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Minnesotans making the calls
Some of the best
umpires in Major League Baseball have been Minnesota natives. Two of them are Tim Tschida,
who grew up in the Highland
neighborhood of St.
Paul, and Jeff
Nelson of Cottage
Grove. They have
both worked many playoff games, All-Star games and even the World Series. They
are also on the same crew —a four-man crew that travels to 30 cities each
season — and were recently at the Metrodome.
Tschida, who now lives near Turtle Lake,
Wis., is a 21-year veteran. Last year he was promoted to crew
chief. Tschida was actually one of Nelson’s
instructors at umpiring school. What’s it like having a fellow Minnesotan on
“It’s pretty neat,” Tschida said. “Back in my younger days it was pretty fun
for me to work with Joe Brinkman who’s from Little Falls. And I was with (MLB
umpire) Mark Wagner a few years ago. He is not only from St. Paul, but went to Cretin, where I went to high school.”
Tschida and Nelson talk fondly about their Minnesota friends and memories. They also talk fondly about their
travels. They have fun relating each city to its food and restaurants. They
agree that Chicago is one of their favorite cities to visit.
steak!” Nelson said with a smile as he talked about some great Chicago steak houses.
I asked Nelson when
he became interested in officiating. “I played a lot of baseball as a kid. We
played in the neighborhood, and played in high school [Park
of Cottage Grove]. I started getting interested in officiating while in high
school, but never dreamed it’d be my career.”
Last season while in
Cleveland, the 11-year veteran found out that he had testicular
Nelson said, “I had good doctors and a lot of people praying for me and
Jeff missed half of
the 2007 season but is now back, happy and cancer-free.
Marty Springstead, a former umpire from the Bronx,
who officiated in the majors from 1961 into the 1980s, is their supervisor.
During a recent phone conversation, Marty said, “Jeff and Tim are not only
outstanding umpires, but they are outstanding people.”
By the way, Marty
has been to every state, and to towns you’ve never even heard of. His favorite
place to visit: “Minnesota! And the Twins have one of the best run clubs in baseball.”
Marty has also known
some of the greatest players of the game, from Mantle to DiMaggio. When I asked
him who was the greatest of them all, he did not hesitate: “Harmon Killebrew, both on the field and off!”