U.S.A.'s Golden Lake girl
Chelsey Schoenfeldt of Golden Lake, seen here pitching for the Winthrop University Eagles, is headed to the tropical island of Aruba this summer to compete for Team U.S.A. in an international softball tournament - her first international competition. For more community photos please visit our website photo gallery at www.thedailyobserver.ca.
Chelsey Schoenfeldt of Golden Lake is living the dream after all.
In 2008, the softball pitcher's dream of competing for Canada on the Olympics stage was crushed when the sport was withdrawn from future Olympic competitions, but this summer she'll be testing her mettle against teams from around the world at the USA Athletes International Aruba Friendship tournament this summer.
The Winthrop University senior will be donning a Team USA uniform when she travels from her school-year home in South Carolina to Aruba, a small island off the Northern coast of Venezuela that makes up part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in June to play five games against fellow university-aged athletes from Europe, South America and beyond.
"It's absolutely wonderful," says Chelsey's mother, Joan Schoenfeldt. "She has played ball since she was three years old and started pitching when she was seven. She had worked so hard for this, endlessly. She's given up so much of her life and devoted it to softball; this is just amazing."
From her beginnings as a player in and around Golden Lake, she eventually moved on to play with the Pembroke Ponies when she was about 12, and then came to the attention of teams in Ottawa, Kingston, Mississauga and then Scarborough before being noticed by scouts south of the border.
Schoenfeldt received six offers of full-ride athletic scholarships from various American universities, but decided that Winthrop's NCAA division-1 team was the best fit for her talents as a both an accomplished pitcher and a strong batter.
Now she gets to add international competition to her resume, something that she's looking forward to.
"This tournament is the first international series that I've ever played," she says. "I play in Canada, and I go to school in the states, but other than that I've never been out of Canada or the U.S. to play ball, and to play against other countries is pretty cool."
The teams are selected based on recommendations by coaches, scouts and others in the organization, so the teams assembled are not the official national teams that would represent each country at events like the Pan-Am Games or the World Series.
In fact, far from meaning that she's now beholden to the Americans, Schoenfeldt looks at this opportunity as a means to hopefully bolster her chances at the Canadian national team, which has already invited her to try out.
"For this summer, I've gotten calls from the Canadian National Team to go to tryout camp, but unfortunately I can't make the camp because I'm going to be in Aruba."
Despite the scheduling conflicts, the team hasn't lost interest in the up-and-coming pitcher/batter. Schoenfeldt has actually been in conversation with the team's assistant coach, who suggested that something could possibly be worked out to give her a chance despite missing the tryout camp, and even if that avenue doesn't work out, there's always next summer.
Team Canada's flexibility on her behalf stops being the least surprising when you take a look at the stats of the Golden Lake girl.
With a batting record of .358 and 13 home runs this season, she now holds the single-season run record, previously held by one Janiva Willis, who socked 11 dingers to earn the title. Willis currently hold the school's all-time home run record with 30, but Schoenfeld is just three away from breaking that one, too. She's got a total of 125 runs batted in (RBI), which is currently good enough for fifth place in the Winthrop record books, 21 back from the top spot.
Although her schooling has been paid for by her softball skills, the trip to Aruba will depend on her fundraising ability.
The USAAI is a non-profit organization, so each player is responsible to raise enough money to cover the cost of the trip and tournament.
To make a donation, visit the USAAI website at www.usaai.org and make a donation to Chelsey, or you can mail your donation to her home address at P.O. Box #77, Golden Lake, Ontario, K0J 1X0.
Ryan Paulsen is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist