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Association suspends umpire

Dennis Ribaya, a veteran umpire in the West Coast Umpire Association, has been indefinitely suspended following allegations he forcefully put his hands on a Robinson player during a game against Blake on Tuesday.

The ruling, recommended by the Hillsborough County Athletic Department and enforced by the West Coast Association board, came one day after parents and Robinson officials filed a complaint with the county and the Florida High School Activities Association.

The incident in question, according to a letter written by Gary Ippolito to the FHSAA, occurred in the fifth inning when Ribaya walked onto the field to retrieve a ball from Ippolito's son, pitcher Clint Ippolito.

Clint Ippolito was forced to leave the game, Gary Ippolito wrote, because Ribaya had inappropriately charged Robinson coach Greg Suazo with too many pitcher conferences.

When Ribaya reached Clint Ippolito, the letter said he placed a hand on Clint's "shoulder area" and another "on Clint's wrist."

When Clint Ippolito backed away startled, the letter said Ribaya followed the pitcher and grabbed "his glove arm with one hand and violently shakes his arm trying to remove the ball from his glove."

Ribaya could not be reached for comment.

FHSAA deputy commissioner Ron Allen said, "We don't have a written policy on umpires touching players, but we certainly discourage it." He added that the incident would be thoroughly investigated.

Allen confirmed that the FHSAA had also received eyewitness reports of the incident from other Robinson parents, the school's resource officer, principal Kevin McCarthy and assistant principal Roy Smay.

After reviewing the same material, the Hillsborough County Athletic Department decided to take more immediate action.

"Based on all the information that we reviewed, we decided, in consultation with school board attorneys, to make a recommendation to the (West Coast Umpires Association) that Ribaya be suspended," Hillsborough County athletic director Vernon Korhn said. "It's an unfortunate situation, but that's what we felt was the best thing to do."

Then the West Coast Umpires Association, which oversees almost all Hillsborough County high school games, upheld the recommendation.

"We also reviewed everything, and yes, our board ruled that (Ribaya) has been indefinitely suspended pending further investigation," West Coast booking official Joe DiGaetano said.

Gary Ippolito said the ruling culminated a strange day.

"The phone was ringing at our house before I picked up my paper this morning, and it hasn't stopped," he said. "All I want to say after that is that I agree with the action taken by the West Coast officials and Hillsborough County Athletic Department."