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Canadian softball veteran Jeff Ellsworth wants to go out on top

07/17/2015 10:28 EDT | Updated 07/17/2016 05:59 EDT
Jeff Ellsworth would love to go out on top.

The 37-year-old right-fielder from St. Lawrence, P.E.I., plans to retire after Saturday's Pan Am Games gold medal men's softball game in Ajax, Ont.

Ellsworth and his Canadian teammates earned the right to play in the gold medal game with a 2-0 win over Argentina on Friday night.

Venezuela and Argentina will meet at noon Saturday, with the winner facing Canada at 3 p.m. ET.

Ellsworth has mixed feelings about hanging 'em up.

"The competitiveness is still there, but when you look at the state of softball and Canada and all the good young players coming up, it's time," Ellsworth said. "We have a 40-man player pool full of young talent so for myself and a few others it's time."

If Ellsworth is painting himself as one of the old men on the squad, it certainly didn't look that way in the second inning Friday when he made a running over-the-shoulder catch to prevent Argentina from putting a man in scoring position with the score tied 0-0. It was a great play, but not his best of the tournament.

"I caught one actually going over the fence in our second game that would have been a three-run shot," Ellsworth said.

Dream come true

Ellsworth was playing club ball all over North America in 2005 when he got a call asking if he'd like to attend the Canadian National Team's training camp. He made the team and played his first international tournament in Mexico.

During his international career, Ellsworth won a Pan Am silver in 2006 and gold in 2012; a gold at the Three Nations Challenge in 2008, a bronze at the ISF Men's World Championship in 2009 and two weeks ago won a gold medal at the World Championship. He is a six-time Canadian Championship all-star outfielder and a two-time top batter at the national championship tournament.

Ellsworth said playing for the national team wasn't even on his radar when he got the call.

"Coming from a small province I was overwhelmed with the opportunity to play for a team in the United States," he said. "It was a dream of mine — kids should always set goals — and one training camp led to another one it just snowballed from there."

He said his involvement with the national team has been life-changing and said he has made softball friends all over the world that he is constantly in touch with.

"With the way technology is now, I have friends in Argentina, Venezuela, Australia and you can talk to them every day and it doesn't cost you anything," Ellsworth said. "Years ago you didn't have that luxury. That's going to be the tough thing about walking away; not getting to see these people anymore."

Really retiring?

 Ellsworth said the softball scene in P.E.I. is growing and he plans to stay heavily involved in the sport upon his retirement as a player. The boys program had a half-decade absence and Ellsworth, who sits on the Softball PEI Board, said it is up and running again with two leagues (Under-12 and Under14) going.

Team Canada coach John Stuart does not believe Ellsworth is actually packing it in.

"He's retired before and come back," Stuart said with a grin. "If we could win gold it would be a nice way for him to go out of the game, but he's still got some years left. He's one of our captains and he's a key component to this team. His play at the plate and in the field is outstanding."

Asked if there is a single moment from his international career he'll always remember, Ellsworth said that's easy. And it wasn't even anything he did.

"It was seeing Devon McCullough pitch two weeks ago in Saskatoon," Ellsworth said. "Here is a hometown boy with 8,000 people sitting in aluminum bleachers and we had just taken the lead over New Zealand. He comes in and shuts the door and there were 8,000 people chanting his name. He struck the last guy out on a change up and the place went nuts. I will never forget it."

Ellsworth believes Canada can win gold Saturday, but takes nothing for granted.

"Our first baseman Steve Mullaley said at the start of the week it's a four- or five-team race now; it's not just Canada and the United States like it used to be," Ellsworth said. "You kind of hope you are going to get there, but you set your goals one stage at a time."

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