For Mayfield’s Tripp Gibson, baseball has always played an important part in his life. As a child, Gibson dreamed of crossing the chalk-marked white lines and playing pro baseball at the highest level under the lights and cheering fans.
Though he decided to stop playing the game he loved, life’s journey led him down a path that would allow him to serve as a Major League Baseball umpire under the lights and cheering fans over the chalk-scarred whites to walk lines. Gibson’s path led him straight into MLB history during the 2022 World Series, when the Houston Astros had only the second no-hitter in World Series history, dating back to 1903.
“It was amazing. You couldn’t have written that,” Gibson said. “It wasn’t until the seventh inning that I thought about it. I knew there were no hits in the third, but I also knew Bryce Harper was gone in the first, so the perfect match was gone so in my mind I ignored it for a while and didn’t forget it, I just pushed it aside because I had more things to focus on because with the no-hitter I had zero control as long as I mine job.”
Gibson admitted that he remembered seeing no-hitters disappear in late innings before. He was behind home plate for Sean Manaea’s no-hitter for the Oakland Athletics but never dreamed of experiencing a World Series-level no-hitter.
“In the seventh inning and the ninth, I doubled my focus to go, alright, Tripp, don’t screw this up. When the finale happened, it was like, what just happened? I just worked the plate in the World Series, and it wasn’t a close ball game,” he said. “I went into the dressing room and the boys said are you kidding me? Because it’s a great honor for a referee to be part of a no-hitter. I’ve said that a few times but I didn’t throw it, I didn’t hit it, neither did the Phillies, but I didn’t do any of that stuff. I was just part of the story and I was fortunate and blessed to be a part of it on the pitch.”
Gibson’s humble beginnings began with his father, Sonny, on the diamond. Like many young men in the area, he played for the Paducah Storm and eventually began playing for the Graves County Eagles and American Legion in Mayfield. Though he received a few small offers from JUCO and NAIA college baseball programs, his baseball career took a turn when he began his journey to umpiring.
“I went to the Mayfield Graves County parks and recreation parks, and a guy named Pat Powers ran baseball, and I started umpiring there,” Gibson said. “It was one of those things when I got out there and I loved it straight away. I did. I quickly learned that I love refereeing more than I’ve ever played.”
His love and passion for umpiring continued to grow as he worked his way through the ranks beginning refereeing high school baseball. Eventually he made it into college baseball as an official, and through a fraternity brother Gibson contacted Owensboro’s Larry Vanover, an MLB umpire. It was Vanover who told Gibson about the Major League Umpire School.
“When I graduated college in the fall of 2005, I went to refereeing school at the Harry Wendelstedt Refereeing School in Daytona Beach in January 2006,” he said. “That’s how my journey began. And all that led to it, I didn’t know I wanted to be a major league umpire until my college sophomore and junior years. I majored in art and education and wanted to be a high school teacher and baseball coach. Of course I wanted to do that, but I quickly realized and learned that refereeing is a lot more fun than any other job.”
He made his major league refereeing debut on July 8, 2013 at Chase Field in Phoenix in a matchup between the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although this was his debut, the moment he felt like he could do the job came during his third game behind home plate in a 14-inning marathon between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
“In my third game, I worked behind the plate. Again, it was the Dodgers who visited the Diamondbacks, but it lasted over five hours and 14 innings,” Gibson said. “It was my first game behind the plate in the major leagues, and it’s the longest. To this day, I think it’s still the longest home plate debut in Major League Baseball. I was like, you know what, 14 innings, I can do this. I wasn’t hired full-time until 2015 before the season, but that’s when I realized I think I’ve made it.”
Gibson has served as a major league umpire in three wild card series, three division series, and a league championship series that took place between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves in 2021 and was part of the 2017 World Series replay that he was part of the crew that worked in the National League Division Series between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. After the NLDS, Gibson returned home with little idea of the journey his career would take him in October.
After returning home from the NLDS, Gibson was leaving for a hunting trip in Idaho when the calls for the World Series were taking place. Unfortunately, he lost service during his drive to Idaho, but when he returned, a voicemail from his boss was waiting for him. Gibson admitted he was nervous about returning the call.
“I decided to stop and call my wife and tell her, and when I told her I tried to hold back the emotion because I wanted to talk to her for a second,” he said. “After talking to her a bit, I asked her if she would like to go to the World Series with me and she froze for a second and then started yelling. She broke down because she’s been part of this journey since Double-A, and she’s holding the fort when I’m gone. She’s the one that keeps the kids going, takes care of baseball for the kids, the dog and all the other pets and life.”
Gibson credited his wife, Danna, with holding it all together while he was away working as a major league umpire.
As an overall experience, Gibson said it was a great experience to be part of the World Series judges’ crew. From his dad in the stands to an appearance in the Steal a Base, Steal a Taco commercial when Kyle Schwarber stole second base, Gibson is still blown away that he had the opportunity to be a part of it all.
“It was incredible,” he said. “I’m still blown away and still blown away that they even called me to do it.”