Senior men's fastpitch nationals in Charlottetown next week
The accomplishments just keep piling up in the sport of fastpitch softball for Brooklyn, P.E.I., resident Jeff Ellsworth.
Being named most valuable player at last week's International Softball Congress (ISC) world championship in Kitchener, Ont., is additional proof he is one of the best – if not the best softball player – the province of P.E.I. has ever seen.
Ellsworth continues to excel on the world stage, and at the age of 36 shows no signs of slowing down. He batted 11-for-20, which translates to a .550 average, last week against the world's best players, and this latest accomplishment must be very satisfying.
With all the travel and commitments Ellsworth says the end is near. When you are as good as he is, you do want to go out on your own terms. He says he has some unfinished business with Team Canada, where he serves as captain.
There are many who hope he stays around for next year's Pan American Games in Toronto, and playing in your home country should be enough enticement. It will be a chance of a lifetime for Ellsworth, and there’ll be many who will be disappointed if he retires before the Pan Am Games.
Ellsworth is a world-class player, who in my opinion would have had a legitimate shot at playing Major League Baseball (MLB) if the opportunity would have presented itself back 20 years ago.
I have asked many this past week if there has been a ballplayer in softball or baseball that has come out of P.E.I. in the last 40 years who would be as good or better than Ellsworth?
The only answer I got was maybe Charlottetown’s Hubert (Socky) MacDonald. MacDonald was a dandy, who may have been a little more versatile than Ellsworth with the ability to play anywhere and also pitch. Socky was certainly a great player and also one of the best athletes this province has ever seen.
Who was a better fastpitch player?
We will leave that argument for the beverage tent at next week's national senior men's championship in Charlottetown. Ellsworth is a member of the host team – John Brown Grille Fawcetts.
Senior men’s nationals
The national senior men’s fastpitch championship opens on Tuesday. Although there are only seven teams, they should be very competitive with each other and that should make for a real good tournament.
As good as it will be, one can't help but think how much better it would be if the O'Leary-based Summerside Chrysler Dodge Eagles were also there.
The Eagles can play with the best of them, but I guess there are not enough players the calibre of Ellsworth or Mitch Hardy to make for two competitive Island teams. Hardy and Ellsworth are members of both teams, but are committed to the Fawcetts for the nationals.
Having the Eagles in the championship would certainly result in a big following from this end of the province. With only seven teams, there must be a lot of players across Canada who would like to play, and one can't help but think the addition of a few imports to both the Eagles and Fawcetts would make for a much better championship.
At any rate, it should be a real good event, and it will be real nice to see some good fastpitch softball. Good luck to all those involved.
A happy camper?
I see where Softball Canada president Kevin Quinn is, in his words, a pretty happy camper about next week's participation level at the Canadian senior men's championship. He said they have probably more provinces covered than we've had in a long time. Only six provinces are represented, and if the president of Softball Canada is pleased with that than the game for the most part is in trouble.
Four of the seven teams are from Atlantic Canada – two from Newfoundland and Labrador and one from Nova Scotia and P.E.I. That only leaves three other provinces competing – British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Quebec.
Where are Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and even our neighbours in New Brunswick?
Obviously, development is an issue at the lower levels as, by the looks of some of the greybeards playing, there is not a lot of up-and-coming talent available. Also, with only six provinces taking part, most provinces are not taking this championship very seriously, and that needs to change.
In my opinion, Softball Canada has its work cut out to restore the game to what it should be. Does anyone remember some of those great national championships hosted in earlier years by Summerside and Charlottetown?
There was never an issue with only a few teams. I know that you play with the hand you are dealt, but maybe it is time for Softball Canada to shuffle the deck.
O’Leary’s big night
A real big night of softball is on tap in O'Leary on Monday as members of the Canadian national men’s fastpitch team will play the Eagles. This will be a good chance for fans from this end of the province to see some world-class players.
Ellsworth talked many of his friends on Team Canada into coming early to play in O'Leary ahead of next nationals. It will be a great night at Ellis Field, and a real big crowd is expected.
A history circle put on by local historian George Dalton takes place at the Summerside Legion on Monday from 10 a.m. to noon. This week's topic will be the great baseball teams both junior and senior of the early 1960s.
It will feature discussions on those Maritime champions from those days, including the Junior Legionnaires and the great midget team that won a Maritime title back then.
They will go into highlights from the old Prince County Baseball League that thrived with teams in Tignish, Grand River, Wellington, Kinkora, CFB Summerside and Summerside. They will remember those great sponsors of the past, including A E McLennan and Curran and Briggs.
It sounds like a real good way to spend a Monday morning if you can, and those who do attend are encouraged to bring along any bits of information from that era.
Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every second Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.