Bethel History Alum Named Best Umpire in Major League Baseball

Jeff in 2011
Jeff Nelson (’87) umpiring an August 2011 game in Baltimore – Creative Commons (Keith Allison)

Bethel History alumnus Jeff Nelson (’87) has been a full-time umpire in Major League Baseball since 1999 (here’s his MLB profile), umpiring in two World Series (2005 and 2009), nine other playoff series, and the 2006 All-Star Game. To that list on honors, he can now add this: he topped former manager and new ESPN.com commentator Manny Acta’s ranking of the ten best umpires in the game: (the full article requires an ESPN Insider subscription)

1. Jeff Nelson: He averages 0.00 smiles per game, but no one cares more and works harder than this guy. Solid all around and very consistent.

Among other publications, Jeff was featured in Bethel Focus a few years back. As he reflected on the value of his Bethel education, he cited some of the same skills that we tend to feature as important benefits of a liberal arts education in general and a History degree in particular: critical thinking and communication.

His Christian higher education, he said, also helped him endure lonely times “between Idaho and Alberta, wondering if there’s any future.” And finally, he says, Bethel gave him an education that was “every bit what it was advertised to be.” He credits skills in public speaking and critical thinking honed at Bethel for helping him conduct negotiations on behalf of the World Umpires Association union.

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