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USA Softball celebrates the life of longtime softball leader, Don Porter (1930-2020)

June 09, 2020, 10:21 a.m. (ET)

USA Softball joins the softball community in mourning the loss of former Executive Director, Don Porter (Oklahoma City, Okla.), who passed away on Sunday, June 7, 2020. He was 90 years old.


"We are deeply saddened to hear about the loss of Don Porter, a visionary leader and advocate for the sport of softball,” said USA Softball Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Craig Cress. “His passion, dedication and perseverance to make softball an international leader in the sports community played an instrumental role in where we are today. His vision for our sport led to softball participation in over 130 countries around the world, and his impact and influence, not only for our organization but for the sport of softball as a whole, will continue to live on in every participant, administrator and fan. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Jean, as well as his family and friends from all across the world during this difficult time.”


Porter’s influence and contributions to the sport of softball extend across the globe. Beginning his career with USA Softball (formerly Amateur Softball Association) as a Commissioner of Southern California, Porter joined the National Office staff in May of 1962 before being appointed the Executive Secretary-Treasurer in January of 1963, a position which eventually merged into the Executive Director title. Porter served as Executive Director of USA Softball for over 35 years before retiring in 1997 and continuing his role as President of the International Softball Federation (ISF).


During his time as Executive Director, USA Softball had outstanding growth and development, including building of the National Office, the National Softball Hall of Fame and the historic USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City. Not only was Porter influential within the growth of USA Softball, he also helped conceptualize and launch the first-ever Softball World Championship in 1965, which led to the foundation of the ISF (now known as the World Baseball Softball Confederation).


Porter was known throughout the international sports community as a champion for softball’s inclusion in the Olympic Games and campaigned for more than two decades to get softball onto the Olympic program. That dream became a reality in 1991 when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially confirmed that softball would be played in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga. That dream lived on through four Olympic Games until a 2005 decision from the IOC to cut softball from the Olympic program following the 2008 Beijing Olympics.


Porter’s dedication, determination and tireless efforts resumed in a renewed effort to see the sport of softball reinstated into the Olympic Games platform, which once-again became a reality in 2016 when the IOC approved the inclusion of softball in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. For those efforts, Porter was awarded the Collar of Honour, the WBSC's highest recognition of people who contributed to the foundation of the WBSC and its success, in front of the full WBSC General Assembly in 2017. Porter was also honored in 2019 in front of the entire USA Softball Council to celebrate his legacy and service to the sport.


“I am saddened to hear about the passing of Don Porter," said U.S. Olympic Softball Team Head Coach, Ken Eriksen. "He was impactful not only on the history of softball in the United States but he influenced the spread of the game internationally. His tenacity in promoting softball to the International Olympic Committee for its inclusion in the games was rewarded in the announcement in 1991 that softball would be in the Games of Atlanta in 1996. I was happy to not only share that moment with him but also to spend time with him in Cuba in 1988 as part of a USA Select Team that opened the door for the 1991 Pan Am Games to be held on communist soil. Because of Don Porter, softball once again has been given the chance to be in the Olympics. He told me how proud he was of our program, and I made sure to have him address our team in Reno, Nev. this past November because context is important for our young people. USA Softball is a very close knit family. He was a class act and as a Military Veteran he took pride in doing things the right way. History should never forget those that paved the way for many to enjoy what they have today, on and off the field.”


Below are just some of the highlights of Porter’s storied career:

·      USA Softball Executive Director (1963-1997)

·      ISF Secretary General (1965-1987), President (1987-2013)

·      Co-President of the WBSC (2013-2014)

·      United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Board of Directors (1968-1988)