Luis Valbuena and former Pittsburgh Pirate/Houston Astro Jose Castillo die in a car crash according to the Venezuelan team Cardenales de Lara. They were both in Venezuela playing in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Jeff Fletcher from the Orange County Register verified the report and said their car hit a rock and went off the road. The two 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. This news came directly from the website BeisbolPlay, an official platform for the Professional Venezuela Baseball League. Carlos Rivero, who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks briefly in 2014, was driving the car, according to The Register, but survived the accident.
Valbuena, 33 was one of the Seattle Mariners’ top prospects when he made his major league debut in 2008. He also played for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs and Astros during his 11-year career. Before signing a two-year contract with the Angels as a free agent in 2017, Valbuena had started to show promise. He batted .260 with 13 home runs and an .816 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with the Astros in 2016, but he was limited to only 90 games because of a hamstring injury. He did not regain form, and wound up hitting .199 in 213 games with the Angels. Despite Valbeuna’s struggles, he was a great clubhouse guy and got along well with Mike Scioscia and his teammates. Because of his bright attitude, the Angels had great chemistry as a team in spite of missing the playoffs. Valbuena was a career .226 hitter with 114 homers and 367 RBIs over 11 big league seasons.
Castillo spent five seasons in the majors. He played four years with the Pirates and split his final season between the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros. Castillo’s final season in the majors came in 2008. He left the game with a .254/.296/.370 slash line. Most recently, he’d been playing professional baseball in Japan. He was 37.
I’m sure they’re both playing baseball in Heaven while Luis teaches Jose how to improve his bat flip. Say hello to Nick Adenhart for us!
Mark Gubicza via Twitter- “So sad to hear the news about Luis Valbuena. He was such a kind and beautiful person. Praying for his entire family. RIP my friend.
L.A. Angels organization: “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.”
Chicago Cubs organization via Twitter: “We are saddened by the passing of former Cub Luis Valbuena. The
#Cubs organization sends its condolences to his family and friends.”
Seattle Mariners organization via Twitter: “We send our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of former Mariner Luis Valbuena. He played the game with passion and he will be missed.”
ESPN reporter Alden Gonzalez via Twitter: “I will always remember Luis Valbuena for his radiant smile and his majestic bat flips. He was only 33. Damn.”
Orange County Register writer Jeff Fletcher via Twitter: “I enjoyed watching Luis Valbuena and being around him. One of those guys who always seemed happy. He once explained that he couldn’t help but flip his bat because he was having so much fun playing. Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.”
Featured Image: Luis Valbuena/CNN Photo