Mexican baseball manager Paquin Estrada found; extortion cited
MEXICO CITY (AP) Francisco "Paquin" Estrada, the manager of Mexican League baseball team Bravos de Leon, was found Thursday hours after his club and league officials reported him missing.
Authorities, the team and Estrada gave little explanation of what had happened, except to say he was the victim of an extortion attempt.
At a news conference, team officials tried to steer questions away from what had occurred. But pressed by reporters, club President Mauricio Martinez said Estrada had not been kidnapped, characterizing the event as "extortion" without giving any specific information.
Estrada then gave a sketchy description of events. The manager said he was coerced into staying in a hotel room for three nights. He said he was not kept there by armed abductors, but rather by an unknown person on the other end of the telephone who would not allow him to sleep and constantly quizzed him about what was on television to make sure he was still there.
Estrada gave no other details. But his description raised the question of whether he could have been the victim of what Mexicans call "virtual kidnapping," in which criminals threaten to harm a relative or pretend to have abducted a family member while demanding cash.
Neither the manager nor the team used those terms or described any threats made by the caller.
Earlier Thursday, a few hours after Estrada was reported missing, Guanajuato state chief prosecutor Carlos Zamarripa announced via Twitter that the manager had been located by state authorities and was "unharmed." He gave no details.
Estrada is a former star catcher in Mexican baseball who is in his first year as manager of Bravos de Leon.
Earlier in the day, Mexican League spokesman Gabriel Medina said the last known contact with Estrada had been Tuesday night. He said the manager missed a scheduled news conference the following morning.
Bravos de Leon had issued a statement saying it did not know whether Estrada might have suffered a medical emergency or been "the victim of some crime situation." The 69-year-old coach recently underwent heart surgery.
Estrada appeared in a single major league game for the New York Mets in 1971, collecting one hit in two at-bats, according to MLB.com. He had a three-decade career in the minors and in Mexico, where he was part of 10 championship teams.
As a manager, he led the Mexican team Tomateros de Culiacan to Caribbean Series titles in 1996 and 2002 and also coached the country's national team at the first World Baseball Classic in 2006.