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"Oh, God. It's a baby'

Minerva Martinez was babysitting and watching soap operas Friday afternoon when she heard the bleating cry of a newborn child.

The cries were too young to be coming from the infant Martinez was watching, so she cautiously opened the front door of her sister-in-law's home and looked across the front yard.

About 20 feet away, in a grassy area slightly shaded by an old oak tree, a newborn baby wailed. For a few moments, a stunned Martinez could do nothing but stare.

"I said, "Oh, God. It's a baby,'

" she said Friday. "I didn't want to pick it up. I was afraid."

The boy's umbilical cord was still bloody, and he was dressed in nothing but a soggy diaper. Martinez took him into the house, changed him and waited. When her sister-in-law, Diana Martinez, called a few minutes later, she couldn't believe what her babysitter had to say.

"She said, "You won't believe what I found _ a baby,' " Diana Martinez said.

"I told her, "Hold on to it. I'll be home right now.' "

When she arrived, the two women cleaned up the baby and called 911.

"The poor thing, its hands were still purple," Diana Martinez said. "I'm glad they didn't drop him where the ants are."

The baby was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where emergency room nurse Claudia Daniel said he was "doing just fine."

Authorities were still looking for the infant's mother late Friday. They said the 7-pound, 4-ounce boy, nicknamed "Baby Friday" by sheriff's deputies, was no more than a few days old and may have been born in the previous 24 hours.

He was found outside Martinez's home at 502 Sixth Avenue SE, Hillsborough sheriff's Sgt. N. Zalva said. Police have few leads about who the child is or why he was left there.

"We're checking with local hospitals, checking with local health clinics," Zalva said "Our biggest concern is to see if any neighbors saw anything.

"Whoever the mother is, we're hoping she comes forward."

If she is found, the mother could face charges in the abandonment, state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services spokesman Tom Jones said. If she wants the child back, the courts would have to determine if she is capable of caring for the boy.

"That's not normally what happens," Jones said. "Normally, it is placed with a relative or placed into adoption."

Jones said the baby is now in state custody. If the mother is never found, the baby will remain in HRS care until it can be placed with an adoptive family.

The baby had no shortage of people wanting him Friday.

Diana Martinez joked that she was "taking bids" and said that her 8-year-old son asked if the family could get the baby back if it wasn't claimed within 30 days.

"My 8-year old was like, "Can we name him?,' " she said. "It was dropped off at my house. Maybe someone's telling me something."

Zalva said deputies also got attached to the boy.

"We all got attached to the baby at the Sheriff's Office," he said. "He's a cute baby."

Authorities are asking for help in finding the child's mother. Anyone with information was asked to call 247-8201.