It's been less than 24 hours since he was rescued from kidnappers in Venezuela, and Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos still can't believe what happened to him.
"I was super scared, and even though they did not hurt me physically, it was something that was very painful," Ramos told MLB.com by phone from his home in Venezuela. "I didn't think I was ever going to see my family again, and that hurt me so much. But now, I am with them again and it feels tremendous to be back."
On Wednesday, Ramos was kidnapped by four armed gunmen in the suburban neighborhood of Santa Ines, thrown into a SUV and had not been heard from until his rescue.
He was rescued Friday during an air operation in the mountains in the state of Carabobo, roughly 40 miles northwest of where he was abducted, according to communications minister Andres Izarra.
Six people were arrested, including what Ramos described as an older couple who administered him food and water during the ordeal. Two other people were in charge of driving him up the mountain and two other people were the actual kidnappers. Ramos believes some of the people involved were from Colombia because of their accent.
"I was in the front of my house when they took me. It happened so fast," Ramos said. "We took off in one car and then we changed cars. Then we went to a house in the mountains. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know what to think. I was very scared.
Ramos said he was told that he was being held for ransom and that the kidnappers expected to release him in three or four days. He added that the kidnappers struggled with communication because of the lack of a cellular signal in the woods.
"They wanted money and they said they were not going to hurt me if they got their money," Wilson continued. "They actually treated me well. They never hurt me. They fed me. They knew who I was and said it was not about hurting me. It was about money."
On Thursday, the SUV was found in a town near Santa Ines. Early Friday, Venezuelan deputy justice minister Edwin Rojas told the AP that investigators were gathering evidence and had descriptions of the kidnappers from witnesses. Security expert Luis Cedeno told the AP that Ramos' abductors could be linked to one of the Venezuelan criminal groups that focus on high-profile kidnappings.
"I remember the authorities showing up outside and there was a gunfight," Ramos said. "I think it lasted about 15 minutes. I was under the bed. I was so afraid. All of a sudden I hear the police calling my name. 'Wilson! Wilson!' And I answered, 'I'm here! I'm here!' They got me off the floor and got me back home. I am so grateful."
Ramos said he was grateful to the police officers who helped in his rescue, particularly Chief Roger Mendez; Chief Luis Sifontes; Chief Luis Rodriguez; Assistant Chief Franklin Inojosa; Chief Inspector Gilberto Contreras; and Inspectors Jose Dlima, David Pena, and Jose De La Cruz.
"They saved my life and risked their own for me," Ramos said. "And I am grateful and I will never know how to thank them. I will thank them all of my life."
The catcher's abduction is the first for a known Major League player, but there have been kidnapping incidents involving the families of Major League players in the past. A son and brother-in-law of now-Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba were released one day after being abducted in 2009, and the mother of former pitcher Victor Zambrano was rescued after a three-day ordeal later that year. Four years earlier, the mother of two-time All-Star pitcher Ugueth Urbina was rescued five months after she was kidnapped.
Ramos said he would like to stay in Venezuela and play for the Tigres de Aragua but understands if the Nationals feel otherwise.
"Going back to Venezuela is a decision that the Nationals will have to make," Ramos said. "But I know from now on that the government is going to provide bodyguards for me and my family so something like this never happens again. Venezuela is my home and I think the fans that have supported me and prayed for me deserve to see me play again. I have to show the appreciation for what everyone in my country has done for me."
Ramos said he is going to spend the next few days with his family in Venezuela as they continue to cope with after-effects of the abduction. The catcher is safe at home and he is going to enjoy his time with the family.
"I feel so happy and proud of all the supporters and fans with the Nationals, Major League Baseball and Venezuela who [were] praying for me," Ramos said. "I don't have the words to describe this experience and what I have been through."