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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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Homan drops opener at Players' Championship a day after winning 11th Grand Slam title

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CALGARY — A day after winning a record 11th Grand Slam of Curling title, Ontario’s Rachel Homan fell to Russia’s Alina Kovaleva on Tuesday the opening draw of the Princess Auto Players’ Championship.

Kovaleva’s team broke open a 3-3 tie with three points in the fifth end.

Homan’s Ottawa-based team was coming off a 6-3 win over Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni on Monday night in the final of the Humpty’s Champions Cup.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Minji Kim scored six in the fifth end in a 9-3 win over Manitoba’s Team Tracy Fleury, with Chelsea Carey filling in at skip.

In men’s competition, world champion Niklas Edin of Sweden beat Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz 9-4 and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs scored three in the eighth end to edge Manitoba’s Jason Gunnlaugson 8-6.

Two more draws were scheduled for Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Albertans lining up, signing up as eligibility for AstraZeneca COVID vaccine expands

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EDMONTON — Albertans were voting with their feet and arms Tuesday as they lined up and signed up to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The government’s decision to lower the age eligibility for the vaccine to 40 resulted in thousands of bookings and big lineups on the first day.

“Uptake for the AstraZeneca vaccine has been significantly higher this morning,” Alberta Health Services spokesman Kerry Williamson said in a statement.

“More than 27,000 Albertans have booked an appointment. 

“This includes approximately 6,500 booked appointments in Edmonton zone and 15,000 booked appointments in Calgary zone.”

Williamson said the uptake in one morning exceeded all of last week.

In Edmonton, up to a 100 people stood in line at lunchtime outside the Expo Centre mass vaccination clinic. Thirty cars were waiting to enter the grounds. 

Jody Dewaal, 52, found out Monday she was finally eligible to get vaccinated and decided to head to the Expo Centre the next day.

“It’s about time,” Dewaal said.

“We’ve been waiting. I have senior parents and I have a child who has asthma, so we just like to have some kind of protection.”

Alberta has joined Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia in offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone 40 and older. Saskatchewan announced Tuesday it was doing the same. Quebec said it was lowering the age to 45.

The shot had been limited to those over 55. But Alberta said it lowered the age based on new health data and because thousands of doses were being left unused.

Vaccine hesitancy has been an issue among the older age group following reports globally of rare blood clots developing in some who received the AstraZeneca product. One Albertan has been affected, has been treated and is recovering at home.

Both Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, and Health Minister Tyler Shandro have stressed the blood clots are extremely rare and have urged Albertans to take AstraZeneca.

Both posted pictures of themselves on social media Tuesday getting the vaccine.

AstraZeneca is one of multiple vaccines available but the only one open to the 40-plus cohort.

Alberta Health said about 170,000 doses were available as of Sunday and appointments would last as long as the supply does.

Lowering the age eligibility means 575,000 more Albertans have a chance to be vaccinated — for a total of 2.3 million.

Premier Jason Kenney has said the situation has become a race between the spread of COVID-19 variants and getting a critical mass of Albertans vaccinated.

The variants, now the dominant strain in Alberta, are far more contagious and have sent case rates and hospitalizations spiking in recent weeks.

Alberta has more than 18,000 active cases, with well over a thousand new cases every day for the last two weeks.

Also Tuesday, Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley urged Kenney and his United Conservative government to work with her to fast- track legislation to allow people to get three hours off with pay if necessary to get vaccinated.

Kenney was receptive and said he would get back to Notley on Wednesday after consulting with officials.

“With or without legislation we would implore employers to do the right thing (and) ensure that their employees have every opportunity to get vaccinated,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021

— With files from Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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