As he put in his final day Thursday as Town of O’Leary recreation director, one might think Jeff Ellsworth would book a few days off to unwind before settling in to the next chapter of his life.
But that is not the way the 39-year-old St. Lawrence native rolls. Ellsworth who lives in Dock, just outside of Alberton with his wife Lori, embarks today (Friday) on a seven-week softball odyssey that takes him across Canada and into the United States’ biggest fastpitch tournaments.
It is that sort of busy ball schedule that convinced Ellsworth that it was time to step away from a four-year-run as O’Leary’s rec director. That and his desire to place more focus on promoting his new company’s batting practice device for softball and baseball players, Exit Speed Swing.
Since early winter Ellsworth has been giving softball clinics across the country almost every weekend.
Ellsworth describes his more than four years with the Town of O’Leary as a great experience. “Council wasn’t scared to take a chance on Canadian championship after Canadian championship, or any idea the rec department came up with. So that was kind of nice,” he acknowledged.
The town hosted four Canadian and four Eastern Canadian softball championships during his time in the recreation department. Last year Ellsworth, who is head coach of Canada’s junior men’s softball team, held the team’s final selection camp in O’Leary.
He also started a region-wide spring yard sale, hosted annual spring Spudchuckers fastpitch tournaments, and grew an O’Leary Minor Hockey Classic from eight teams to more than 30 entries.
Ellsworth’s connection with softball does not come to any sort of a screeching halt after the seven weeks on the road. He then comes back to O’Leary to help the town pull off a large U12 Eastern Canadian softball tournament in August.
The road trip he embarks on Friday starts with a weekend visit to Kitchener-Waterloo for practices with the Canadian Junior team. Then they’re off to Saskatoon for 10 days of exhibition ball with teams from a senior men’s league as a warm-up to the week-long World Junior championship immediately thereafter.
Next up, Ellsworth and two teammates from one of Canada’s top men’s fastpitch teams, the Hill United Chiefs, are off to Oklahoma to put on a softball camp and clinic for Softball USA. He will be accompanied by Nick Shailes and Adam Folkard. While there he will have the opportunity to promote Exit Speed Swing.
Last month Ellsworth was in Ottawa to promote his device in front of the dragons of CBC’s hit show, Dragon’s Den. He is not permitted to disclose anything about that experience.
After Oklahoma, Ellsworth and Hill United will play in a tournament in Pennsylvania before he and the team moves on to South Bend, Indiana to compete in the American World Championships. He gets to stay in the States a little longer while awaiting the arrival of another team he plays for, the O’Leary Eagles, who are registered for the NAFA World Series in Fargo, North Dakota.
On deck will be the world championships with Hill United in Toronto.
He will still have at least one major tournament to compete in after helping with the U12s in O’Leary, the Canadian championships in St. Croix, NS.
But even then, he’s not done; he’s still in fitness training mode, hoping to regain a spot on Canada’s national men’s team. He retired from the team two years ago but is back on the 40-man roster, hoping to get the nod in September to represent Canada in Prague next year.
“We’re at the age right now, whatever role is thrown my way I will accept it and embrace it with open arms,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. You’ve got to earn your spot.”
It was in upsetting the four-time defending champions in last year’s Canadian championship final while playing for Nova Scotia that Ellsworth says his drive for Team Canada was re-ignited.