Don Porter, one of the key individuals who helped grow softball on the international stage, died June 7 in Oklahoma City. Porter, the longtime leader of the Amateur Softball Association, the International Softball Federation and the World Baseball Softball Confederation, was 90.
Porter was a board member of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1968–1998 and championed for the sport to be included on the Olympic program. He finally saw success when softball gained inclusion at the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta. It remained an Olympic sport until 2008 and will return at the upcoming Games in Tokyo in 2021.
“The WBSC and the entire softball community mourn the loss of Don Porter, the main architect of the internationalization of softball,” said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. “Through his vision, efforts and decades of service, softball became an Olympic sport for the first time in 1996.
“Our long lasting friendship is full of special memories. He helped to establish, build and name the WBSC. He will be remembered forever as one of the most influential leaders in the history of the sport of softball, which is now played in over 130 countries around the world. In fact, he launched World Softball Day in 2005 and it’s celebrated every year on June 13. Softball would not be returning to next year’s Olympic Games without the life and work of Don Porter.”
Porter became executive director of the Amateur Softball Association in 1963 and kept the position until 1997. In that role, he helped conceptualize and launch the Softball World Championship, which was first staged in 1965. He also became secretary general of the International Softball Federation in 1965, a position he kept until 1987. He later became president of the ISF, serving in that role from 1987–2013.
Porter also played a leadership role when the ISF merged with the International Baseball Federation to become the World Baseball Softball Confederation in 2013, serving as co-president of the new organization until 2014.
“Softball is saddened by the passing of Mr. Porter, a man who dedicated his life to globalizing and growing our beloved sport,” said WBSC Softball Chairman Tommy Velazquez. “He inspired all of us with his leadership, perseverance, courage and vision, and he gave us the opportunity to follow the path he created. He will be sorely missed by the softball community, and his legacy in the sport of softball will continue to burn bright and touch millions of softball players and many future generations. Modern softball history is directly linked with the name of Don Porter, the most important softball leader ever, alongside the inventor and early developer of the game, George Hancock.”
In 2017, Porter received the Collar of Honour, WBSC’s highest recognition of people who contributed to the foundation of the federation and its success.