World’s best hitter, inspirational captain, indigenous role model … these are just some of the accolades that have come Stacey Porter’s way over the course of her remarkable career.
Now we can add another one: 400-game player for the Aussie Spirit.
Porter reached that milestone last weekend in the final of the Asia Pacific Cup in Sydney, which the Spirit lost 3-0 to Japan.
She is only the second Australian player to chalk up 400 games, behind Natalie Ward, who played 429.
It’s an amazing achievement for a player who still remembers walking on to a softball field in Tamworth for the first time when she was five years old.
“I played a lot of different sports growing up,” Porter recalls. “But I enjoyed softball the most, more for the friendships than anything.”
By the time she was 16, Porter realised she had the ability to make a career out of softball. But even at that age she had no idea how successful she would become.
“It’s hard to put softball into that kind of perspective and think I’m going to play 400 games for Australia,” she says.
Porter’s career is not just about the number of games played. She helped Australia win a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and bronze in 2008. She has been a respected and admired captain at World Championships. And more than one coach of an opposition team has referred to her as the best hitter in the world.
That ability and dedication to the sport have taken the 183cm infielder all over the world, most notably Japan, where she has played professionally for the past 10 seasons and plans to go back again this year.
Playing for the SG Holdings Galaxy Stars, near Kyoto, Porter had no problems fitting in with the Japanese lifestyle and different approach to softball.
“I never found it difficult. They’re a pretty nice group of people and they look after us very well. The food is amazing, which is a bonus.
“The Japanese softball culture is very different. We train six days a week and only have one day off. It’s tough at times, but I certainly fit right in.”
Porter’s time in Japan followed a highly successful college career, where she was a standout for the University of Hawaii from 2001 to 2003. In her final year she set a school and conference record of 17 home runs and hit .479, unsurprisingly being named Conference Player of the Year and First Team All American.
Upon returning to Australia, Porter, who has indigenous heritage, became a role model for more than just her softball achievements. She spent time working with youngsters in remote communities, particularly in Western Australia, where she ran softball clinics and spoke to the indigenous players about sport and about life.
“The biggest thing for me is to see the smile on their faces when they just get out and throw a softball,” she says. “They don’t get many opportunities to play sport sometimes. I just try to have fun with them, and I tell them just to enjoy it, and if you love something enough, stick at it.”
Like every other player in the Aussie Spirit squad, Porter, 35, is hoping to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But first, the Australian team has to qualify. “The immediate focus is on the next World Championship. We’re not at the Olympics yet, so we aren’t looking too far ahead.”
Porter says the recent Asia Pacific Cup in Sydney was a huge success. “Absolutely. We haven’t had an international tournament in Australia with that many teams in my entire 400 games.
“I thought it was fantastic that we were able to get six countries coming across. We travel all around the world. I have played in all those countries, so it’s nice to return the favour and for them to see how beautiful Australia is. And if we can make it an annual event, that would be fantastic.”