“Al Doran literally changed the game of fastball when he got involved. He became the focal point for fastball news. The game has never been the same since.” – Blair Setford
Al Doran changed men’s fastball by by bringing news of the sport much faster to fans worldwide through the Internet. Courtesy Photos
RICHMOND HILL, ONTARIO – In the world of fastball, Al Doran is known as a visionary, a game changer, a technology expert. And if you were to fix a title on him, “Friend of Fastball,” fits pretty well.
For he certainly has been that and more; especially to the International Softball Congress (ISC) and legions of fastball fans worldwide.
His ball diamond exploits won’t win him much fame. He played fastball as a teenager and adult, and he coached boys and girls’ fastball in Toronto.
But off the field?
That’s where he’s made his mark. Doran has nearly 50 years of experience in the design, development and application of computer-based information systems.
Back in 1995, he saw that fastball had a major problem: It had very little Internet presence. So he took his professional expertise, turned to fastball and basically said: let me help you broadcast fastball news and market this wonderful sport on the Internet.
“I decided to do something because no one in the media, with the exception of Bob Tomlinson and his Fastpitch Chronicle was talking about the sport,” said Doran. “But the Chronicle often took months to get to subscribers and by then a tournament in your own town could be over, and almost no one knew about it.”
Doran sites a quote he’s never forgotten from fastball fan, Jack Ferguson. “He had a favorite quote he shared with the ticket sellers at all tournaments he attended,” Doran said. “He would say, ‘I found you, you kept it a big secret, but I found you.’ It was true. Good tournaments, if they were being held, were a state secret right through to 1994.”
Doran was now convinced that fastball needed media exposure. And the Internet was the fastest way, so he created alsfastball. Any news – from tournament and league listings and results, to player and team stories and more – can usually be found on alsfastball.
“When Al came along in 1995, news about fastball grew ten fold,” said Joe Todd, ISC Vice President of Communications and a regional commissioner. “When Al (started) his news listing, it closed the gap and time span from the event and the results reaching the fastball public.”
Today, alsfastball reaches over 4,000 fastball fans and 60 media outlets daily.
Recognizing a valuable resource, the ISC appointed Doran as its website director in 1999. In little time, he had iscfastpitch.com up and running. Information began flowing. Quickly. News about the ISC and fastball moved at a snail’s pace no more.
“Al noticed that it was extremely difficult to find out what was happening in the men’s fastball world,” said Ken Hackmeister, Executive Director of the ISC for 12 years, who retired after the 2012 World Tournament. “Al changed all that. We had tournament results and current news about our sport almost instantaneously instead of waiting for someone to snail mail the info to our people.”
As the ISC website director and managing alsfastball, Doran stays busy year-round. The news listings are constant. They pour in from throughout Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and South America – such as, “Niagara Falls playoffs,” “Boys of Summer 2013,” “ISC releases Final World Tournament Brackets”…
The ISC World Tournament. It’s Doran’s busiest time. Ten days in August of non-stop fastball action. And he’s right in the thick of it. He posts rosters of the 48 teams participating on alsfastball and the ISC website. He posts an official World Tournament Schedule and Results page, which he updates with scores and results soon after games are finished.
Through it all, he works side-by-side with ISC Statistician Gary Baughman. When Baughman finishes verifying a game’s results and stats, he passes it on to Doran, who posts it to the ISC website.
“Once the first pitch is thrown at the ISC World Tournament, our work really begins,” Doran said.
At the 2012 World Tournament in Midland, Michigan, a total of 171 games were played in the World Tournament, the ISC II Tournament of Champions, the Legends Tournament, and the Under-21 Men’s Championship. And Doran posted all those games’ results and stats on the ISC website.
Doran and Baughman worked from morning until late at night so thousands of fastball fans could find out how their favorite team and players were fairing.
Their relationship is one of mutual respect and admiration.
GREAT TIMES, GREAT MEMORIES“What Al has done for fastball is just amazing,” Baughman said. “I am proud to say that I know him and love working with him.”
Doran has covered 18 World Tournaments since 1994, missing only one. He’s watched hundreds of great athletes, dozens of the world’s best teams, and like every fastball fan, he has a few favorites.
Best pitcher: Darren Zack, Garden River, Ontario, (ISC Hall of Fame, 2010). “I have seen a ton of great pitchers in this game and like most, the one that stands out is Mr. Darren Zack,” Doran said. “He has been the best over the long haul, an inspiration to anyone in the game to watch play, and to sit and talk to; a true gentleman and the greatest fastpitch player of all time.”
Best position player: Brian Paton, Woodstock, Ontario, (ISC Hall of Fame, 2011). “(It’s) hard to pick just one,” he said, “but if I could watch a few games again, it would be just to see Brian Paton of the Toronto Gators… I loved to see him run the bases and take command of the outfield, no ball got past him…”
Best team: There have been many, and he names off Farm Tavern, Broken Bow (early years), Jarvis Travelers, County Materials, Kitchener Twins…but his favorite?
“Without a doubt the one I loved to watch the most were the Toronto Gators,” Doran said. “They lost on the final day to All-Car (Green Bay, WI) in the 1994 World Tournament. And I watched every one of their games in the 1995 World Tournament, including the game that moved them into the losers bracket. But what a week watching them fight their way back and win it all; two times world champions.”
And he’s also got a favorite World Tournament, 1994 in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. His very first. “It was the best ball, the best weather, friendliest people, best food and greatest music ever played at a World Tournament,” he said. “Absolutely the most memorable week in fastball ever…”
But through all the watching, all the note taking, and all the recording of tournament and game results, he never shrugged aside his commitment to the sport: Spreading the news to fastball fans everywhere as fast as possible.
“Al Doran literally changed the game of fastball when he got involved,” said ISC Regional Commissioner Blair Setford. “He became the focal point for fastball news. The game has never been the same since. He truly is a pioneer.”
During the fastball season, Doran travels to several Canadian and U.S. tournaments, such as the Kitchener Legends, Tavistock Cephas Roth Memorial, and the Erie (Penn) Tournament. He often sits behind the backstop typing game notes and results on his laptop, and soon they appear on alsfastball.
Along with enjoying the tournaments, he’s there for a purpose.
“These weekend tournaments are good warm ups for the big show (ISC World Tournament) in August,” he said.
But his service to fastball extends beyond the ISC: he served as media relations for the Canadian National Men’s Softball team at the 1996 International Softball Federation (ISF) World Championships; director of media and marketing for the ISC League of Eastern Canada. And in 1998, Doran was the team leader for the men’s national team during their trip to Valencia, Venezuela for the Pan American qualifier.
What keeps him motivated?
“Everyone has their own sport or hobby,” said Doran, who was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2008 in recognition for his service to the ISC and fastball. “Mine has been fastball for a very long time.”
And let’s hope it continues for a very long time.
To learn more about Al Doran’s work, visit Al’s Fastball
And visit the ISC website at ISC Fastpitch