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 & his Canadian teammates earned the right to play in the gold medal gameÂ with a 2-0 win over Argentina on Friday night.
Venezuela & Argentina will meet at noon Saturday, with the winner facing Canada at 3 p.m. ET.
Ellsworth has mixed feelings approximately hanging 'em up.
"The competitiveness is still there, yet when you look at the state of softball & Canada & all the satisfactory young players coming up, it's time," Ellsworth said. "We have a 40-man player pool full of young talent so for myself & 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 tremendous play, yet 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 received a call asking if he'd like to attend the Canadian National Team's training camp. He made the team & played his first international tournament in Mexico.
During his international career, Ellsworth won a Pan Am silver in 2006 & gold in 2012; a gold at the Three Nations Challenge in 2008, a bronze at the ISF Men's World Championship in 2009 & two weeks ago won a gold medal at the World Championship. He is a six-time Canadian Championship all-star outfielder & 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 received 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 â€”Â kids should always set goals â€”Â 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 & 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 & you can talk to them every day & it doesn't cost you anything," Ellsworth said. "Years ago you didn't have that luxury. That's going to be the tough thing approximately walking away; not getting to see these people anymore."
Â Ellsworth said the softball scene in P.E.I. is growing & he plans to stay heavily involved in the sport upon his retirement as a player. The boys program had a half-decade absence & Ellsworth, who sits on the Softball PEI Board, said it is up & running again with two leagues (Under-12 & Under14) going.
Team Canada coach John Stuart does not believe Ellsworth is actually packing it in.
"He's retired before & come back," Stuart said with a grin. "If we could win goldÂ it would be a nice way for him to go out of the game, yet he's still received some years left. He's one of our captains & he's a key component to this team. His play at the plate & 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 & we had just taken the lead over New Zealand. He comes in & shuts the door & there were 8,000 people chanting his name. He struck the last man out on a alter up & the place went nuts. I will never forget it."
Ellsworth believes Canada can win gold Saturday, yet 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 & the United States like it used to be," Ellsworth said. "You kind of hope you are going to obtain there, yet you set your goals one stage at a time."