Leav­ing on top of his game

Jeff Ellsworth leav­ing in­ter­na­tional soft­ball as a world-class tal­ent

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Jeff Ellsworth has had a re­mark­able soft­ball ca­reer.

At 37 years old, the St. Lawrence na­tive wasn't just fill­ing a ros­ter spot on Team Canada this sum­mer. At the end of his in­ter­na­tional play­ing ca­reer, Ellsworth played a prom­i­nent role. He hit in the mid­dle of the or­der and played right field.

He came up with big home runs, smashed line drives for ex­tra-base hits and dropped down bunts to pres­sure the de­fence.

He crashed into fences and made mul­ti­ple key plays in the out­field.

Dur­ing a two-week stretch this month, Ellsworth helped Canada win gold medals at the In­ter­na­tional Soft­ball Fed­er­a­tion world cham­pi­onship in Saska­toon and the Pan Amer­i­can Games in Ajax, Ont.

He has won na­tional ti­tles in Canada and the United States and the In­ter­na­tional Soft­ball Congress cham­pi­onship, com­plet­ing the set of five gold medals. It didn't hap­pen overnight. Ellsworth started play­ing soft­ball when he was five years old. Some of his first coaches in­cluded his par­ents, Melvin and Sheila.

As he got older, Ellsworth didn't al­ways make teams he tried out for. When he didn't, it helped fuel his de­sire to im­prove.

‘It's not a mis­take the things he's done,’ Char­lot­te­town Fawcetts first base­man Mark Arse­nault said. ‘ He busted his butt. . . He was a pro ath­lete play­ing an am­a­teur sport.’

Ellsworth re­ceived good ad­vice dur­ing his first na­tional team try­out.

Be­fore he left the Is­land his fa­ther told him just to be him­self. If it was good enough, great, if not, at least he had his shot.

Once in Waterloo, Ont., with 19 of the best play­ers in the coun­try, Ellsworth was ner­vous.

He struck out on three pitches in his first at­bat.

‘One of the vet­er­ans pulled me aside and said, 'Look, just breathe.' That's all (Ryan Wolfe) said and then walked away and ev­ery­thing calmed down from there,’ Ellsworth re­cently re­called.

Ellsworth is a vo­cal guy, who leads by ex­am­ple. He gives team­mates con­fi­dence be­cause they know how good the guy sit­ting on their bench is.

It's not luck when he turns on a pitch and drives it more than 300 feet.

He's got great hand-eye co-or­di­na­tion, bat speed and is a stu­dent of the game. He stud­ies pitch­ers' and catch­ers' ten­den­cies and looks for the slight­est ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties that might help tip what a par­tic­u­lar pitch will be.

Ellsworth is one of the best play­ers in the world and his ser­vices are in high de­mand.

He has played in­ter­na­tional club ball and of­ten was called to play for some of the best teams at the Cana­dian cham­pi­onships. His first choice was al­ways to play for an Is­land team, but when there was a chance a lo­cal team might not at­tend, Ellsworth was quickly snapped up.

Ellsworth brings ex­pe­ri­ence and lead­er­ship to teams. They are hard qual­i­ties to quan­tify, but any suc­cess­ful squad has them.

‘He's the ab­so­lute clutch hitter,’ said coach John Hill.

While some play­ers don't like pres­sure sit­u­a­tions, Ellsworth seemed to thrive on them.

Ellsworth has com­mit­ments with a club team this sum­mer and to another love – coach­ing.

He is the head coach with the Sco­tia­bank Reds un­der-18 girls team and the Is­land's 2017 Canada Games squad.

The Reds were at the air­port Sun­day to welcome Ellsworth home from On­tario.

It was ev­i­dent the re­spect and care they have for Ellsworth, for what he has taught them and the time he has com­mit­ted to mak­ing them bet­ter play­ers.

There are two soft­ball play­ers in the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame and Mu­seum. They are Hu­bert (Sock) Mac­Don­ald and Ce­cil MacPhail. We ex­pect the list will grow in a few years' time when Ellsworth's re­quired five-year wait time ex­pires.

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