Riccardo Fraccari elected first-ever World Baseball Softball president
The leader shares his vision, reaction following the historic Congress in Africa.
HAMMAMET, Tunisia -- On a continent where no baseball or softball world congress had gone before, the inaugural congress of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) elected Italy's Riccardo Fraccari to lead the world governing body as its first-ever sole president. (See full composition of WBSC Executive Board.)
Dating back to 2012, the 64 year-old Fraccari helped guide and deliver the birth of the WBSC as an interim co-president, alongside softball partner Don Porter. Now, Fraccari will serve as the lone WBSC president for an initial seven-year term that extends to 2021.
The WBSC Congress, which took place over the weekend in the North African city of Hammamet, also elected its first-ever executive board, formalizing a complex merger of baseball's and softball's two independent international sport federations -- a process that took nearly four-years of talks, legal consultations and planning to arrive at the day where only one official would lead as president.
The initial election term, which applies to the entire WBSC Executive Board, was extended beyond 2020 by the Congress in Hammamet ahead of the elections, in order to better guarantee the new president and board a sufficient time frame with which to formulate/implement a mid- and long-term growth plan for the young international federation that is now challenged with overseeing a truly global and fortified baseball-softball movement that possesses an estimated sixty million athletes and hundreds of millions of fans.
Following the next round of elections in 2021, voting will take place every four years, and always in the year following the summer Olympic Games.
The WBSC Congress also paid tribute to longtime softball leader, Don Porter, who steps down after over forty years of service to softball; during which time, he helped construct greater pathways for women to be better represented in sport and helped softball become an Olympic sport (1996-2008). The former softball leader leaves behind a forceful softball movement that is played in over 140 countries and is enjoyed by millions of athletes and fans.
-- Statements from new World Baseball Softball President Riccardo Fraccari --
1. BEING ELECTED
• "I am tremendously honoured to be entrusted by my peers to lead the WBSC. This role comes with an unprecedented level of responsibility and commitment -- it's an exciting and historic time, a 'new era', for baseball and softball."
• "I can already feel the weight of my shoulders."
2. INHERITING LEGACY
• "This union does not erase our past, but rather, it unites baseball's and softball's legacies."
• "President Porter's historic contributions leave an invaluable legacy that will forever be a part of softball and both the birth and growth of the WBSC."
• "I admire President Porter, and I plan to honour and help expand upon what he has built -- and all of us will continue to count on him to share his advice and knowledge."
3. FINALISING THE MERGER
• "While I am particularly proud of what we have accomplished to arrive to this historic day here in Africa, the vision and unity -- and opportunities -- that baseball and softball now share would not be possible without the guidance and support we received from the International Olympic Committee(IOC)and leaders like President Bach."
• "The IOC has been an invaluable resource throughout this entire process."
4. OLYMPIC GAMES RETURN
• "The WBSC will be at the full service of the IOC and Olympic Movement, and the WBSC will offer its total cooperation and partnership to the Olympic Family members to grow the Olympic Movement and the WBSC will be fully prepared for potential opportunities for baseball and softball to once again join the Olympic Family in the greatest and most important sports event in the world, the Olympic Games."
• "The WBSC will absolutely press forward to further globalize, commercialize and protect our exclusive properties, the national team event platforms -- which I anticipate will continue their increase in terms of market value and global reach -- in order to show what can be delivered to the Olympic Games, especially during this critical 'Olympic Agenda 2020' review. The WBSC will put its full trust and confidence in the IOC, and I hope -- and we are working very hard -- so that one day our athletes and our sport can be part of the Olympic Games."
• "As baseball and softball's global footprint deepens, I want to put the growth of our sport under the Olympic umbrella to help further enhance and sustain the uniqueness, year-round message, visibility and economic positioning of the Olympic Games for the collective benefit of the Olympic Family and its partners -- to help grow world sport together."
5. WBSC SPORT PLATFORMS AS ATTRACTIVE AND VIABLE PATHWAYS FOR WOMEN
• "My vision is for the WBSC to work with the IOC members, and with all the Olympic sports federations, to help empower young girls and women and provide them with equal opportunities to be included in and benefit from sport and in the Olympic Games -- and to help accelerate the 'modernization' of women's roles in sport and society."
• "I feel WBSC's sport platforms can significantly contribute to this important cause to tear down social barriers and challenge stereotypes of gender inequality."
• "Softball is increasingly popular as a non-contact team sport in Muslim and other cultures where dress codes and rules can be easily adapted for girls and young women from all backgrounds and faiths."
• "Certainly adding a sport to the Olympic programme that women across the world enjoy to play, like softball, will give women more opportunities to be empowered through sport, and will help to build the Olympic Games that are more relevant to young girls and women -- and will increase exposure of women sport heroes and icons across the world, inspiring and connecting with future generations of girls and leaders."
6. WBSC SPORT PLATFORMS AS ATTRACTIVE AND VIABLE PATHWAYS FOR YOUTH
• "Some of my first orders of business will be to ensure that the WBSC is at the forefront of youth sport by supporting the development of marketable youth engagement baseball and softball platforms like the already successfully established U-12 (11-12 y/o), U-15 (13-15 y/o) and U-18 (16-18 y/o) Baseball World Cups and the U-16 Softball World Cup, particularly as the Olympic Games shifts to a more youth-centered demographic."
• "The WBSC will also look into developing 'urban' and 'indoor' platforms to further baseball and softball's leading position in the youth sports market and increase our relevance to large populations in city areas where it would be extremely challenging to find open green areas where our traditional disciplines are typically enjoyed and practiced -- our friends in other international sports federations already have such platforms in place and are enjoying great success with adapting their sports to new environments."
7. GOOD GOVERNANCE
• "With the merger finalised and the executive board elected, we are more prepared than ever and we have solidified a foundation from which to provide the best opportunities and the best future for our athletes and sport disciplines."
• "The National Federations have sent a strong signal of unity in Tunisia, and I will do everything I can to keep their confidence and take this organization in a direction where it is to their benefit."
• "I have great confidence and trust in my fellow executive board members who were also elected in Hammamet -- they have a deep understanding of sport and have the best interests of our athletes and sports in mind -- there have been sacrifices made to get to this point."
• "This historic moment is a significant breakthrough for the governance, sustained growth and partnership of baseball and softball."
WBSC Executive Board
• President: Riccardo FRACARRI (ITA)
• Secretary General: Beng Choo LOW (MAS)
• Executive Vice President, Softball: Dale McMANN (CAN)
• Executive Vice President, Baseball: Israel ROLDAN (PUR)
• Treasurer: Angelo VICINI (SMR)
• Vice President, Softball: Meliton SANCHEZ (PAN)
• Vice President, Baseball: Reynaldo GONZALEZ (CUB)
• Athlete Representative, Softball: Maria SOTO (VEN)
• Athlete Representative, Baseball: To be elected by peers at 2014 Baseball World Cup event
• Member At-Large, Softball: Taeko UTSUGI (JPN)
• Member At-Large, Baseball: Paul SEILER (USA)
• Member At-Large, Softball: Tommy VELAZQUEZ (PUR)
• Member At-Large, Baseball: Ron FINLAY (AUS)