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Articles related to site updates and possibly some ranting.
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Don't Hit the Forklift
There is this warehouse. A small warehouse. Long and narrow and full of construction materials. There are stairs that go to a mysterious second floor. There is a small fridge at the front with diet cokes and bottles of water. Along the wall adjacent to the entrance are 14 hooks. A bit deeper in the warehouse is a light orange forklift, its 2 prongs hover about an inch off the floor.

We enter the warehouse at 9pm. It is very cold. -29 degrees in Canada. -20 in the US. It has been very cold so far this winter. It has also been very COVID. The lights come on automatically. It is quiet and the warehouse smell reminds of my days working for my father's auto parts company as a teenager. The smell of grease and hard work. The only sound missing is the air compressor tools removing sockets from engines and alternators.

I'm with my daughter. She is 17. She should be at a party. She should be texting her friends and OMGing. She should be anywhere but here at this warehouse. She takes off her heavy winter jacket and for a while we leave our tuques on as we try to warm up. She hangs her jacket on one of the 14 hooks. She chooses the #60 and then takes her glove out of her #60 bag.

We warm up at first with some throwing. We find the longest 2 points in the warehouse. We start close. Warming up, before moving back. My back is now against a garage. Her back is against a wall of 2x4s. The throws are hard and crisp. The sounds of ball in glove echo through the grease smell and the thick cold. Our bodies find some heat.

I pick up a bat and I hit her hard grounders along the cement floor. It picks up speed when it hits the drain but it doesn't phase the middle infielder as she scoops them up fearlessly. She fires bullets back. I barely have to move. She moves to her left now so that she can field the ball on her backhand and we practice that for a few minutes. Maybe 10. We conversate about softball along the way.

COVID has limited her ability to practice. The government banned sports. After a few weeks completely banned, now her team can practice with only 2 players and a coach. No full team workouts. The government is protecting our fragile health system. Don't believe what you hear about socialized medicine. THIS is what happens when government runs your medical system...I am learning. Her team is training for Canadian Nationals and the Canada Games (Canadian Olympics). She is going to play college softball in the US next year. But she hasn't done an infield since October. She hasn't hit off a live pitcher since October.

We head back to the wall of 2x4s and we release the net. The batting net. The batting cage. we pull it as far it goes and proceed to tie it to strategic anchors along the walls. This REALLY is a warehouse. This is NOT a training facility. A father of a girl on the team has allowed us to use it. Allowed the team to use it. And now, the entire program uses it too. The younger provincial teams. The older team. 2 players at a time. They practice here because nothing else is open. Outside-the-box thinking to skirt the rules. Its bad for softball but imagine hockey. Winter is their season. 1.5 lost seasons for future NHLers. You could blame COVID or you could blame our government. Its up to you.

The net is pulled back and my daughter settles into the turf area with the home plate attached. I hide behind a bownet and grab a bucket of softballs and proceed to launch pitches at her. "Don't Hit the Forklift" I warn her. The forklift is positioned at third base. A net protects it but I'm not confident a hard liner won't still push the net back into the lift. "Wait on the ball. Hit it to CF." I coach her. I'm not her coach. I'm not a coach in any way. I know less than her. But I'm a parent. If you're a parent of an know.

She grounds a few balls to shortstop, to the forklift's left. One hits a plywood wall and makes a sounds like a hockey puck hitting the boards of an outdoor rink. The ball ricochets back to me and hits my chair. "Center Field!!!" I yell. She takes a deep breath and adjusts her timing and she waits on the ball a bit more and then proceeds to hit about 32 straight liners that spray from left-center to right-center of which I imagine 18 of them dropping for singles with another 10 for extra bases. The remaining 4 mussssstttt be diving catches. I nod my head after each good contact. She never swings and misses. Each contact is solid. The conversation flows above the swings. I don't know how this happened. How she got this good. How she got to be a college athlete playing at the highest level in Canada and about to go play in the US.

The last ball is grounded back to the bownet. We must finish on a high so I grab 3 stray balls and toss her 3 more. The first heads towards right-center but hits the side wall and deflects around the bownet and hits me in the chest. "I'm good" I yell at her. It hurt. But I throw the last 2 and she drills 2 hard to CF and we toss the balls back into the bucket. We return the net back to the 2x4s and we slide the bownet along the wall, opposite the forklift.

And as we have a last sip of water before we head back into the frozen tundra of a dark Quebec, I realize that she is going to play college ball because of moments like this. When COVID is against you and the winter is against you and the government is against you and even your god given small stature is against you. When you are offered a warehouse to do extra work to hone your skills, you take it. You put the work in while others are OMGing.

She takes her jacket off the #60 and I look at the other 13 hooks. #4 (Power-hitting catcher) #12 (Power-hitting CF/1B) #22 (Buff Baby) #36 (Happy Feet) #41 (The Beast Pitcher) #44 (The leadoff) #63 (Game-Face) #64 (The Ace) #66 (The Shortstop) #76 (The Texas Pitcher) #79 (The Utility Player) #88 (The sweet swinging lefty) and a giant nail off the side of the block of wood with the coach's name. Each hook has a number. 6 of those numbers are committed to play in the US. Possibly more. A giant banner with motivational words in both French and English perpendicular to the garage. A warehouse turned into a training facility because when the world tries to shut you down, you find a way. Its the only way to live.

And in the end, she didn't hit the forklift.