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Different strokes for different folks

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Different strokes for different folks.

A day or so before superstars Bryce Harper and Blake Snell told of their reluctance to play an abbreviated 2020 major-league baseball season unless they get all of their multi-million dollar contracts, a young guy in Alberta spent long minutes talking about how much he wants to play.

For 21-year-old pitching prospect Jesse Poniewozik of Spruce Grove, money is no object. These days, when he isn’t working to complete a degree at Okanagan University in Kelowna, B.C., the righthander spends as much time as possible in an empty park, working toward the next chance he gets to climb the ladder toward a successful long-term career.

Like many other young players, this young man has a dream. He discovered baseball as a four-year-old and has been captivated by the sport ever since. It’s extremely easy to pull for Poniewozik. He’s bright, well-spoken and thoughtful.

It’s even easier to pull for him if you know a little about his single season with the Edmonton Prospects and the frightening incident that sidelined him only days before the end of last season.

Those in the seats when a line drive off the bat of a Medicine Hat Mavericks player hit Poniewozik on the head, literally knocking him off the mound. He struggled to his feet and made a brief gesture toward the rolling baseball before going down again. At that point, his mom and dad, Karen and Jim, made their way to the clubhouse and from there to hospital. Almost immediately, they learned that “Jesse had a concussion, a serious one.”

When he was allowed to go home, restrictions were serious: plenty of rest, especially at first; limited physical activity; a responsible diet. Now, months later, the young man sees that difficult time as a positive one.

“I did so much sitting around, you know, that I put on some weight. I had to work a little later to take some of it off.”

As a result of a new routine that lasted a couple of months, his playing weight climbed from about 185 to about 200 pounds, good size for a man who’s six-foot-two. Coincidentally speed on his fastball – the sport’s beloved “velo” – is about four miles per hour better than last year’s best level. Like every young pitcher, Poniewozik realizes the game is easier if you can throw the ball past a rival hitter. “I’m sure I’ll get faster, I’ll be able to stay in the 90s.”

With both the Prospects and his university team inactive because of COVID-19, “Ponie” is happy to look back at some early appearances against U.S. College teams in and around Las Vegas. There, overcoming some understandable nervousness from last year’s injury, he discovered that his improvement from the start to the end of the 2019 season is continuing.

That’s where confidence comes in, something that developed for him as a Prospects. where he opened as an occasional reliever before growing into crucial situations. By season end, his value as a starter was obvious. “At first, I wondered about some things: a lot of good players from big American schools play in our league and I had to find out what I could do.”

Now, he knows he can prosper competitively in the WCBL. One day, he hopes to prosper financially at baseball’s higher levels.

But, first, he just wants to play.

Read more stories on Todayville.

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Alberta

Edmonton council to ask province to support new centre to fight downtown crime

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By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

City council has voted unanimously to ask the government of Alberta to support the creation of a hub in Edmonton’s Chinatown where social workers, firefighters and peace officers could work together to reduce crime.

City administration submitted a report to council Monday that describes the proposed Healthy Streets Operations Centre.

David Jones, who is with the city and presented the report, told councillors it would not be a traditional police station.

“The people who will see the benefits of this include Chinatown residents and businesses, but also people who are on the streets who are vulnerable and being preyed on by some of the criminal element,” Jones said.

The creation of the centre is one of several actions the city has promised to address a spike in violent crime downtown, in nearby Chinatown and on the transit system.

Edmonton police officers have already increased their presence in problem areas.

In May, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro used his ministerial power to demand a report from the city on what is being done to get crime under control.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said during Monday’s council meeting that the city has delivered with its plan for the centre and now it is time for the province to step up.

“Edmonton gets the lowest per-capita funding to support ending homelessness compared to seven other cities (in Alberta). I think it’s really important that we ask the people whose inaction has caused harm to the community to be stepping up,” Sohi said.

“Most of the violence in Chinatown is related to houselessness … and addictions causing a lot of harm to the community and to individuals. We’re asking city taxpayers to pick up the pieces or pay for the consequences of lack of investment in health and lack of investment in housing.”

Sohi added he gets the sense the province wants to help.

The provincial government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report says the centre will operate seven days a week, 21 hours a day, and could cost up to $18.1 million over the next four years.

The city and Edmonton Police Service could partially support the centre and Jones said there have also been offers from different businesses in Chinatown to provide a building for the hub at no cost.

But council voted in favour of asking the provincial government to determine how it can provide mental health, housing and shelter support.

Sohi said he plans to engage with the province and will report back to council on Aug. 15.

Jones said to get the centre up and running by next summer, the city aims to hire four peace officer sergeants, 16 community peace officers, two community safety liaisons and three firefighters or fire prevention officers.

The report said community members asked for increased security in problem areas and that building a centre in “hot spots” can effectively reduce crime. Research cited in the report has also shown it wont displace violence to other areas.

“Studies have consistently found no noticeable displacement and, in some cases, a diffusion effect, meaning that hot-spot policing reduces crime in the areas adjacent to the hot spots as well.”

Dr. Temitope Oriola, a criminology professor at the University of Alberta, said the hub model has been around for at least a decade in Canada and the centre is a good start.

“The real test is to ensure it is not too heavily tilted toward and reliant on policing,” he said in a email.

“The approach needs to have law enforcement as one of several critical components with people, community revitalization and customized social service at the epicentre.”

Oriola added the centre would be most effective in reducing crime if it also goes hand-in-hand with other initiatives in the city that address addictions issues and homelessness.

“Employment created should also focus on those most directly connected to Chinatown,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 4, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Alberta

Alberta expands its support for Ukrainians fleeing war and settling in the province

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Edmonton – The Alberta government is expanding its support for Ukrainians coming to the province from the war-ravaged country.

Premier Jason Kenney said there’s a special, deep connection between Alberta and Ukraine, with more than 369,000 Albertans who have Ukrainian roots.

“That is why we are proud to have opened our doors of refuge to Ukrainians fleeing the violence of that conflict,” he said Monday at a news conference at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village just east of Edmonton.

Kenney said more than 3,800 Ukrainians — many of whom are women and children because men are required to stay behind to help defend their nation — have already arrived in Alberta and thousands more are expected as the conflict continues into its fourth month.

“Starting July 25, Ukrainian evacuees arriving in Alberta will be eligible for new forms of aid,” he said.

Those additional measures, he said, include temporary financial assistance for basic living expenses — such as food, clothing and rent — for up to six months. Anyone with children under the age of 12 would also be able to apply for child-care support for six months, said Kenney.

“This expanded support will be key for people whose lives have been thrown into chaos by the invasion,” he said. “We can’t take away their fears for those who have been left behind, but we can at least dispel the uncertainties that come with trying to start over and make ends meet in a new country.”

Orysia Boychuk, president of the Alberta chapter of the Canadian Ukrainian Congress, said the income support and child-care subsidy are appreciated.

“We are confident this will definitely help support and contribute to the Ukrainian nationals’ successful integration in Canadian society,” she said at the news conference.

“We also thank the Alberta government for its unwavering support for the past four months as Russia continues to wage war on Ukraine.”

Kenney said the additional supports are expected to cost between $15 million and $38 million, depending on how many Ukrainians arrive in the coming months.

The province has already provided money for settlement and language services, humanitarian aid and defensive equipment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2022.

— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary

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