One month since Don Porter's passing marked with tree ceremony at new WBSC Headquarters

One month since Don Porter's passing marked with tree ceremony at new WBSC Headquarters
The Olympic Family remembered the father of international softball, who passed away a month ago in Oklahoma City, USA.

Today, 7 July, marks one month since the passing of Don Porter, the main architect of international softball and one of the most influential individuals in the sport. The former International Softball Federation (ISF) President and World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Co-President passed away on 7 June. He was 90 years old.

On Monday 6 July, on the occasion of the official inauguration of the new WBSC Headquarters in Pully, Switzerland, the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach joined WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari in planting a tree - a magnolia evergreen - to honour Porter’s memory and legacy.

“I cannot think of a better example of an advocate for a sport, and if I could summarise Don in three words they would be: integrity, passion, commitment,” expressed President Fraccari. “Don will be forever credited as the architect of international softball. His passion, commitment and endless drive to growing the sport laid the strong foundations upon which our federation is built today.” 

Softball World and Olympic Community mourns loss

Tributes and condolences poured in from the Olympic Movement and the baseball-softball community for Mr Porter, who played a pivotal role to bring softball to the Olympics in 1996.

IOC Members mourned his demise through formal letters and social media.

Aruban Nicole Hoevertsz, Member of the IOC Executive Board and Head of the Coordination Commission for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, said in a condolence letter:

“Coming from a Caribbean island, embedded in a true baseball and softball loving region, I admired and had great appreciation for Don’s many efforts in promoting softball all over the world. On numerous occasions we discussed possible ways to develop the sport of softball, trying to ensure its continued and increased presence in international events, in particular at the Olympic Games. I respected Don as a sincere person and a true friend of sports and the Olympic Movement.”

Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita, who became an IOC Member in January 2020, also sent a condolence message:

“We all know he had worked so hard to promote softball and baseball into the Olympic Games. Because of his strong dedication, now as an additional sport for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Baseball and Softball is included, which will surely contribute to the large success for the Olympic Games.”

Philippine Francisco J. Elizalde, Honorary IOC Member, joined the voices of sorrow recognising the key role Porter played in softball history: “To me Don not only was a good friend and great person but also Mr. Softball personified since thanks to his efforts throughout the years softball has become the international sport that it is.”

IOC Member and WBSC First Vice-President Beatrice Allen expressed via Twitter: “RIP dear Colleague and Friend, Don Porter. My condolences to the Porter family and the WBSC and Olympic and Sports family.”

The President of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee and IOC Member, Kee Heung Lee, also mourned the loss of Don Porter. He said through a letter: “We will remember him for his outstanding achievements at the Olympic Movement. Mr. Don Porter also greatly devoted himself to the development of softball and baseball, his many contributions to the international sports movement will not be forgotten.” Porter, who served in the Army during the Korean War (1951-52), was awarded the Korean War Medal in 2001 by the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Korea. 

The legendary softball leader was also remembered by HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, President of the Jordan Olympic Committee: “Don was an ever-present fixture at [Olympic] meetings, and l was struck by his passion and tenacity in trying to get softball back onto the Olympic programme from 2005 onwards. But he always campaigned with dignity, integrity and humour; he was always a true gentleman despite the knockbacks he received.”

Dominican Luis Mejía Oviedo, IOC Member and Dominican Republic Olympic Committee President, also remembered Porter on World Softball Day: “On this 13-June, World Softball Day, I take a vow of peace to the soul of Don Porter, legendary past ISF President who recently passed away. He headed Softball into the Olympics. It is the sport that opened the borders of my sports path.”

A condolence message was also sent by Tsunekazu Takeda, former Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) President and IOC Member: “He was known for his passion towards softball, his strongest faith and understanding of the importance for softball to be included in the Olympic Games. It was with his dedication and efforts, that we can say, softball has been successful promoted all around the world.”

Porter served six terms on the executive council of the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and was also on the executive council of the Association of Summer Olympic Sports Federations (ASOIF). Both organisations sent condolence letters after his death.

“Former President Don Porter will be remembered for his long and distinguished career and for his commitment to the development of softball. On behalf of GAISF I extend our deepest sympathy to former President Porter’s family and friends at their time of bereavement,” stated GAISF, in a letter signed by President, Raffaelle Chiulli.

ASOIF President, Francesco Ricci Bitti, expressed: “He was a very composed and gentle member of the ASOIF family for many years. He will be remembered as the driving force who brought softball to the Olympic Games in 1996 and then favored the merging of softball and baseball, bringing them again to the Olympic program in Tokyo.” The letter was also signed by the organisation’s Executive Director, Andrew Ryan.

Softball will be featured at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. The ISF was a founding member of the International World Games Association (IWGA). The Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee lamented the demise of the legendary softball leader: “The World Games 2022 shares our deepest condolences with the international softball community. Don Porter’s legacy extends across the globe and he will be greatly missed.”

More of the baseball-softball community also had heartfelt words for the former softball leader.

WBSC Secretary General and Softball Asia President Beng Choo Low posted on Twitter: "Devastating news of the passing of one of WBSC’s greats, Don Porter. We're forever indebted, Don, for all u have done. We'll miss you greatly. RIP. Condolences to Jean and loved ones."

Gabriel Waage, Softball Europe President, said: “Don Porter was a leader who took the vision of developing softball from a local continental sport in the USA to a thriving world international megasport, ending up with it being included in the Olympics.”

Robert Smith, former International Baseball Federation (IBAF) President, who worked tirelessly along with Porter to get baseball and softball into the Olympics, summarized baseball-softball community feelings with the loss: “I don’t believe that I know of any sport leader anywhere who worked harder than Don Porter to advance his sport of softball nationally and internationally. He was a man of impeccable integrity and he will be missed.”