SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Catcher Gerald Laird was led out of the Rangers clubhouse on Sunday in handcuffs, escorted by two Surprise police officers. "There's no way," Laird said with a dazed and stunned look on his face, a towel covering the handcuffs. Reporters chased after him, trying to find out why he was arrested.
"I have no idea," Laird said, before being put in the back seat of a patrol car. There was a rumor going around that he had been hit with a paternity suit and was being taken to police headquarters to give a DNA sample. But that didn't explain the handcuffs. "I'm not at liberty to say," one grim police officer said, ordering a camera crew to get away from the car. "Give him his space. This is not easy for him." Teammate Jerry Hairston ran out of the clubhouse and asked the officers if he could give Laird a message. They gave him permission and Hairston jumped in the back seat. It was then that Laird was told he was the victim of the best and most elaborate practical joke pulled by the Rangers this spring. A few of his teammates were the ones who had the police officers come into the clubhouse and tell him that a former high school classmate had filed a paternity suit. "Man, I thought I was getting a divorce," Laird said with a sheepish smile as he emerged from the squad car with many of his teammates standing outside the clubhouse laughing at him. "Hey, Gerald, did you call your attorney?" Michael Young asked him in the clubhouse. "Who do you think I was going to call, my wife?" shot back Laird, who married the former Kelly Leaton in the offseason and has a child, Berlin Elizabeth.
"Hey, Gerald, I'll call my attorney for you!" Sammy Sosa yelled from across the clubhouse. "You know I'd do that for you."It was the best practical joke around here since two years ago when a Surprise officer pulled over Hank Blalock in a 35-mph zone and told him he was clocked at 59. Blalock was also told he would go to jail if he didn't stop arguing. But he never got to experience the feel of handcuffs. "Not good," Laird said. "At first I thought it was a joke, but then they kept going and going on. It was funny at first, then I started to believe it. "I was like, look, you can't arrest somebody for a DNA test." Laird immediately launched his own criminal investigation into the perpetrators. Hairston is considered a leading suspect. "There will be payback," Laird said. "J-Hair, it's going to be a long year for him."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.