Softball is a bat-and-ball game similar to baseball played with a larger ball than baseball on a smaller field. This game was first created in 1887 in Chicago by George Hancock, who presented the first rulebook in 1889.
Softball is played all over the world at club levels, college levels, and the professional level. In this sport, two teams of nine players play against each other by scoring the most runs. The team that scores more runs at the end of the seventh inning wins the game.
The Fédération Internationale de Softball is the governing body of Softball. It was formed in 1952, it acts as a liaison between more than 40 softball organizations in several countries. Its headquarters is in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The main work of the federation is to coordinate international competitions and regular regional and world championship tournaments for men and women. In 1996 a women’s softball competition was added to the Olympic Games.
There are two types of softball: slow pitch and fast pitch. Slow-pitch softball is generally played recreationally, whereas women’s fast-pitch softball is a Summer Olympic sport and is played professionally.
Softball can be played by anybody irrespective of the age and gender of the players. Based on this, the dimensions of the field and equipment vary. Distances between bases (60 feet) are standard across varieties,
The range of the pitcher’s plate from home plate varies from 35 to 43 feet, and the home run fence varies from 220 to 300 feet away from home plate. The ball also varies between 11 and 12 inches (28 or 30 cm) in circumference.
Softball games are played at a faster pace than traditional baseball due to smaller fields, the bases, and the fielders being closer to home plate. Softball is pitched fast underhand using a windmill arm motion, but in baseball, the ball is pitched overhand. The infield of a softball diamond is dirt, without grass around the pitcher’s plate. The size of the ball used in softball is larger than a baseball.
Earlier this game was known as “kitten ball,” then changed to “diamond ball”, “mush ball” and “pumpkin ball”. Finally, the sport got its name “softball” in 1926 because the ball used in the game is a softball.
The first Softball world championships took place in 1965 for women and one year later for men. Softball (for women only) was also a part of the Olympics from 1996 to 2008 but was removed later. This game was featured at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for the first time since the 2008 Summer Olympics
Types of Softball
This type of Softball is played on a fast pitch with nine players per team. Bunting and stealing in the game are permitted in the game.
This type is a slowed-down version of the fast-pitch softball which restricts the windmill windup of the pitcher.
Slowpitch type is played with 10 players per team and the ball measures 11-12 inches in circumference and must arch on its path to the batter.
Players are known for their playing positions on the field. The defensive positions are pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder.
The size of the softball varies according to the player’s age of the participants.
- The circumference for fastpitch for adults is 12±0.125 in (30.5±0.3 cm), with a mass between 177 and 198 g,
- For children under 12 circumference is 11±0.125 in (27.9±0.3 cm) with a mass between 166.6 and 173.6 g.
- A 12-inch circumference ball is generally used in slow pitch.
- A 16-inch ball is used for wheelchair softball.
- The ball is covered with two pieces of leather or a similar synthetic covering
- The softball bat has a narrow barrel and a long body
- The bats are made of wood, aluminum, or composite materials such as carbon fiber.
- Sizes not more than 34 inches (86 cm) long, 2.4 inches (6 cm) in diameter, and 1.1 kg (38 ounces) in mass.
- The standard barrel is narrow in diameter for both slowpitch and fastpitch which is 21⁄4 inches. Players can use a smaller barrel, which reduces mass and allows higher swing speed.
- Defensive players wear fielding gloves, made up of large, cushioned leather or similar material.
- The catcher’s glove is known as Mitt which doesn’t have finger holes and has a longer pocket
- All gloves have webbing between the thumb and forefinger, known as the “pocket”. No glove larger than 14 inches (36 cm) can be used in ASA (American Softball Association) sanctioned play.
- The shape and size of a player’s glove vary for different positions on the field.
- The catcher’s and 1st baseman’s pockets are larger than other gloves which are more padded
- The outfielder’s glove is smaller than the catcher’s, which is 12 inches to 13 inches for fast-pitch softball and 12 to 15 inches for slow-pitch.
- The infielder’s glove is the smallest, which is 11.5 inches to 13 inches.
- The pitcher’s glove is 11.5 to 12.5 inches for fastpitch or 11.5 to 13 inches for slow pitch
- No part of the glove should be the same color as that of the ball, including seams.
- Helmets are compulsory to wear by batters and runners.
- Helmets must have two ear flaps, one on each side to protect the side of the head
- Damage or altered helmets and cages are forbidden.
- In NCAA fastpitch softball, a face mask or a cage is optional but a helmet, chest protector, and mask are a must for youth levels
Shoes with cleats or spikes are allowed to wear by players. Cleats must not extend 19mm in length. Metal cleats are prohibited.
Softball players wear lightweight short-sleeved jerseys and sliding shorts that protect the upper thighs when sliding into a base. Some male players wear long, baseball-style pants.
- The playing area of softball is divided into two parts fair and foul territory. The fair territory consists of infield and outfield and the area beyond the outfield is foul territory.
- The pitching distance for men is 46 feet and for women 43 feet
- The infield playing area is diamond-shaped with 60 feet baselines which consist of first, second, and third bases, the home plate, and the pitcher’s mound from where the pitcher throws the ball which is in the middle of the infield.
- The mound is a flat circle with 8 feet radius
- The home plate has a 5-sided slab of rubber
- The other three bases are kept in counterclockwise order from the home plate
- The outfield is made up of grass or artificial turf. This area is used by outfielders.
- Two foul lines are marked from the back home plate to the foul poles at the edge of the outfield.
- If the ball is hit outside the foul lines it is considered a foul
Pitchers throw the ball at different velocities, trajectories, and arm angles to confuse the batter in various ways. The main types of pitching are the fastball, changeup, and curveball.
Fastball– It is the most common type of pitch thrown in baseball at great speed.
Changeup– In this ball is thrown like a fastball but arrives more slowly to the plate.
Curveball– This type of pitch is with topspin, which generally breaks or curves downwards unexpectedly.
The batter performs three main steps:
Stance– At the home plate batter stands with legs apart to hit the ball holding both elbows up and looking forward.
Swing– She strides forward into the pitch and rotates her hips to generate power.
Follow through– As she hits the ball she follows through, by completing the swing.
All decisions about plays are made by umpires which are considered to be final.
The number of umpires in a softball match varies from a minimum of one to a maximum of seven. One at the home plate, three base umpires (first, second and third base), and three positioned in the outfield. Most fastpitch games use only two umpires, one as a plate umpire and one as a base umpire.
The duties of officials are to look after the beginning and end of the game, enforce the rules of the game, make all kinds of judgment calls on the play, and handle disciplinary actions.
Pitcher – Stands on the pitching rubber
Catcher – Stands behind home plate
One at 1st Base
One at 2nd Base
One at 3rd Base
Shortstop – Stands between 2nd and 3rd base
Left Fielder – Stands at outfield between 2nd and 3rd base
Center Fielder – Stands at outfield behind 2nd base
Right fielder – Stands at outfield between 1st and 2nd base
There is a batter’s box on both sides of the home plate. The batter has a choice to use the side of the plate to hit from, both of her feet must stay inside the box. Batters attempt to score runs by hitting the ball when it’s pitched. The batter may continue to hit the ball in fair territory, get 3 strikes, or get 4 balls.
Strike: There is an area called the strike zone between the batter’s shoulders and knees. A “strike” is called when the batter:
Not able to swing at a pitch that crosses the plate in the strike zone, fails to swing at a pitch and misses, then hits the ball out of bounds with fewer than two strikes against them. After getting three strikes, the batter gets out, and the next batter comes up to the plate.
A pitch is a ball when delivered outside of the strike zone that is not struck at by the batter. If a batter receives 4 balls, she gets to walk to first base.
When a batter hits a ball in fair territory she can run to first base, or walk after 4 balls, or be hit by a pitch, then the batter becomes a runner. She can overrun 1st base when she hits the ball as long as she turns out of bounds after she passes the base. But if she tagged while off the base, she is out.
A team becomes the winner when it scores the most runs. A run is counted or scored when a base runner rounds all of the bases by stepping on each one.
If the batter hits the ball over the outfield fence in fair territory, it is considered a home run and she has a free trip all the way around the bases until she crosses home plate.
- A batter is out when they hit the ball and it’s caught while it’s in the air (even if it’s caught in foul territory) or gets 3 strikes.
- A runner is out when they hit by a batted ball while off a base or a fielder tags her with the ball when they’re not touching a base
- When 2 players get out on the same play is double play
Steal – When a runner runs to the next base without the ball being hit but the runner may not leave the base until after the pitcher releases the ball. The runner gets out if she is tagged with the ball before reaching the base.