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Don Porter, key advocate for Olympic and collegiate softball, dies at 90

Don Porter, a leading figure in softball's inclusion in the Olympics and the development of the Women's College World Series, died Sunday in Oklahoma City. He was 90 years old.

Porter served as executive director of the Amateur Softball Association, now USA Softball and the sport's domestic governing body, from 1963 until 1997. He also served as president of the International Softball Federation from 1987 until 2012. He was then co-president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation from 2013 until 2014, after that organization merged the previously separate international governing bodies for baseball and softball.

His most well-known contributions to the sport came in the international realm. He worked toward softball's inclusion in the Olympics beginning in 1996 and then for its return in 2020 after the sport was eliminated from the quadrennial competition following the 2008 Olympics.

"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 CEO Craig Cress. "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."

At the domestic level, Porter was one of the biggest reasons the Women's College World Series takes place in Oklahoma City every year. He was executive director of the ASA when it relocated its headquarters to the Oklahoma capital in 1966. He was still in charge for the construction of what is now OGE Energy Field at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, which opened in 1987 across the parking lot from ASA headquarters on land leased from the city. Although rechristened when naming rights were sold, the stadium was once named for him.

Recently expanded to hold 13,000 fans to meet demand for softball's signature annual event, Hall of Fame Stadium has hosted every Women's College World Series but one since 1990. The lone exception was 1996, when the tournament was held in Columbus, Georgia, at the venue that would host softball's Olympic debut as the culmination of decades of lobbying by Porter and others.

As secretary general of the sport's international governing body at the time, Porter organized the first ISF World Championship in 1965. The event soon settled into a quadrennial schedule offset by two years from the Olympic schedule. But despite Porter's efforts, the International Olympic Committee didn't include the sport until 1996 -- 12 years after baseball appeared as an exhibition sport at the 1984 Olympics and four years after its medal appearance in 1992.

Five years after softball and baseball were eliminated from the Olympics, Porter's ISF merged with the International Baseball Federation in 2013. The new organization succeeded in getting both sports back in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo under new IOC rules allowing organizers a greater say in the selection of sports. Both softball and baseball are popular in Japan.