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Maripily and Roberto Alomar divorce has Puerto Rico riveted

TAMPA — He was a Gold Glove winner and 12-time All-Star. She was a model turned fashion entrepreneur.

They shared an Avila mansion, a new sportswear line and the amplified fame that follows the romance of a revered athlete and a sex symbol who has been called the Paris Hilton of Puerto Rico.

Retired second baseman Roberto Alomar's marriage to Maripily Rivera was big news in their native land last year. And now their split, just 14 months later?

Epic.

It doesn't hurt that the breakup plays like a telenovela, with allegations of hot heads, hot cars and hot bods in skimpy T-shirts swirling around the couple. He's keeping a low profile. She's giving interviews to Puerto Rico's top-rated TV show, hosted by a puppet.

Inside a Tampa courtroom, a judge acts as umpire for a union unraveled. Outside, Spanish-language media reporters chase, push, plead and cry to score the gossipy details their audiences crave.

"I've never seen anything quite like this," Maripily's lawyer said after cameras came within inches of his face.

• • •

Maripily, 33, fired the first salvo on Aug. 2, and her claims were nothing to laugh at.

In a petition for protection against domestic violence, she accused her husband of pushing her and threatening her with a knife. He warned he would kill her if she told anyone about his behavior and secrets, she said in court documents.

Alomar's agent dismissed the allegations as false and defamatory. But the 42-year-old retired ballplayer had to move out of his 18,000-square-foot home after a judge granted a temporary injunction.

Media organizations in Puerto Rico treated the story as breaking news, shattering the island's perception of the star-soaked couple.

"People really thought she'd redo her life with this marriage," said Frankie Jay, a Puerto Rican television reporter.

In court records she is Maria del Pilar Alomar, but everyone knows her by the nickname Maripily. A finalist in the 1999 Miss Puerto Rico Petite pageant, she gained notice and notoriety by posing in bikinis and seeming to thrive on tabloid attention. Hated and adored, she was a walking headline even before tying the knot with Alomar at a Pasco County clerk's office on June 1, 2009.

Alomar's own legend seemed to soften hers. He remained popular in Puerto Rico after ending his 17-year major-league career in 2005 during his first spring training with the then Devil Rays. Respected, too, for his two World Series titles with the Toronto Blue Jays, if not the incident in which he spit on an umpire in 1996.

Maripily's drama tapered after she moved to Florida to be with Alomar, but she didn't disappear from public view.

When Alomar's ex-girlfriend accused him in a $15 million lawsuit last year of making her have unprotected sex despite knowing he had HIV, it was Maripily who denounced the unsubstantiated allegations as "a vile lie." The girlfriend dropped the suit after an apparent settlement.

In January, Alomar fell eight votes short of induction into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. But Maripily was by his side in June when he entered the Canadian version of Cooperstown.

The couple looked happy at the ceremony. In a photo, both were smiling. Alomar's hand rested on his wife's knee, with her hand wrapped warmly around his.

• • •

Even Tiger and Elin Woods managed to get their divorce finalized at a Panhandle courthouse last month with nary a reporter lurking.

Not the Alomars.

TV reporter Jay and others have flown to Tampa three times in two months to cover the couple's court hearings. Jay works for Super Xclusivo, Puerto Rico's No. 1 show, which features a puppet named La Comay ("The Godmother" in its loose English translation) dishing gossip about public figures.

Feeling slighted by other media outlets' portrayal of her as a gold-digger instead of a victim, Maripily has given the show exclusive interviews. In August, Jay's one-hour special on the Alomar saga drew more viewers than any other show that month.

He had plenty of fodder.

Alomar filed for divorce Aug. 12. He wants the Avila house, which he said was put in both their names only recently after Maripily threatened divorce, and the Rolls Royce and Ferrari he says he bought before they married.

He asked a judge to forbid Maripily from "removing, using, dissipating, encumbering, disposing of, damaging or destroying" any of his personal property, jewelry or baseball memorabilia.

Next, he accused her of creating a "tasteless media circus" by giving an interview "clad only in a skimpy T-shirt and short shorts." He said she allowed TV journalists to ambush him when he went with a judge's permission to retrieve the luxury cars and some clothes from his two-story, wood-paneled closet.

Maripily's attorney tells a different story. After she got exclusive use of the couple's nine-bedroom, 11-bathroom home as part of the temporary injunction, Ricardo Calzada II said, strange things started happening.

The lights turned on and off at random. So did the TV and radio. The night before Alomar showed up, the power went out completely. Maripily suspected Alomar was to blame, given that he could control the home's electronics from afar on his iPhone.

She was nervous to be alone and asked the journalists interviewing her to spend the night, her attorney said.

"She's taking it as a clear signal from him, (to) get out," Calzada said.

Reached on his cell phone, Alomar said, "I can't talk about anything." In court, he denied the domestic violence allegations.

Last Thursday, the Alomars were scheduled to sort out at least part of the mess at a hearing about whether a permanent injunction was in order.

Roberto Alomar slipped into the courthouse early, undetected by cameras. All chest and cheek in her tight-fitting gray suit, Maripily drew a crowd until the last glimpse of her waist-length black hair faded into the security line.

With interpreters by their side, they each raised their hand in court and promised to tell Hills­borough Senior Judge Raul "Sonny" Palomino Jr. the truth.

Three dead roses sat in a vase on the judge's bench, his quiet nod to the movie The War of the Roses and the ugliness of breakups.

But on this day, cool heads prevailed. Attorneys said the couple would try to settle the injunction and divorce cases away from the media glare at a private mediation set for Thursday.

"The goal from the very beginning has been to separate them, let them live their lives and move on as cleanly and efficiently as possible," Calzada explained.

Alomar left the hearing without a glance in his wife's direction. Maripily followed in her Christian Louboutin stilettos, a gaggle of reporters close behind.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Maripily and Roberto Alomar divorce has Puerto Rico riveted 09/04/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 4, 2010 8:03pm]
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