took me to another SUV and from there they took me into the mountains.”
Ramos, 24, said he was driven for nearly four hours on a winding road, then stashed in a shanty in the central Carabobo state.
He was not bound, but was hooded and never glimpsed his captors. “They simply told me to cooperate, that they were going to ask for a ton of cash for me,” Ramos said. “It was hard for me to think about, if I was going to get out alive first of all . . . about how my family, my mother were.”
His abduction rattled the nation rich in baseball talent, and candlelight vigils were held at ballparks across Venezuela.
The rescue mission — greenlit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — was organized after officials found the kidnappers’ abandoned SUV. It was not immediately known if anyone was injured in the gun battle. Four armed men were arrested, as well as two elderly mountain residents who were charged with giving the bandits shelter. Police were still searching for four Colombian men believed to have masterminded the kidnapping.
The abduction highlighted the dangers faced by major leaguers returning to their native country for winter league ball. Ramos who had a strong first season with the Nationals in 2011, said he was going to remain in Venezuela as he tried to put the harrowing ordeal behind him. “Now it’s time for me to enjoy my family, my baseball, and the fact I’m single — no girlfriend!” Ramos joked to a Venezuelan TV station. With News wire services.