Tabata addresses wife's charges
Bucs prospect believed 2-month-old girl was his daughter
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Under his own insistence, Pirates prospect Jose Tabata wrote and delivered a statement on Friday concerning the kidnapping charges his wife, Amalia Tabata Pereira, faces and the recent revelations that much of Tabata's relationship with her is now known to have been built on her calculated fabrications.
Pereira is accused of kidnapping a 2-month-old girl in Plant City, Fla., on Monday after posing as an immigration officer. An Amber Alert was issued for the missing infant, Sandra-Cruz Francisco, later that evening. An anonymous call to the Manatee County Sherriff's Office on Tuesday led police to a strip mall in Bradenton, Fla., the city where the Pirates hold Spring Training, where the baby was found and handed over to law enforcement unharmed.
Pereira, 43, was arrested and arraigned in court on Wednesday. She is being held on $750,000 bond. Tabata was questioned in the case, but immediately cleared of having any knowledge or involvement in the abduction.
Tabata, a native of Venezuela, read the statement on Friday in Spanish, before Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and Tabata's agent, Ulises Cabrera, took further questions concerning the matter. Because there is an ongoing investigation about the kidnapping, the 20-year-old prospect was advised not to take any further followup questions.
According to Cabrera, Tabata made the decision to speak to members of the media after being kept in relative seclusion at the Pirates' Minor League complex since Tuesday.
"I was completely surprised when I was told that my wife had been arrested this Tuesday, because she had never shown any malicious behavior," Tabata said in opening. "I had no idea what to think, because this news was one of the hardest blows I have had in my life, and I don't have many words that can effectively communicate all of my feelings at this time.
"What I do know is that I am a Pittsburgh Pirate, and my life-long idol is Roberto Clemente. And because of that, when presented with this difficult situation, I asked myself, 'What would Clemente do in this situation?' 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 had been told by his wife that the baby was his. According to Huntington, Tabata had expressed excitement and anticipation to some within the organization on Monday, the day of the abduction, about being able to see what he believed to be his daughter later that afternoon following his day at Minor League camp.
Tabata did see the infant at some point on Monday, not knowing at the time that she had been kidnapped from a family about an hour northeast of Bradenton.
In addition to the kidnapping charges against his wife, Tabata has also learned this week of other unknowns truths about her. Tabata did not have knowledge of his wife's conviction for fraud, arson and theft in 1999 and her subsequent 33 months in jail. He would have been 11 at the time of those crimes.
"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. But the worst lie was that she completely falsified her pregnancy and the eventual birth of a baby girl, which would have made me a father for the first time. Imagine how that made me feel.
"As you and Pirates fans get to know me, you'll understand that, when this is all over, I will never be able to forgive her for her cruel actions. 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 that I would never wish this situation on anybody, but I know that life has its good and its bad, and I know that the good times are not too far off in the future."
Since his wife's arrest on Tuesday, Tabata has been staying in the dorms of Pirate City, where he has gotten constant support from the members of the management and development staffs. The Pirates will continue to offer personal support to Tabata, as well as counseling when necessary.
"I can only imagine what a 20-year-old man from a different country is working through in his own mind as the person that he trusted and loved has betrayed him," Huntington said. "Jose appears to have one of those special traits that those great players have, and that's the ability to separate the professional from personal. The emotional scars are going to take a long time to heal for this young man, but he is ready to get back on the field. He is driven to achieve his goals as a professional. And we are here to do everything we possibly can to support him."
Tabata and his wife have spoken since her arrest, though the details of those conversations have not been released.
Huntington said that he had not met Tabata's wife, whose name was listed as Mayita in the team's media guide, and that the organization, too, had no indication of Pereira's past convictions and fabrications.
"There were some elements of their relationship that he was aware weren't completely accurate," Huntington said. "The majority of the issues and the most significant issues absolutely came to light when the police came."
Cabrera suggested that Tabata fell into a situation where he was taken advantage of by Pereira while a teenager adapting to life in a foreign country. Tabata was 18 when he met his then-41-year-old wife in Tampa, Fla., as a Yankees Minor Leaguer. The two married in January 2008.
"I think the Pirates' organization has stepped up, and they consider him a brother," Cabrera said. "The outreach from everyone in the organization has been really his strength in this process.
"Special people have to deal with special issues. Like he said, brighter days are definitely on the horizon. He's excited to get on the field. There is nothing he loves more than to be with his teammates to help win baseball games."
Tabata participated in Minor League workouts on Friday, and he was scheduled to play in either a simulated game or a Minor League game after addressing the media. He is scheduled to begin the season as the starting center fielder in Double-A Altoona.
"Finally, I am thankful for the strong support of my teammates, coaches and everyone within the Pirates' organization during this difficult time," Tabata said. "I appreciate everyone's concern for me, and I ask that you respect my privacy both now and in the future."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.