Spring training's Grapefruit League got its timbers shivered yesterday when the much-older wife of one of the Pirates' top minor league prospects was arrested in a bizarre baby-snatching case.
Police say Amalia Tabata Pereira, 43, who lives with outfielder husband Jose Tabata in Bradenton where the Pirates play spring ball, traveled to a Plant City medical clinic where she found Rosa Sirilo-Francisco with her two-month old baby Sandra. Sirilo-Francisco told police Pereira identified herself as an immigrations official then claimed that Sirilo-Francisco and the baby's father were in danger of being deported to Mexico -- but could receive assistance if they handed over the baby. Under the impression Sandra would be returned later, Sirilo-Francisco handed the child over. But after telling the story to an alarmed relative, she was informed that the process was not governmental policy and called police.
Baby Sandra was found with Pereira on Tuesday in downtown Bradenton after a call which may have been placed by Pereira was made to police. She was reunited with her parents, but questions abound as Periera sits in a Hillsborough County jail charged with false imprisonment, interference with child custody, and impersonating a social service worker.
Tabata, who at 20 years old is closer to the baby in age than his wife, was confirmed by police to be in no way involved in Pereira's kidnapping adventures. He released a statement through the Pirates stating that he is "shocked... hurt, frustrated, and confused by her actions" and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials in any way possible. In the meantime, the Pirates are publicly and privately supporting him (and no doubt hoping to cash in on the promise he displayed when he led the entire Yankees farm system batting .314 as a 17-year-old).
There is no evidence to suggest that the baby-faced Tabata was himself snatched away by his wife, but we're guessing he's about to be reunited with his parents, too.
Janie Campbell loves sports, not other people's babies. (Just for the record.) Her work has appeared in irreverent sports sites around the internet.