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Ump gets first chance to work in hometown

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Steve Rippley made it to the very first Devil Rays game at Tropicana Field, sitting high in the upper deck during the 1998 inaugural performance of his hometown team.

He'll have a little better view of the action this weekend.

Rippley, a 17-year veteran National League umpire, will be working at the Trop for the first time. And the 46-year-old St. Petersburg native is kind of excited about the opportunity.

"It will be interesting to see how many people there I know," Rippley said.

Rippley was born and raised in St. Petersburg, going to 54th Street Elementary and Meadowlawn Middle School, then playing on the same Northeast High team (class of '72) with Tom Hume, who went on to pitch in the majors.

Rippley maintained a Pinellas County residence until recently moving to the Fort Lauderdale area. His daughter, Tiffany Marie, just graduated from Largo High.

With all that Rippley has done, it wasn't until Major League Baseball officials decided to merge the league umpiring staffs this season that he had the chance to work a game in front of his old friends.

"There's a lot of people I grew up with who are sports fanatics," Rippley said. "I just got off the phone with a couple of them."

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