While the Westport Little League team was making its improbable run to the World Series last August, Former Westport resident Beck Lewis -- age 11 at the time -- and his family uprooted their home across the Atlantic Ocean.
A year later, Lewis was a member of the Great Britain team that competed in the Little League Baseball Europe and Africa Regional Tournament. The event was held in Poland last week with the winner advancing to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Lewis played on Westport's U10 and U11 district teams the last two summers before the relocation. Although moving to a new country is never easy for a young adolescent, both Beck and father Dave Lewis explained that baseball helped Beck get accustomed to life in England.
"When you come over here, your life tends to revolve around baseball," Dave Lewis said. "For Beck it was an opportunity to get to know kids from not just his school but other schools; the league draws from a lot of schools."
Beck Lewis began playing baseball in the spring for one of the five majors teams in the London Youth Baseball League. Lewis was initially selected to the All-Stars team as a reserve outfielder, but quickly made a name for himself in practice and cracked the starting lineup.
"It took two-to-three practices to figure out he was a very good hitter, and a much better fielder than we thought," Great Britain coach Anthony Baranello said. "So we started using him at shortstop and he flourished."
Fourteen countries from across Europe participated in the tournament, while Uganda, the African Champion, was unable to compete as a result of visa difficulties.
Lewis batted seventh in the order as Great Britain won its first three games in Poland. After going 3-1 in pool play, Great Britain lost 6-4 to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The Czech Republic won the tournament to reach the World Series.
"If a few balls bounced differently we would have been in the finals," Baranello said. "I was very proud to coach Beck and the team. The boys' efforts were tremendous."
The experience for Lewis was not dissimilar to the teams and athletes that reach Williamsport. In Poland, the kids were housed in dorms separate from their parents, allowing interaction time between the teams off the diamond. The players traded pins of flags from each other's countries.
"The best part of the experience was meeting kids from all over Europe who play baseball and staying in the baseball dorms," Beck Lewis said. "We played ping pong with kids from Ukraine and basketball with kids from Spain."
The sport is quickly growing in Europe, according to Baranello. There are three competitive leagues in Great Britain that compete for a right to represent the commonwealth in Poland. Prior to a few years ago, there was only a single league. Many of the participants across Great Britain have American heritage.
The competitive atmosphere of playing in Fairfield County helped prepare Lewis for the environment of the international tournament. Three of the last four District 2 winners have reached the Little League World Series.
"We were surprised," David Lewis said. "Beck played some really good baseball in Westport; we were concerned. We were pleasantly surprised he got a unique opportunity to play these teams at a high level."