NEW YORK — Major League Baseball announced that Bethel alum Jeff Nelson will be a member of the 85th MLB All-Star Game umpiring crew on Tuesday at Target Field. The Midsummer Classic 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 big league level, said 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,” Nelson said. “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 is a 1987 graduate of what was then known as Bethel College, where he received a degree in history. Nelson noted how much of what he learned at Bethel still applies to how he approaches his job still today.
“Being a student at Bethel was the first time I had to leave home and live on my own,” he said. “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 leagues, Nelson spent 10 years on crews throughout the minor leagues and began his professional umpire career in the Pioneer League 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,” Nelson said. “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. A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Nelson was assigned to the 2005 and 2009 World Series, the 2002, 2004, 2010, 2011, and 2012 League Championship Series, and the 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008, and 2009 Division Series.
Nelson noted 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 can now say he’s umpiring at the highest level as a way of life.