Former Major League Baseball infielders Luis Valbuena and José Castillo have been killed in a car crash in Venezuela after playing in the country’s winter league, their team said.
“We are living a horrible tragedy in Cardenales de Lara. We lost our players Luis Valbuena and José Castillo in a traffic accident,” the Venezuelan club tweeted.
High speed led to the crash early Friday in Yaracuy state, a report by transit police says. The vehicle’s driver lost control, and the car hit a rock, causing it to overturn, the report says.
Valbuena, 33, recently played for the Los Angeles Angels and had been a free agent since the end of the 2018 season. He also had played for the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners from 2008 to 2016.
Castillo, 37, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros between 2004 and 2008.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Angel Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder José Castillo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this time of grief,” the Angels said in a statement.
The Astros — for whom Valbuena played 222 games in 2015 and 2016, and Castillo played 15 games in 2008 — paid tribute to both in a prepared statement.
“During his two seasons in Houston, Luis was an extremely popular player with his teammates and the Astros staff. He was a productive player on the field and played a key role in the Astros run to the postseason in 2015,” the statement reads. “Off the field, he was a warm and friendly presence to all who interacted with him.
“Jose’s time with the Astros was brief, but he also had a positive impact on those around him. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.”
The men were traveling from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to the northwestern city of Barquisimeto, where their team is based, for a game on Friday after defeating the Leones del Caracas club, according to the website BeisbolPlay, an official platform for the Professional Venezuela Baseball League.
Two other people, including Cardenales de Lara third baseman and former major league player Carlos Rivero, also were in the vehicle and survived the crash, police said.