July 11, 2014 | 2:13 p.m.
By Jared Johnson, Sports Information Director
Jeff Nelson '87 has been an umpire in the Major League for 17 years.
Major League Baseball announced this week that Bethel University alum Jeff Nelson will be a member of the 85th MLB All-Star Game umpiring crew on Tuesday at Target Field. The Midsummer Classic on July 15 will be the second of Nelson's career, as he made his All-Star Game debut in 2006 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.
Nelson, who is in his 17th year as an umpire at the Major League level, says he informed his boss, Joe Torre, that if the All-Star Game was ever held at Target Field, it would be very special for him to umpire the game. "Joe did call me later and asked me to umpire the game," says Nelson. "I was excited because it is one of those events that everyone can say they look forward to in their umpiring career. Being in Minneapolis makes it that much more special."
Nelson graduated from Bethel in 1987 with a degree in history. "Being a student at Bethel was the first time I had to leave home and live on my own," says Nelson. "The school helped me identify who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live outside the comfort of home. Now that I travel all of the time, I see how much Bethel shaped me to be a man of integrity, especially while being on the road."
Prior to his 17 years as an umpire in the Major League system, Nelson spent 10 years on crews throughout the Minor Leagues and began his professional umpire career in the Pioneer League (Rookie Level) in Utah. "Earning my degree from Bethel gave me peace of mind in the process of reaching the pinnacle in umpiring, as I knew I had something to fall back on if I was unable to make it to the Major Leagues," adds Nelson. "I still remember, too, that my first big league game was in Los Angeles and because of the national alumni base Bethel has, it just so happened that my roommate and his wife came to that game to support me."
Nelson's return to the Twin Cities for the All-Star Game is one of many highlights he has enjoyed throughout his career. The St. Paul, Minnesota,-native was assigned to the 2005 and 2009 MLB World Series, the 2002, 2004, 2010, 2011, and 2012 League Championship Series, and the 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008, and 2009 Division Series.
Nelson notes that the last time Minneapolis held an All-Star Game, he was umpiring high school games just to help pay for tuition at Bethel. Thirty years later, Minnesota's own is umpiring at the highest level as a way of life.