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Hope is Edmonton Prospects & WCBL biggest ally these days

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Until about a month ago, the Edmonton Prospects appeared on the way towards a home-run and their most successful season in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL). The league itself looked a lot healthier than it has ever been.

“We were really looking forward – our 2020 roster was in good shape; we had a secure (one-year) lease on RE/MAX Field; our relationship and negotiations with the city had moved forward from what there was before.” owner-general manager Pat Cassidy

With the pending arrival of a 2021 franchise in Sylvan Lake, added to the growing optimism. Then, of course, came the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19, halted to everything. Now, among every other endeavour in this nation, it’s like a rain delay; a really long rain delay.

Edmonton Prospects run onto the RE/MAX Field in 1019. Will it happen in 2020? Photo Courtesy/Prospects

For how long? That has yet to be determined. A partial answer may take shape next Tuesday after a scheduled meeting to update all league principals on any potential opening dates.

Pre-coronavirus plans called for the Prospects to open at home with two tilts during the May 24 weekend, with firework after the first game. Now? Cassidy pitched, “the most likely expectation is a delay until June 16 or later.” Another batting lineup could look like a calendar to include openers on or about Canada Day, July 1. Cassidy explained, “We won’t know until some serious ideas are raised at our meeting, a lot of things remain for us to go through.”

“Sure, we have rosters ready – at least, most of us have – but we can’t possibly know if the signed players will be able to come in. Who knows whether they will have to be isolated for a period of time after they do come in?”

Will Edmonton Prospects “PLAY BALL” at RE-MAX Field in 2020? TBA Photo Courtesy/Prospect

All-star outfielder Travis Hunt and infielder Brendan Luther both had committed to return from last year’s roster, which survived an incredible run of bad weather before being eliminated in playoffs by the champion Okotoks Dawgs. “We have Hunt signed but we also have an agreement that he would be free to leave if the pros took him in the draft or signed him.” spit Cassidy.

Pencilled in on the pitching staff are (or were) Trever Berg and Jesse Poniewozik, who spent much of the 2019 season in the bullpen before both became essential as starters or relievers by playoff time.

Poniewozik, the young, promising Spruce Grove right-hander whose season ended when a wicked line drive hit him on the head and forced him out, for the brief remainder of the season.

Cassidy raised another very important question, surely to be considered by not just the WCBL, but all other leagues anxious to start; if you play, will they come? Will it be a full count or, “What size of crowds can we expect?

“I’m sure we all want to get going but I don’t believe we’ll find large groups of fans want to go into a ballpark and sit next to people without the six-foot separation (self-distancing).

“Questions, that’s all we’ve got so far.” Cassidy conceded.

The owner and GM competitive instincts surfaced after president Gary Hoover of the Northwoods League, which includes the Thunder Bay Border Cats and teams from North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, confirmed that plans to open on May 26 had been scrubbed. “We don’t have (the same page),” the Prospects operator said, partly in jest, after Hoover claimed “flexibility” could be a big help in designing the Northwoods League future.

To this point, the WCBL has not been forced to adjust to the loss of the Melville Millionaires and Yorkton Cardinals, who received one-year leaves of absence to consider whether to remain in a league that has grown stronger and more competitive. “It was difficult for them,” Cassidy is not yet calling them out, “Whatever the operators decide, I wish them luck.”

As for the positive outlook from a month ago when it looked like it was going to be a homer, with the runner circling the bases? Or will it be caught for the final out at the fence? A final out, before the first pitch of the season is even thrown? Time will tell, right now we are still in the middle of a rain delay.

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Alberta

Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

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CALGARY — The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks.

Alberta Education said Wednesday that it approved requests from public and Catholic schools in the city to make the move to online learning.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a release that some school boards are dealing with operational pressures due to rising COVID-19 cases.

“The safety of students and staff is my top priority, which is why I am responding to the boards’ requests and respecting their autonomy,” she said.

“By having a clear process in place, we are giving them flexibility to move to at-home learning when necessary.”

The province said it has not closed any schools for health reasons, and any decision to move a portion of a school to at-home learning is at the discretion of each school board.

About 19 per cent of schools have COVID-19 alerts or outbreaks. Nine schools are currently doing online learning.

Marilyn Dennis, board chair with the Calgary Board of Education, said in the release that the greatest impacts of COVID-19 have been in schools with higher grades.

Alberta’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, also said there has been a sharp rise in cases among school-aged Albertans.

The province, with 15,569 active infections, currently has the highest rate of active cases in Canada.

On Wednesday, the province reported 1,412 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths due to the virus. There were 420 people in hospital due to COVID-19, with 92 in intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Work on new Calgary Flames arena paused due to budgetary issues

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CALGARY — Work on a new arena for the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames has been put on hold due to budgetary issues. 

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation says it made a presentation to city council at a closed-door meeting earlier this week.

Corporation president and CEO Kate Thompson says there is a difference between the current $550-million budget estimate and the program requirements for the venue, which would replace the nearly four-decade-old Saddledome.  

Last summer, the corporation said it aimed to begin construction this August, with a targeted 2024 completion date. 

The city and Calgary Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Flames, agreed in 2019 to split the cost of the new building on a parcel of land just north of the Saddledome east of downtown.

Thompson says given the significance of the project, the parties have agreed to allow more time to resolve the challenges. 

“The decision to take this pause is the responsible and prudent approach to ensure we find the best solutions to move the project forward successfully, without incurring any additional costs on the project while these discussions progress,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

“The team is working collaboratively to find a suitable path forward.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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