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Monday, November 14, 2011

Twins rookie robbed at gunpoint in Venezuela in October, played on Wilson Ramos winter team, now back in US. Updated to include family of V. Zambrano

UPDATE: "In 2009, kidnappers abducted and killed the cousin of Victor Zambrano, a former major league pitcher, before kidnapping his mother." (5th parag.) (I hadn't seen Zambrano's case mentioned in other MLB/Venezuela related reports. ed.) The one where a boulder blocks the tunnel so the cab driver has to get out and move the boulder and gunmen appear. "Violence surrounding professional ballplayers in Venezuela is frighteningly common. Friday, Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was freed after being held for 50 hours by kidnappers.

A day earlier, a local face was put on the issue, via a story in the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press.

Joliet Catholic grad Joe Benson, according to the Press, was robbed at gunpoint in October while en route from the airport to the offices of Tigres de Aragua, his winter team.

Benson, who made his major league debut for the Twins in September, was in a cab. The cab entered a tunnel, which was blocked at the opposite end by a large boulder in the road. As the driver got out to push it aside, gunmen converged on the cab. Benson was robbed of his cash, credit cards and belongings.

The ballclub made good in getting him some clothing,” Jim Rantz, the Twins’ farm director, told the Press. “He stayed there and played right away. After a couple of games he came home to regroup.”

Eventually, Benson returned to Venezuela, where he was a teammate of Ramos. He played enough to total 51 at-bats before he was sent back to the United States for good. He hit .216 and played in 17 games.

Reportedly, he is likely to begin 2012 in Triple A."

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