Stand Up Double

By JOE McFARLAND

One word comes to mind when talking to people in Alberta’s baseball scene when you mention the name Ellie Jespersen.

Incredible.

The 16-year-old was a force for Team Alberta at the Women’s Open National Championship in Okotoks during the summer, posting a .409 batting average with two triples, eight runs batted in and ten runs scored.

That performance propelled her to a spot with the Baseball Canada National Women’s Team, where she continued her torrid hitting with a .471 average, three runs scored and three stolen bases at the World Cup qualifier in Mexico.

For her efforts, the Spruce Grove native was named not only 16U Girls Player of the Year by Baseball Alberta at its annual general meeting and convention in November, but she also picked up the Women’s Open Player of the Year.

It’s the first time an athlete picked up both awards in the same year.

We caught up with Jespersen in a recent episode of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.

Q: What’s it like being able to take a deep breath and realize that you won the two awards with Baseball Alberta?

A: Well, I was really honoured to get both awards and really excited to be recognized for both and for my hard work, even though so many other people put in lots of hard work and didn’t get recognized for it.

Q: Did you know that you were in the running for the awards or potentially a front-runner for the awards?

A: I knew I would be in the running because every girl from Alberta had the chance at the awards. But I was very surprised that I got both awards. At first, I thought I only had a chance at the 16U award.

Q: Take us back to the moment when they called your name. What went through your mind?

A: Well, I was very excited and honoured to be able to get both awards and also to meet Mike Soroka, who was there.

Q:  Speaking of Mike, what was it like listening to him and what did you take away from his chat with you?

A: Yeah, he was very inspirational and he’s an Albertan, which is even more exciting to know. He told his story and it was really interesting to hear he got to where he is today and his competitive spirit because I can connect with him on that level. I’m also very competitive!

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Ellie Jespersen poses with Atlanta Braves rising star and Calgary native Mike Soroka at the Baseball Alberta awards gala in November 2019. (Photo submitted: Curt Jespersen)

Q: Going back to the awards, what did it mean to you to get recognized in that way and to shed some light into the kind of year you had?

A: It meant a lot because I had been working towards making the national team and I finally did. Ending the year with the awards meant a whole lot for what I put in.

Q: What are you most proud of when you look back on the last year?

A: The thing I’m most proud of would be making the national team and being able to participate in Mexico and represent our country.

Q: Looking ahead to the offseason now, what goals have you set for yourself and what are you looking ahead to?

A: Well, my biggest goal will be to make the national team again because there will be tryouts again this coming year. To be able to play in the World Cup, which is what we qualified Canada for this year.

Q: I know one of your sisters (Carrie) came away with the Millie Warwick McAuley/Betty Carveth Dunn Bursary as well. It had to be pretty special from a family perspective. It had to be a great weekend to share in the good vibes with your family.

A: Yeah, I’m very proud of her for getting that. She’s a really hard worker and really deserved that award.

Q:  Everyone I talk to in baseball circles around this province talks about the Jespersen family and how competitive they are. Where does that nature come from?

A: My dad (Curt) also played sports, baseball and basketball, growing up and he was always pretty competitive too, and I guess his competitive spirit kind of came along with us because we grew up playing sports with him. I feel like that’s a big part of it.

Q: I’m curious how you will answer this but let’s have some fun with it. Who is the best ball player out of you and your siblings?

A: Hahaha! Ummm. Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure. I can’t say.

Q: Playing the politically correct card, I like that! That said, it is amazing to see how well all of you are doing. What is it that keeps you all motivated day after day?

A: I think things like when we reach our goals, it makes us want to do more and achieve more to see how well we can do. Especially being women and helping grow baseball and women’s sports.

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Jespersen gets ready for the next pitch for Team Alberta at the Women’s National Championships in Okotoks. (Photo by: Ian Wilson)

Q:  Final question for you. As you look at your awards and look back on the year that was, anyone you want to single out as inspiring you or giving you that extra nudge to be the best you can be?

A: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been hitting with Sheen Bromley once a week. We have been for the last couple of years now and he’s been a really big part of my development as a hitter and a baseball player overall. Also, this past school year, I’ve been going to St. Francis Xavier Baseball Academy to practice with them and they have really helped me develop as a player.

 

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