Hong Kong quits baseball event after Caracas shooting

By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS (Reuters) - Hong Kong pulled out of the Women's Baseball World Cup in Venezuela on Saturday after one of its players was shot in the leg during a game in Caracas.

The player, identified as Cheuk Woon Yee Sinny, was hit in the lower left calf as she took the field to play third base during a game against the Netherlands on Friday in a stadium at a military base in Caracas.

Venezuelan officials said the player was not seriously hurt and was released on Saturday after spending the night at the base hospital.

Vice President Elias Jaua said she had been struck by "an object similar to a stray bullet" during the game on the second day of the tournament.

"The delegation from Hong Kong, for the peace of mind of its team, has asked to return to their country. The rest of the countries will continue with the championship," Sports Minister Hector Rodriguez told reporters.

Games were suspended after the incident, and officials in the South American country issued a revised schedule for the Cup on Saturday involving the 10 remaining teams.

"We deeply regret the exit of Hong Kong and the decision they have taken to withdraw, but we respect it ... and we hope that they can take part in forthcoming events," Rodriguez said.

Venezuela has one of the continent's highest crime rates, and many residents carry firearms. Rodriguez said additional security measures were being put in place for the tournament.

"However, it is important to note that what happened yesterday was absolutely ... an isolated incident. Sufficient security is in place at every one of the stadiums," he added.

The Sports Ministry said the player was clutching a bouquet of white roses and walking with crutches when she was met at her hotel by cheering members of the six teams playing their games in the capital.

"What a pleasure to see them again ... I'm pretty well," the ministry's statement quoted the infielder as saying.

The tournament, sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation, features teams from Australia, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, Venezuela, Cuba, Japan, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United States.

The Australian Baseball Federation said in a statement its team had been at the stadium at the time of the incident because it was due to play in the next game.

"Needless to say, the game was abandoned and all teams were ushered immediately back to their hotels under tight security," the federation said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)