For Chelsea Jenner, this is where it all started.
Sitting in the dugout on the baseball fields at Abbotsford Exhibition Park is a long distance from San Jose, where the 2013 Abbotsford Christian School (ACS) grad starred for four years with the San Jose State University softball team.
But she’s hoping returning to her roots will help her focus for the next step in her softball career – representing Team Canada on the international and, possibly, the Olympic stage.
“This is literally where I used to play and where I learned so much about the game and myself,” she said, days before embarking on a Team Canada tryout camp that began on Tuesday.
But softball wasn’t a first love for Jenner. Hitting the diamond was originally something to do after soccer season was done.
“My parents signed me up but, honestly, I just wasn’t that interested,” she said, laughing. “But I liked the weather better than what it’s like during soccer season and just kept playing.”
She eventually made it onto the Abbotsford Outlaws rep softball team and her career took off from there.
At the age of 16, she was called up for two games with the Canadian senior women’s fastpitch team at the 2012 Canadian Open Championships. Later that year she earned a scholarship with SJSU, and in 2013 she suited up for the Team Canada junior national team at the International Softball Federation’s Junior World Championship.
While doing all of that, she was still going to high school full-time, working at McDonald’s part-time and playing both the clarinet in the ACS concert band and the saxophone in the school’s jazz band. Oh, and she also ran both track and cross-country at ACS.
The hectic schedule became more focused when she made the move to California in 2014.
The outfielder started 21 games in her freshman year, driving in six runs and hitting .225. A meniscus injury threw a monkey wrench into her sophomore year, but she bounced back in 2016 with a sparkling .310 batting average, two home runs and 10 RBIs.
She finished her college career hitting .326, picking up 10 doubles, two home runs and 16 RBIs. Jenner was also named the player of the week for an impressive stretch of play in late March.
The Spartans earned their first-ever Mountain West Softball Championship in 2017, finishing with a record of 37-19 before falling in the NCAA Division 1 Softball Championships in late May.
“This year was my best,” Jenner said. “Everything came together for us. For me as a senior to see the team come together and to know I played a big role in it felt really amazing.”
She said the realization that her college career is over was sobering.
“It was really sad in a way – I cried coming home,” she said. “I love San Jose, but I do like Abbotsford – it’s just that the transition from it was kind of rough. My life is kind of on hold at the moment.”
Where her life leads depends on what happens at the Softball Canada women’s national team selection camp, which kicked off on Tuesday and runs until June 27.
She was one of three Abbotsford residents invited to the camp, which occurs in Mississauga, Ont. Abbotsford is also represented by Taylor Lundrigan and Callum Pilgrim.
“They’ve been following me and watching me for years,” she said. “I think they’re seriously considering me, and my goal is to officially be on the team – I feel like I have a good shot. I know the coaches well and I’m just really excited to go and try to make it.”
The camp involves scrimmages, fitness testing and lots of drills. If she makes it, she will remain in Toronto to train with the team and will likely be gone all summer.
The first stop is a series of exhibition games in Chicago from June 30 to July 1, then the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma from July 5 to 9.The team then heads to the Canada Cup in Surrey from July 11 to 17, then the Pan American Championships in the Dominican Republic from Aug. 4 to 13 and, lastly, the Japan Cup from Aug. 25 to 28.
Also on the horizon is the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which Jenner said is the ultimate goal.
“If I make the team this year, I will take the possibility of being in the Olympics more seriously,” she said. “That would mean so much to play for Canada at the Olympics. It would be just a phenomenal conclusion to my softball career.”
This fall Jenner will be coaching at the Yale Softball Academy with her mentor Dave Paetkau. She also plans to put her communications major and business minor degree to good use in the real world.
To follow along with Jenner while she’s at the camp, go to twitter.com/ChelseaJenner1.
Read a future edition of the Abbotsford News for details on whether Jenner, Pilgrim and Lundrigan make the team.