Following a game in Venezuela on Thursday, former Major League Baseball players Luis Valbuena and José Castillo died.
Both men, who played for the Venezuelan winter league team the Cardinals of Lara, died on Friday morning after getting involved in a car accident, the team announced in a statement on Friday.
“The Cardenales de Lara organization is broken and comes together in mourning along with the families of our players Luis Valbuena and José Castillo who sadly lost their lives in a car accident early Friday morning,” the team wrote in a statement written in Spanish on their Twitter account.
“This is a very painful blow to the Cardenales and a devastating occurrence, and we hope to emerge from this stronger,” the team continued. “We will always remember Valbuena and Castillo as two outstanding professionals and people who gave their all wearing the Cardenales jersey. They represented the team with dignity both on and off the field.”
At the time of the accident, Valbuena, 33, and Castillo, 37, were traveling from Caracas, where they had won a game on Thursday, back to Barquisimeto, where the team was based, according to the New York Times.
The OC Registrar reported that the accident occurred when their vehicle hit a rock that had rolled onto the road, and that both the driver and fellow passenger Carlos Rivero, who previously played for the Boston Red Sox, survived the crash.
Valbuena played in the MLB for 11 years, and was currently a free agent, having been released by the Los Angeles Angels in August. Over the course of his career, the infielder also played for the Seattle Mariners, the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros.
At the time of his death, Vabuena was one of the team’s best players, having scored the most home runs and having the second-highest batting average on the team.
Castillo played in the MLB from 2004 to 2008, spending time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros.
The infielder was also one of the Venezuelan team’s best hitters, and had the fourth-highest batting average at the time of his death.
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In a statement, the Astros mourned the loss of both of their former players.
“The Astros family lost two young men yesterday, entirely too soon,” the team said in a 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. Off the field, he was a warm and friendly presence to all who interacted with him. José’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.”
“I am so sad to hear about the sudden loss of Luis Valbuena and José Castillo,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch added. “I will miss Luis’ banter, smile, genuine love for his teammates, and, of course, the bat flips. He was a beloved person whether he was on our team or across the field. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the lucky ones who could call him a teammate or friend.”
Sharing his own condolences for Valbuena, general manager Jeff Luhnow shared, “Luis was always smiling and was one of the happiest players in baseball. He provided joy to his teammates and our fans. He helped our franchise turn a corner in 2015 and provided many cherished memories. We will forever remember him.”
The Los Angeles Angels also mourned the loss of both players.
“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 team wrote in a statement.
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