Former MLB players Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed in a car accident in Venezuela, per a breaking report by reporter Marcos Grunfeld late Thursday evening.
Castillo, a native of Venezuela, was 37 years old at the time of his death. Valbuena was a native Venezuelan as well who had played for the Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Angels. He was a free agent at the time of his death. He was 33 years old.
The news of the death of Castillo and Valbuena was confirmed by BeisbolPlay’s Twitter account, which confirmed that Castillo and Valbuena died in a car accident, and that Carlos Rivero, another baseball player, survived the accident.
Just after midnight, eastern time, the Cardenales de Lara baseball team confirmed the deaths of Castillo and Valbuena.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Valbuena, Castillo, & Riveros Were Being Driven by Rivero’s Driver at the Time of the Accident, According to an Early Report
An early report by BeisbolPlay cites Rivero’s driver as being behind the wheel at the time of the accident. Though Rivero’s is not cited as being one of the fatalities, his condition is currently unclear. The accident happened when the car hit a rock and went off the road in Yarucuy.
Per The Orange County Register, both Castillo and Valbuena played for the Cardenales de Lara on Thursday evening, directly before the accident. Their specific cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Rivero is also a professional baseball player who has played in the MLB for the Red Sox in the past. At 30 years old, the Venezuelan-born third baseman is a free agent, currently, but has played for the Red Sox in the past, albeit briefly.
2. Castillo, 37, Hadn’t Played in the Major Leagues Since 2008
Over the course of his baseball career, Castillo played for a number of Major League teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, the San Francisco Giants, the Houston Astros, and the Washington Nationals. Castillo played 15 games as an infielder for the club during his last year of play in the big leagues in 2008, per The Houston Chronicle.
Following his time in the big league, he signed a series of contracts, ending with two contracts with Japanese baseball teams, in 2009 and 2011.
3. Valbuena, 33, Played as an Infielder for the Astros for the 2015-16 Season
The Houston Chronicle notes that Valbuena hit 38 home runs and drove 96 runs total during his two seasons with the Astros in 2015-16. Valbuena played the final seasons of his career in the big league with the Angels; he was signed to a two-year deal with the Angels in 2017 and although the Angels decided to release him on August 7, 2018, The Orange County Register pointed out how popular he was with his teammates.
Valbuena’s full name was Luis Adan Valbuena, his nickname “Mono,” according to his MLB bio. He was born on November 30, 1985, in Sucre, Venezuela, and he attended La Cordillera high school in Venezuela.
Valbuena did have a Twitter account, though he didn’t post on it frequently. Almost all of his recent pictures were of his team.
4. Castillo Was Unmarried at the Time of His Death; Valbuena Was Married With a Son
At the time of their deaths, little was known about the personal lives of Castillo and Valbuena. Castillo did not appear to be married or in a relationship, and had no known children.
Valbuena was cited as being married to Mayela Eatherington by Houston lifestyle site Love & Tacos. He and Mayela had at least one son, who is featured in a Fox News interview, with his father. Valbuena’s family was extremely private; the details of his personal life are largely unknown.
Mayela’s mother, Carmen Calles Eatherington, gave an interview to Love & Tacos about how her daughter was modeling when Valbuena, then a AAA player, reached out to her online.
Eatherington said of her daughter, “They got to know each other through the Internet because he was constantly playing baseball as he was hoping to make it to the major leagues. I told Mayela to give him a chance because I knew he was in love with her. They began their relationship and Luis made it to the major leagues.”
Eatherington added, “They got married here in Houston. The story of their love and life is like a novela. I love it.”
5. Twitter Reacts to the Deaths of Valbuena & Castillo
Both Valbuena and Castillo were memorialized on Twitter in the middle of the night as news of their deaths spread.
Valbuena’s famous bat flips were especially noted, with reporter Tom Martin writing, “RIP Luis Valbuena, who I’ll choose to remember for being the guy to bat flip anything from a walk to a single to a double to a home run.”