BRADENTON, Fla. – About a week ago, Elias Diaz was reaching the end of an unthinkable situation. His mother had been kidnapped, and was held four days by the kidnappers, before finally being recovered last Sunday. The Pirates gave Diaz some extra time off to deal with his family, rather than having to report to camp last week. He arrived yesterday, and discussed the situation with the media, saying that his mother was doing well.
“This was a very tough situation,” Diaz said through translator Mike Gonzalez. “Very hard to deal with. My mom was just hanging outside with a friend, just having a conversation, and those men arrived and kidnapped her. The first thing we did was contact the police. … Thank God that four days later we were able to find her and get her back home.”
Diaz said that the kidnappers wanted money, but that the police were able to do their job and the family didn’t have to pay anything. There were police involved in the kidnapping, along with a very close family friend.
“In the beginning, I have no words to be able to describe the reaction and the response when I heard the news,” Diaz said. “It was heartbreaking. No one really prepares them self for something like that. No one takes the time to think that through. When it hit me, it hit me like a ton of bricks, and it was a very tough situation to deal with. When I did find out the news that we found my mom, I can tell you that the joy I felt was overwhelming. I’ve never felt that caliber of joy that I felt the moment I received the news that my mom was coming back home.”
Last summer, Alan Saunders did a feature on the tough economic times in Venezuela, noting that players like Diaz are a target for this sort of thing, due to their high profile. Diaz said that his goal is to still get his family out of Venezuela, which is a tough process. The people that are targeted the most are the close family members, and those are the people he wants to bring to the US. Knowing that a family friend was involved in the kidnapping has further secured the idea that Diaz needs to detach from his home country.
“It kind of removes the trust of your roots,” Diaz said. “It kind of makes you want to detach from your roots and maybe even question do I want to go back, do I want to remain there? You kind of lose the trust, and it makes you more aware of your surroundings.”
Diaz said that throughout the process he had plenty of support from the Pirates and his teammates, noting that several of the teammates from Venezuela like Francisco Cervelli and Jose Osuna kept in constant contact with him.
“It was a great honor and blessing to be able to feel the support from my teammates,” Diaz said. “Not just my teammates, but my coaches, the staff, and especially the front office. Everyone did so great in just making sure I was well, my family was well, and just checking up on me. I felt very special. I felt very well supported and very backed up. It was very special to know my team had my back and was there supporting me, especially my Venezuelan teammates like Cervelli and Osuna. They were there for me.”
Diaz will now go about things as normal in Spring Training, saying that he feels like a new person after this. He will be the backup catcher to Francisco Cervelli this year, and will be the starter if the injury-prone Cervelli goes down. Diaz trained hard during the offseason, so the slightly late start won’t impact him. He worked on his mental game, along with practicing the techniques that he picked up from his time in the majors last year. This will be his best shot at showing he can stick at the majors, and showing how good of an MLB catcher he can be.