MANCHESTER, Mo. – The Cardinals Care Winter Warm-up is approaching this weekend and many of the autograph tickets are sold out.
As Redbird Nation gets hyped up to buy baseball cards, jerseys, and autographed balls, Manchester police are looking for victims who didn’t get the memorabilia they thought they were buying.
In a bizarre scam, Manchester police said a man was pretending to be a former Cardinals pitcher to make some fast cash.
“He identified himself as being former Cardinal pitcher Omar Olivares,” said Manchester Police Chief Scott Will.
Olivares pitched for the Cards from 1990 to 1994. His 12-year career ended with the Pittsburg Pirates. Right now, a man is in custody for pretending to be the pitcher.
“After arresting him, it became very clear that this family was not the only family victimized by this individual,” Will said. “We know for a fact he’s gone to pawn shops and sports memorabilia places to sell autographed baseballs.”
Manchester police have not released the suspect’s name. Charges are pending.
Police said he was autographing baseballs and selling them. He was also using Olivares’s identity to ask people for loans he never paid back.
“In this gentleman’s younger days, he very much looked like the picture, so I can see where people were kind of sucked in by this,” Will said.
Over at 1,000,000 Baseball Cards, owner Wally Militzer is all geared up for the upcoming season.
“A lot of major new product releases start a week in front of spring training,” Militzer said.
He’s been running the memorabilia packed place for 30 years. He has tips on how to avoid striking out with your purchases.
“You want to typically have faith in the people who you buy the autograph from,” Militzer said.
Militzer said the internet is the riskiest route to take.
Credible stores will ensure the merchandise passes the authentication process.
“In the St. Louis area, if you’re buying Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, it’s not quite as necessary because those autographs are easy to get locally and every card shop on a knows how to tell a good one from a bad one,” Militzer said.
He also suggests fans double-check merchandise from auctions.
“People feel that if they get the piece in a charity auction it’s a good authentic piece, but that’s not necessarily the case,” Militzer said.
Meanwhile, Manchester police said that suspect faces charges for identity theft, forgery, stealing by deceit.
“It’s best to be wary and be careful,” Militzer said.
The chief said he actually got in touch with the real Omar Olivares, who was very upset. He’s asking other victims to come forward as they investigate.
If you want to meet the real Cardinals, the warmup is happening this weekend, Saturday through Monday.