Tabata: Wife claimed baby was his own

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Jose Tabata said Friday his much-older wife lied to him about being pregnant with his child before she was accused of abducting a 2-month-old baby girl, who has since been returned to her parents.

Tabata, speaking publicly for the first time since his wife's arrest earlier this week, also said 43-year-old Amalia Tabata Pereira never told him she was incarcerated for more than two years in an arson case years before they met.

According to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, Tabata's wife showed off pictures of an infant and told the player that the baby was his, only to have Tabata learn hours after seeing the baby that the girl had been taken from her parents in Plant City, about 60 miles from Bradenton, where the Pirates train.

Pereira, arrested after the baby was handed over to authorities in a Bradenton shopping center parking lot on Tuesday, was taken Wednesday to the Hillsborough County Jail and is lodged on $750,000 bond on an abduction charge.

The 20-year-old Tabata, an outfielder and one of the Pirates' top prospects, said he has since learned his wife told him "many lies" -- the worst of which the baby was his own.

"She completely falsified her pregnancy and the eventual birth of a baby girl, which would have made me a father for the first time," said Tabata, who read a prepared statement in Spanish but did not answer questions from the media before an afternoon workout. "Imagine how that made me feel."

The infant, Sandra Cruz-Francisco, was taken from her parents -- Rosa Sirilo-Francisco and Andres Cruz -- on Monday after a women who identified herself as "Janet" said she was an immigration official and demanded the baby be turned over by the mother, or the parents would face deportation.

After giving Janet her baby, the mother called police later that night to report the infant had been taken. Less than 24 hours later, an anonymous caller told Manatee County officials the baby could be picked up at the shopping center.

"The truth is that my wife told me many lies that, until this whole situation began, I did not know," Tabata said. "One that hurt me a lot was her history as a criminal -- that she had spent years in prison, that she had robbed and committed fraud."

Tabata said he cannot forgive his wife for what happened.

"When this is all over, I will never be able to forgive her for her cruel actions," Tabata said in a statement he directed toward Pirates fans. "You will also understand that I will do everything possible, with the support of God and my family here with the Pirates, to overcome this craziness. The truth is I would never wish this situation on anybody, but I know that life has its good and its bad, and I know that good times are not too far off in the future."

Tabata and Huntington said that, because the case remains under investigation, neither the club nor Tabata can address specifics about the case.

"I, like you, have questions that remain unanswered," Tabata said. "However, the sheriff's deputies have told me not to speak about the details of her criminal case, including the details of our history together, and the lies that she led me to believe about her. Therefore, I will not be able to comment further or answer any of your questions until the investigation is complete. I do give thanks to God that no harm was made to the baby girl and that she is in his safe hands with her parents. My thoughts will always be with them."

Tabata, who grew up in Venezuela, said he has long idolized the late Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and he hopes he will respond to this situation the way Clemente would.

"I asked myself, 'What would Clemente do in this situation?" Tabata said. "I know Clemente was a man known for his decency, responsibility, doing what he says, and always doing the correct thing. And I believe the only correct thing in this moment is to tell the truth."

Tabata and his wife met when he played for the Yankees' Class A Tampa farm club and were married in January 2008. Tabata was traded seven months later to the Pirates in a deal that sent outfielder Xavier Nady and left-hander Damaso Marte to the Yankees.