Unity makes strength" claims new WBSC President Fraccari as leads baseball and softball into exciting era

By Gary Anderson at the Hotel Diar Lamedina in Hammamet

Riccardo Fraccari has been confirmed as President of the World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WSBC) here and, in his first address as leader, called for both sports to continue to work together and strengthen their bonds.

The Italian's election as WBSC President was a mere formality after running unopposed following American Don Porter's decision not to run last night, as exclusively revealed by insidethegames.

Fraccari and Porter had been acting as interim Co-Presidents of the WBSC since the merger of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and International Softball Federation (ISF) in December 2012.

Porter confirmed his decision to step aside to delegates here at the historic Congress in this Tunisian seaside resort, after which the 83-year-old received a standing ovation from the room in recognition of his 46 years as a leading softball official, including 20 years as ISF secretary general followed by 26 years as President.

Fraccari's first address majored on the need for unity between the two sports as they enter a new era together.

"Today is a day that will remain in the history of baseball and softball," began Fraccari, who is also President of the IBAF.

"Today, we finalise a process that started long ago, and begin a new one that is more challenging and complex, but I am convinced it will help the development and the spread of our sports, making them truly global.

"If initially the main objective was to return baseball and softball to the Olympic Games, we see now that the unification of baseball and softball also brings new opportunities in relation to the development of our two sports.

"An old proverb says, 'Unity makes strength' and this is certainly true in this case.

"To unite and integrate is to strengthen.

"Baseball and softball are played in nearly 200 countries around the world, and are represented by over 200 national federations in 141 territories.

"These are important numbers that show the universality and size of our movement."

Fraccari was keen to emphasise that, with both sports now under one body, expanding and developing into new markets was a key objective.

"We have to think about development in countries where we are not yet present, or where we have to elevate the technical level [in places like] the Middle East, and here on the African continent which hosts us today," he urged.

"I am confident that the synergy between baseball and softball will open new doors.

"Our very presence here today in Tunisia at the very first world baseball or softball Congress in Africa is a concrete example of that which is possible.

"And development in new territories will continue to be accelerated thanks to closer collaborations with our partners from the professional organisations.

"A greater diffusion of our sports, an increase of both male and female athletes and their technical improvement will also be to their advantage.

"And this process of growth will continue to evolve our sports in new, emerging and established territories."

Beng Choo Low, acting secretary general of the WBSC Interim Board, was also elected unopposed to the same position.

The Malaysian is also the current secretary general of the ISF.

San Marino's Angeolo Vicini has been elected as WBSC treasurer, having occupied the role on the Interim Board.

Vicini, former President of the San Marino Olympic Committee, is also the current treasurer of IBAF and was elected ahead of Rene Laforce, President of softball and baseball in Belgium.

American Paul Seiler, chief executive of USA Baseball, and Ron Finlay, a member of the Executive Board of Baseball Australia, were elected members-at-large for baseball.

Members-at-large for softball will be Puerto Rican Softball Federation President Tommy Velazquez and former Japanese softball coach Taeko Utsugi, who guided Japan to silver at Sydney 2000 and bronze at Athens 2004.

In addition the vice-President of baseball and softball positions, which are intended to be advisory roles have been given to International Olympic Committee (IOC) members Melitón Sánchez of Panama and Cuban Reynaldo Gonzalez.

Sánchez is on the Executive Board of the ISF while Gonzalez is the Executive Secretary of the Pan-American Sports Organisation (PASO).

Current Venezuelan national team player Maria Soto has been appointed as the softball athlete representative while a baseball athlete representative will be appointed by the end of the year, which will complete the first WBSC 13-member Executive Board.

Following the ratification of the WBSC 's new Constitution, it has also been agreed that those elected to positions on the new Executive Board will serve an initial seven-year term until 2021 in a move aimed to provide a stable platform for the organisation to continue with its campaign for reinstatement on the Olympic programme.

After 2021, elections for positions on the Executive Board will take place every four years.