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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.

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World Cup super-G called off in Lake Louise because of too much snow

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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — A World Cup men’s super-G race was cancelled Sunday in Lake Louise, Alta.

It was the second race called off because of too much snow. Friday’s downhill was also cancelled.

Matthias Mayer of Austria won Saturday’s downhill at the ski resort west of Calgary in Banff National Park.

The cancelled downhill in Canada has been added to the program for the next World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colo., starting Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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'For the greater good:' Indigenous financial advisor works to empower others

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CALGARY — It’s often said that every name tells a story. 

For Theodora Warrior, that couldn’t be more true.

“My name doesn’t lie,” says Warrior, a Blackfoot member of the Piikani Nation in southern Alberta. “The purpose of a warrior is not meant for battle. They are meant for protection and sacrifice for all for the greater good.”

Warrior is the first Indigenous financial facilitator for Momentum, a Calgary charity dedicated to community economic development.

Jeff Loomis, executive director of Momentum, says it’s committed to having a role in reconciliation with Indigenous communities and bringing Warrior onboard ensures a culturally relevant and supportive environment to aid in financial reconciliation.

Warrior views her job as one that empowers others, particularly Indigenous families such her own who experienced poverty as a result of the residential school system. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report says the schools amounted to cultural genocide, stripping Indigenous people of their language and customs, and has led to chronic unemployment, poverty, poor housing, substance abuse, family violence and ill health.

About two years ago, Warrior attended a money management workshop hosted by Momentum, similar to one she now teaches, and was asked to write down a vision for her future.

She had lost everything — her house, job and belongings. She says it was a cycle she had repeated for years, from housed to homeless, employed to jobless, hopeful to disheartened.

Her vision on a piece of paper, now tucked away in a safe spot, listed 17 goals, including having a two-bedroom apartment, a healthier mental state, being debt-free with savings and having a steady job. 

Most of those dreams came true.

Warrior is now bringing the program that helped change her life to other Indigenous people in Alberta communities. She calls the workshop series Money Moccasins.

“Financial wellness is a lifelong journey,” says Warrior. “Walking barefoot can make the trip more difficult. Moccasins are very sturdy and strong.”

Thinking about the workshop she attended, Warrior says the information was helpful but the facilitator, who was white, lacked an understanding of unique barriers faced by Indigenous people.

The facilitator talked about spending $200 on plants, almost the same amount Warrior had received monthly on welfare.

“It had nothing to do with where we come from, what we really encounter, what we have to work with,” says Warrior.

Warrior’s mother and grandmother attended residential schools. 

As a child, she remembers living in apartments with cockroaches, using food banks and moving frequently, both on and off reserve. Her mother, who has three university degrees, often worked multiple jobs. 

Warrior says she believes the repercussions of the residential school system left her mom struggling to find financial stability.

As Warrior became an adult, she also had trouble staying afloat.

There were months when she had money from working in the trucking or hydrovac industries. At one point, she had a five-bedroom house and was financing a new vehicle.

But, she says, everything fell apart in about nine months when a friend moved out without paying their share of the bills and work opportunities disappeared.

When looking for a place to live, she says she faced encounters with landlords who hurled racist and prejudicial comments. Sometimes she left showings in tears.

Warrior says she stayed in women’s shelters and slept in empty apartments.

“I’ve been through it all,” she says. “Homeless. Hitchhiking. Food banks. Relying on the kindness of strangers … the depression that comes with it, domestic violence, alcoholism, addiction.”

She says she openly shares her experiences now with those in Money Moccasins. She remembers one participant who laughed when Warrior told the class she was in bankruptcy.

“‘Who better to learn from than somebody who’s been there?’ Warrior recalls telling the woman. “Being open and vulnerable with them like that drops their guard.”

Warrior keeps a constant reminder of how far she’s come at her desk. Her computer screensaver shows Warrior looking into the distance with her sprawling First Nation behind her.

The photo was taken the day before she lost her driver’s licence for drinking. Shortly after that, in 2019, she attended her first class at Momentum and got a job with the charity.

She describes her Money Moccasins program, which started this year and explores assets, budgeting, banking, credit and consumerism, as generation changing.

“In this Western world, money is life. In our world, water is life,” says Warrior.

“This course, these classes, they give you something to hold that water. They show you that you can save your water, that your water is meant to be saved for the next generation.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2021.

Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press

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