State softball a family affair for Porter

STATE CENTER — At the start of every softball and basketball season, the Porter family gathers around the television to watch highlight tapes of Stacy’s glory days and Rodney’s buzzer-beater.

Ah, the memories.

For Georgia, their daughter, it’s more than that. It’s a reminder of the way things are supposed to be for Trojan athletics.

When the West Marshall softball team takes to the field in Fort Dodge tonight for the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament, Georgia — the team’s starting catcher — will be following in the footsteps her mother made 27 years ago. Stacy (Dammen) Porter was the starting pitcher for the Trojans’ highest-finishing softball team, a 1990 club that came in second after a 3-1 loss to West Des Moines Valley.

That contingent marked the seventh state softball qualifier for West Marshall in 15 seasons, starting with four-straight appearances from 1976-79, another in 1981 and again in 1987. The Trojans advanced to Fort Dodge again in 1996 and twice more consecutively in 2002 and 2003, and had not been back to Harlan Rogers Sports Complex until today.

“I’ve always had this vision in my head of what West Marshall softball is supposed to be,” Georgia said. “My mom played for Jim Steiert and was the starting pitcher in 1990 when they got second place to Valley. That was back before they had classes.”

The best the Porter family can find, Stacy and Georgia comprise the only mother-daughter tandem in Trojan history to have state softball in common.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Stacy said, “because West Marshall used to be a very dominant softball program and we’ve been dormant a while. These girls have played together since they were little, they’ve worked out the immaturities, and it’s just nice to see how they’ve grown so much.

“A lot of them know that West Marshall softball used to be a very dominant thing,” she paused. “I get choked up about it I guess.”

Georgia can relate, obviously. She said she immediately sought out her mother after the Trojans celebrated their regional final victory over Atlantic.

“That was really emotional because, after my friends, the first thing I thought of was my mom,” Georgia said. “I was just thinking that it was something you want to prove, like you’re trying to fill their shoes a little bit. Now I get my chance to do what my mom did.”

Both Stacy and Rodney were state runners-up during their junior years. The West Marshall boys’ basketball team, coached by Jim Dose, lost to Montezuma in the 1A championship game. (Marshalltown Community College baseball coach Rich Grife was an all-tournament player for those Braves).

“She’s relived all our memories for enough years, now she’s ready to make her own,” Stacy said. “We get them out every year. Every year of basketball we have to watch the tape. We have a highlight tape from the state softball tournament, we get that out almost every summer too.

“Winning is fun, it’s a blast, but you ask me about all those statistics and those aren’t the things I remember. Losing, yeah, it still hurts, but it’s about the memories and all the things they’re going to experience.”

Georgia has constant reminders, nevermind the old VCR tapes, of what her parents accomplished during their heydays. Her folks’ pictures are up on the walls lining the halls of the high school outside the gymnasium, and the trophies marking their athletic achievements sit in glass cases there too.

“It’s always been an expectation in my mind because you see those banners on the wall and your parents’ pictures are up on the hallway. Ever since the first day of high school, they’re right there,” Georgia said. “They’re right there on the first corner. I look up at them before games and it’s like my little prayer thing, which is cool. It’s just been building to this point and I’m just really excited to be a part of it.”

Stacy, who played softball at Simpson College, served as a volunteer assistant softball coach to Jordan Bentley but passed at the opportunity to take over as head coach when Bentley left for the head girls’ basketball position at Washington High School.

She called the pitches and relayed them to her daughter, the catcher, for a few years before giving way and letting her go it alone.

“It’s kind of ironic because my grandfather was a fastpitch pitcher, I was a pitcher, and Georgia’s grandfather — my dad — was a catcher, and now she’s a catcher,” Stacy said. “She started out doing the whole pitching thing and it just did not work out, but she loved touching the ball every pitch just like mom.

“It’s been interesting watching her grow up. She’s asked a lot of questions, she’s always been very intrigued about going to state, so it means a lot. She’s worked a lot — we’ve spent the last 13 years on a ballfield just about every single weekend — so this is quite a reward for her.”