– The K Zone –
December 8, 2018
Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo Killed in Car Crash by Mojo Hill
In a tragic and heartbreaking Tweet that was posted Friday night, it was reported by Marcos Grunfeld M. of Univision Deportes that former MLB infielders Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed in a car accident that night.
Valbuena and Castillo were in Venezuela playing in a winter league for the Cardenales de Lara. They were reportedly in car together on Friday morning with former Major Leaguer Carlos Rivero, who was able to survive the accident. It was Rivero’s driver who was driving the car, and he was unable to avoid a large rock that had been purposely thrown onto the road.
This is apparently a common tactic in the dangerous streets of Venezuela, as rocks are purposely and strategically placed on roads in attempts to perpetrate highway robberies. In this case, it led to two tragic deaths. In a sense, one could say that this was no accident and that the two players were murdered.
Valbuena, who was just 33 years old, appeared in 11 Major League seasons for the Mariners, Indians, Cubs, Astros, and Angels, and was a free agent at the time of his death. His best season came in 2014 for the Cubs, when he posted an impressive 118 wRC+ and 3.2 fWAR. Overall, he was a career .226/.310/.394 hitter in 1011 games with 114 career home runs. His main position over his career was third base, but he also saw time at second base, first base, shortstop, and even 15.1 innings in left field.
Most importantly, however, everyone who ever knew him or played with him remembers him for his infectious smile and burning passion for the game.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch had this to say about the tragedy:
“I am so sad to hear about the sudden loss of Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo. 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.”
Countless former teammates and friends also grieved for his loss over social media, and they all emphasized just how much love Valbuena had for the game and for his teammates.
Perhaps the best moment of his career came on July 8, 2016, when Valbuena was on the Astros. Down 9-7 in the bottom of the 9th to the Athletics, with runners on the corners and one out, Valbuena blasted a three-run walk-off home run off Ryan Madson, and of course followed it with one of his signature bat flips.
It is obvious just how much respect everyone around baseball had and has for Valbuena, who will never be forgotten from the baseball community.
Castillo was just four years older at age 37, and had MLB experience as well. He was a regular second baseman and third baseman for the Pirates from 2004-2007, and played for the Giants and Astros in 2008. Overall he was a career .254 hitter in 592 games and over 2000 plate appearances.
Despite not having played in MLB since 2008, it was clear that Castillo loved the game as much as anyone, as he was still participating in the Venezuelan winter league. After his MLB career was over, he also played for various Mexican League teams from 2011-2016.
Castillo was an equally important member of the baseball community and along with Valbuena, will never be forgotten.
This tragedy continues what seems to be becoming an all-too-common theme in baseball recently.
In 2014, young Cardinals outfielder was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Two years later in 2016, the infamous boating accident involving star pitcher Jose Fernandez occurred. Then there were two more car crashes in the Dominican in 2017, with Andy Marte and Yordano Ventura both getting killed on the same day. Tragedies like these are happening just too often now.
With that said, on behalf of everyone from The K Zone, we send our best wishes to the families of the deceased and everyone who knew them or played with them. They will be missed but never forgotten from our wonderful baseball community.