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Jeff Ellsworth makes triumphant return to diamond

Jeff Ellsworth has played a key role with Softball Canada's men's national team from 2005-15.
Jeff Ellsworth has played a key role with Softball Canada's men's national team from 2005-15. - Contributed

St. Lawrence native earns spot on Canada’s senior men’s softball team for next year’s world championship

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Jeff Ellsworth played for Canada at the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation world championship in Saskatoon, Sask.

Need to know

A look at Jeff Ellsworth.

Who – A member of Canada’s senior men’s softball team.

Age – 40.

Hometown – St. Lawrence.

The latest – Ellsworth retired after winning double gold in 2015. He returned to competitive ball this summer and was invited to try out for the national team. Softball Canada announced the squad Tuesday and Ellsworth was on it.

Big tournament – Canada will compete at the World Baseball Softball Confederation world championship in the Czech Republic, June 13-23, 2019. Ellsworth was on the team that won bronze at the event in 2009, finished fifth in 2013 and won gold in 2015. Canada finished third in 2017 in Whitehorse.

Softball

ST. LAWRENCE, P.E.I. – Jeff Ellsworth stepped away from the sport he loved at the top of his game.

The St. Lawrence native helped Canada win the Pan American Games in Ajax, Ont., and the International Softball Federation (ISF) world championship in Saskatoon, Sask., in 2015.

He retired from the sport to concentrate on his work commitments and coaching responsibilities with Team P.E.I.’s 2017 Canada Games women’s team and the national junior men’s squad.

But after helping the East Hants Shooters Bar and Grill Mastodons will the Canadian senior men’s championship in 2017 the competitive juices were flowing.

He returned to Hill United this summer on the International Softball Congress (ISC) circuit and Tuesday was announced as part of Team Canada for the world championship from June 13-23, 2019, in the Czech Republic.

“(When) you walk away from the sport, it’s tough,” Ellsworth said, noting a big part of it is not seeing friends on a regular basis. “Now you throw in quality ball weekend after weekend, and all of a sudden you feel like you’re 25 years old again.

“It’s good to be back. I don't know how long I’ll play for. I’ll just take it year by year.”

Ellsworth said it was exciting to get the call he was one of the 17 players who earned a roster spot from the 43 players who had tried out. Messages started coming in from his teammates Tuesday after the news broke.

“We’re pretty pumped. Let the training begin,” Ellsworth said.

The outfielder with a lightning quick bat was a mainstay on the national squad from 2005-15. He was curious how his skills would respond after not playing against the world’s best for a couple of seasons.

“The bat speed was still there, and defensively I was still able to track balls down,” said Ellsworth, who will turn 41 in November.

He knows the coaching staff (head coach John Stuart and assistants John Hill and Les Howey) well, and that helped with his comfort level attempting a comeback.

“Whatever role they have in store for me I’ll accept with open arms,” Ellsworth said. “If it’s a pinch runner, pinch hitter, starter, it doesn’t matter – whatever (role) needs to be filled.”

Hill said Ellsworth proved he can play internationally after taking a couple of years off.

“He showed he still has the bat speed, the base-running ability and defence,” he said, noting he brings other intangibles to teams.

“A guy of his leadership and experience was a huge factor, plus we still feel he has the ability to be an impact player on the team,” Hill said. “We have all the confidence in the world in Jeff, knowing what we’ve seen from him in the past, that he can step up to the plate.”

Softball Canada made six roster changes from the last national team. They included the addition of Tyler Pauli, Kyle Ezekiel and Scott Lieph.

“They’re proven, and they can play,” Ellsworth said.

The roster still has veteran content and proven winners with the likes of Steve Mullaley, Derek Mayson, Jason Hill, Brad Ezekiel and Mathieu Roy, plus a pitching staff that includes Sean Cleary, Devon McCullough, flame-thrower Patrick Burns and Lieph.

Ellsworth remembers standing down the third-base line in 2015 singing O Canada with a gold medal around his neck and the Maple Leaf of his chest.

“That’s just a feeling you can’t even describe,” he said.

But he’s hoping to have one more chance to have that feeling.

“It’s great I can suit up for Canada next year and battle the rest of the world and try and get Canada back on top at the (International Softball Federation) level.”

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