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Five baseball teams composed predominantly of players from U.S. military communities started competing Tuesday in the eight-team European Regional Tournament’s Trans-Atlantic playoffs in Kutno, Poland.

The winner will advance to the Little League World Series in the mecca of Little League baseball — Williamsport, Pa.

Among the teams was the squad from Brunssum, Netherlands, which got off to a rough start, losing 9-3 Tuesday to an Austrian team made up mostly of U.S. embassy employees’ sons.

In other games, Saudi Arabia defeated Naples, Italy, 11-1, and Ramstein, Germany, beat Rota, Spain, 12-2.

The night game featured a team of military dependents from London, England, against Brussels, Belgium.

Italy, Spain, Germany and London are the other teams made up predominantly of Department of Defense dependents.

Each team is scheduled to play each other team once. The four teams with the best records will compete July 22 in the semifinals, with the two winners facing off the next day in the championship game and the trip to Williamsport.

Going on at the same time in Kutno are the European playoffs, featuring teams of European youngsters. The European winner also advances to Williamsport.

The boys are playing this year for a little more glory than normal.

For the first time, each of the 16 teams that qualifies for the trip to Williamsport will have at least one of its games televised nationally in the United States. The Trans-Atlantic winner will have two of its qualifying games shown live on ESPN2 — Aug. 16 vs. Canada and Aug. 19 vs. Asia.

One of the Team Netherlands players is 12-year-old Kirk Thomas, son of Maj. Wayne and Karen Thomas of Mönchengladbach, Germany, home of the Joint Headquarters, Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps.

Karen Thomas said the boys have been bagging groceries to raise money. The parents have given money to pay for train tickets, uniforms, laundry, food and entry fees.

“The kids have worked really hard to do this,” she said. “The beauty of it is to see your 12-year-old shouldering the responsibility of fund raising and working.

“These boys, I’m really so proud of all of them. You see what kind of man your son is going to grow into, and I saw a glimpse of that.”

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