PITTSBURGH — Pirates outfielder Xavier Paul has become caught in the middle of an identity hoax that had officials with the Australian Baseball League expecting Paul’s arrival at the start of their season, which began earlier this month.
Problem was, Paul had never actually agreed to go.
Multiple sources have confirmed that Paul’s participation was promised by another player, determined to be Minor League outfielder Breland Brown, who most recently played in the D-backs’ farm system. According to one source, who described the scheme as so intricate that it was “like a movie,” Brown created fake IDs and misrepresented himself to the ABL and Major League Baseball.
“It was all a hoax by this player trying to get over to the ABL,” said the source.
Posing as an agent, Brown offered the ABL a deal in which Paul would agree to play in Australia this offseason if Brown was also invited. The ABL accepted the agreement. Brown was assigned to play with the Sydney Blue Sox, while Paul was put on the Brisbane Bandits roster.
Last week, Paul was tipped off that his identity was being misused when he was alerted to Internet articles that mentioned he would be participating in the ABL. Around that time, Brisbane reached out to Paul to ask him why he had not yet arrived in Australia.
That set off an investigation by the ABL, which quickly discovered the hoax. Brown, who had not yet joined the Sydney team, was immediately taken off the Blue Sox roster. Paul has since been removed from the Brisbane roster as well.
“[We] are pleased to say that despite the initial misinformation, the fraudulent activity was identified in the regular course of events,” said Ben Foster, general manager of the ABL. “We are currently awaiting the outcome of the internal MLB investigation and have contacted all relevant parties to alert them of the situation.”
The matter has been turned over to Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations, which, according to MLB spokesman Michael Teevan, is actively looking into the situation.
“While I cannot go into detail, the Department of Investigations has been communicating with the appropriate people,” Teevan said. “We are aware of the circumstances and the chain of events involved in this matter.”
The ABL maintains that it followed all its regular protocol with regards to international player recruitment this summer. That included contacting the Pirates to get permission for Paul to play after the ABL was led to believe that Paul’s interest was legitimate.
The Pirates confirmed that they did grant that permission, unaware that Paul wasn’t really intending to play. They, too, are looking into the situation.
“We are in the process of gathering information and having the necessary conversations, but are not in a position to comment on the series of events at the present time,” said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.
“I am not sure about legal action as of yet, but we certainly will consider all of Xavier’s rights and remedies and also will consider enforcing those rights vigorously once we have all the facts,” said Joe Longo, president of Paragon Sports International, which represents Paul. “Xavier never spoke to the ABL or ever considered playing down there this winter.”
Brown, 26, played in the Independent League in 2009 before signing a Minor League deal with the Yankees in October 2010. Brown never played in the Yankees’ farm system. His only Minor League stint came with the D-backs’ rookie-level team in Missoula, Mont., last season.
After signing a Minor League contract with Arizona in July, Brown appeared in 11 games with Missoula. He was released in August.
Brown was born in Marrero, La., which is less than an hour away from Paul’s hometown of Slidell, La. It’s unknown whether the two, who were born less than three months apart, know each other. Paul was drafted out of high school, while Brown attended Northeast Mississippi Community College.
Did Brown really think he could get away with this? And couldn’t an MLB Minor Leaguer, even a former rookie-level Minor Leaguer, have been able to play somewhere this winter – without tricking anybody? I’m sure Xavier Paul wasn’t thrilled to be used in Brown’s scheme, but the whole thing is pretty funny. I didn’t even know there was an Australian Baseball League.
P.S. Congrats to Verlander on the Cy Young Award. He did deserve it. (Sorry, CC.)