West Linn's Lexi Grein competes for Great Britain U22 softball team
West Linn's Lexi Grein has always worked at being great.
But she may not have expected to get there this way.
Grein, 17 and an incoming senior at West Linn High School, spent last week being just that — "great."
In this case, however, it wasn't just her prowess on the softball field that got her there. In this case, "great" refers to her participation in the 2019 Canada Cup as a member of the Great Britain U22 national women's fastpitch softball team.
While Grein herself is not English, her mother, Lisa Parnell, was born in Burnley, Lancashire — it's located 21 miles north of Manchester — and emigrated to the United States at age 13.
In the world of international sports, that's close enough to citizenship to get Grein a chance to play for Great Britain.
So, after trying out for the team in Florida in January, Grein won her berth on England's U22 national softball team; then, from July 9-12, Grein and the Brits took their best shots in the 11-team Canada Cup, held at Softball City in Surrey, British Columbia.
"The best part was just playing against the competitive teams," said Grein, who won first-team all-Three Rivers League honors as a third baseman for West Linn in 2019. "Most people don't get to do that, instead of just watching them on TV."
Grein's road to the Canada Cup began months ago during a conversation with her hitting coach, former University of Oregon player Hailey Decker. Grein learned that Decker had played for the Philippines' national team, noted her own family's English heritage and began asking questions.
"I wondered if there was a Great Britain national team, started doing some research, then talked to some (of the team's) coaches and asked a lot of questions," Grein said.
That set the table for her tryout in Florida and eventual selection to the U22 team in March.
"I definitely felt good about (the tryout)," Grein said. "I talked to a lot of the girls at the tryout and that made it easier to be hopeful. I definitely felt like I had a chance."
Grein, who has never been to England, then came together with her new teammates in preparation for the Canada Cup and began to get an idea of just how good the competition was going to be.
One of her teammates, Alana Snow, had just finished her sophomore season as a member of UCLA's national championship team. Two others just graduated from college after finishing their careers with Division I teams, while several others currently play for DIII college teams.
"They saw my potential to play for the U22 team," Grein said of her coaches. "They saw I was mature enough and ready to play at that level."
That said, the competition was extremely tough at the Canada Cup. Grein remembers very clearly her reaction when Great Britain took the field against Triple Crown Colorado and star Sis Bates on July 10. Bates is an All-American from the University of Washington who also won first-team all-Pac 12 honors and was named Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
"There were lots of teams with my college idols who I'd seen play on TV. At first, I was kind of fangirling it a little bit," she admitted. "But then I stopped and had to focus and get ready to play."
While Great Britain struggled to find success in the Canada Cup — the team went 0-6 despite close games against the Canadian Junior National team (a 4-3 loss on Friday, July 12), Canada's Calahoo Erins (a 6-4 loss on Thursday, July 11) and New Zealand (a 7-4 loss on Thursday, July 11) — and Grein didn't hit as well as she wished, she knew that the experience would make her a better player.
"I learned a lot about working hard and skill stuff from my coaches and my teammates," she said. "There were some of the girls who were throwing 65 (miles per hour) and you just don't see that in high school."
Grein, who plays third base for West Linn and saw time at third, first and the outfield for Great Britain, said there were defensive challenges in the Canada Cup, too.
"All the girls could hit the ball really hard, so every single play, you had to be focused," she said. "And with the (slap-bunters), you had to be ready because you couldn't tell when they were going to bunt."
Now, as she continues summer play with her club team, the Bat Company, in Utah this week, Grein reflected on her experience with the Great Britain team.
"I didn't hit the way I wanted to, so making defensive plays were the highlight," she said. "That and just talking to people, finding out what other people's college experiences were like."
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