With the heat index near triple digits over the weekend, Steve Simonsen smiled as he walked through the infield in between innings.
The longtime baseball umpire could have been working any number of district legion games. Instead, he worked more than a dozen peewee and pony games — for less money.
“His dedication is incredible,” said Diann Arehart, Quad County Tournament director. “People don’t realize that Steve’s giving up games to stay here and help us ump this tournament.”
Simonsen, who has been a certified umpire for years, spends nearly every evening spring through summer umpiring baseball games. Of course, that’s after officiating baseball in the winter and football in the summer.
“I have other opportunities, but I want to help out the town and the community,” Simonsen said. “Neligh has this tournament in town, and I know how hard it is to get umpires.”
Simonsen, who owns Antelope County Chiropractic & Wellness in Neligh, told Arehart to “put me where you need me” during the week-long youth tournament. Some spent three straight games on the peewee field before taking a game off and then finishing the night on the pony field for more games.
Arehart said having someone with his experience willing to work as many games as needed is unheard of, especially as umpires are at a premium.
“It’s priceless,” Arehart said. “He knows the rules, he knows the kids, he is very calm, he’s consistent. I get few to zero complaints about Steve Simonsen.”
Arehart also said the tournament is key to the local program being able to keep fields up-to-date. Every year, the ball board makes improvements that wouldn’t be possible with the Quad County Tournament, which featured 11 pony and 14 peewee teams this year.
“This tournament means a ton to this community,” she said. “This tournament helps the ball board update the fields. The City does help with the agri-lime, but the ball board did all of the fencing on the fields. That was $13,000, and that’s what this Quad County Tournament means to us.”
Simonsen also is active on the Neligh Chamber of Commerce and with the Neligh Park Board, volunteering to help the community wherever needed. That’s, of course, in between rescue calls as a member of Neligh Rescue, as well.
Being a business owner, Simonsen said he sees the importance of keeping a quality tournament in Neligh and wants to do his part to support the effort.
“This is good for Neligh. It gets a lot of people to town, and they really put on a good tournament,” Simonsen said. “I’ve been to other towns where things aren’t as organized, but being organized does wonders. This is a good tournament.”