O’LEARY — Canadian senior men’s softball team captain Jeff Ellsworth is excited to host his national teammates for an exhibition game here tonight.
The Summerside Chrysler Dodge-sponsored Eagles from O’Leary had a strong showing recently at the North American Fastball Association’s World Series of Softball championship in Quad Cities, Iowa, and followed that up this week by claiming their second consecutive Softball P.E.I. provincial senior men’s championship.
But now they are getting set for an even bigger game — a chance to play members of the national senior men’s team on the Eagles’ Ellis Field.
Three Team Canada members will be drafted to join Ellsworth and Team Canada pitching prospect Mitch Hardy on the Eagles’ roster for the milestone game.
The game is possible because many Team Canada players are heading to P.E.I. anyway to compete in the Canadian senior men’s fastpitch championship, which gets underway in Charlottetown on Tuesday.
Looking forward to opportunity
Hardy, who hasn’t actually made any Team Canada sessions because of lobster fishing commitments, said he is looking forward to tonight’s opportunity.
He said he knows many of the players either as teammates with the International Softball Congress (ISC) world-champion Hill United Chiefs, or as opponents on teams the Chiefs played this year.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge, but, going against guys that good, you’re not going to strike probably any of them out,” suggested Hardy. “You just want to put the ball in play, and let the defence do the work.”
Ellsworth, who has been a member of Team Canada since 2007, said national team players are excited to get a game in together.
Monday’s contest, which will feature the highest calibre ball ever played in the community, gets underway at 6:30 p.m.
Opening ceremonies start at 6:15 p.m., with the three provincial girls teams — under-14, under-16 and under-18 — that won medals at their recent national championships being brought onto the field for introductions.
Team Canada and the Eagles will then join them on the field for opening remarks and the ceremonial first pitches.
There will be four pitches thrown — one each by P.E.I. Tourism Minister Robert Henderson, Softball Canada president Kevin Quinn, an O’Leary Town Council representative and Eagles sponsor Warren Ellis.
Catchers for the ceremony will be Ryan Bolland from Team Canada, Troy Ellsworth from the Eagles and Katie Rayner and Sarah Woodside from the P.E.I. under-18 girls.
After three complete innings, the Eagles and Team Canada will each send out five players to participate in a home run derby. Players keep swinging until they get five outs (balls that don’t clear the fence in fair territory). The team with the most home runs wins.
There will also be a spud chucker competition between Team Canada’s Bradley Ezekiel and the Eagles’ Jordan Costello, who will throw potatoes at targets from 200 feet away.
Once the seven-inning game is completed there will be an opportunity for fans to get autographs from Team Canada.
Organizers will be handing out 250 coloured Team Canada roster headshots to children at the game, who will then have a chance to search out signatures from players in attendance.