Softball was developed from a game known as "indoor baseball" that was played in Chicago starting in the year 1887. It grew in popularity throughout the United States, but there were many different names and variations of rules for the game. In 1923, the first rules committee was established known as the International Joint Rules of Softball. Initially the sport was only played by men, but is now a very popular sport for women and in 1996 was even added to the Olympic Games for women's sports. The Olympics tends to be the biggest stage in which softball is played and was discontinued after the 2008 Olympics. In the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, softball will once again return. There will be six countries who qualify and competition will consist of round-robin style games, with an additional two games to decide bronze and gold. Japan and the United States have already qualified and there are still four remaining spots that will be decided based on three separate tournaments. The sport shares many common fundamentals and skills with baseball, but is typically played on a smaller field with shorter games as well. Dot Richardson is one of the greatest softball players of all time, and was recognized for her talent at the age of 13. She was the youngest player at the Women's Major Fastpitch National Championship and had an impressive 25 year career in the sport. USA Softball is the governing league for softball across the United States. Made up of over 2 million players, 230,000 teams, and 30,000 umpires. Richardson played many seasons within this league for the Raybestos Brakettes in Connecticut and even won two gold medals at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. Other notable women's softball players include:
For men Japan is currently the world's best country for softball followed by Argentina, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. The United States is currently ranked 6th in the world. Famous men's softball players include:
Within the sport of Softball there are four bases (1st base, 2nd base, third base, and home plate) and runners must step on each base as they advance from each one. The bases also must be advanced numerical order and cannot be skipped around. It is only until the runner is deemed safe by the home plate official is the team awarded a run. Multiple runs can be scored on the same play as long as all runners touch each base. Runners are also able to advance multiple bases on a single hit.
Each team is allowed three outs while at bat each inning. An inning is made up of two halfs, the top half of the inning is when the away team bats, and the bottom half of inning is when the home team bats. On out is when the opposing team catches a flyball, strikes out a batter, or throws out a runner. Each team wants to limit the amount of outs they get while batting, and get three outs as fast as possible while in the field.
Each at bat, a batter is allowed three strikes before they are called out. This is what is known as a strikeout and not the desired outcome for a batter. The umpire behind home plate judges whether a pitch is a strike or a ball. To be determined a strike a pitch must fall within the strike zone, an imaginary area over home plate in between the batter's knees and bottom part of the shoulders. If the batter swings at any pitch thrown and does not make contact with the ball that is automatically a strike as well. Players can strike out swinging (miss the ball, swing) and strike out looking (ref calls strike, don't swing).
Each at bat, if the pitcher throws 4 balls before getting three strikes or having the hitter hit the softball into play, the batter is awarded first base. If there is another runner already present at first base they are allowed to advance as well. Balls are pitches thrown outside of a batter's strike zone. For pitchers walks are never preferred, they usually mean longer at bats with more pitches. A walk is commonly also referred to as "base on balls".
In each individual softball game there are seven full innings played, and whichever team has the most runs at the end of the seven innings is deemed the winner. As stated earlier each inning has two parts consisting of three outs each, for a total of six outs in each inning. If there is a tie at the end of the seven innings depending on the league type, additional extra innings will be played to determine a winner.
Each team is allowed nine active players per game. There are nine positions within the sport of softball and these nine players must take up these positions. There is also a set batting order for these nine players for each game continuously cycles throughout innings. Teams may have additional reserve players which can be substituted into the lineup in case players or injured or the team needs a fresh batter.
Unlike in baseball pitchers in softball must throw the ball in an underhand motion, with hand below the hip. The pitcher must with both feet make contact with the pitcher's plate prior to throwing a pitch and no part of the wind up can involve any stopping or forward motion.
Foul balls are nay softballs hit out of regulation field of play. On the right and left sides of the field there is a foul line ball drawn in white chalk. Balls hit outside of this line are called foul and runners cannot advance on these balls. If a batter hits a foul ball, they recieve one strike, but cannot strike out on a foul ball. If the batter fouls a ball with two strikes, then an additional pitch is thrown and the strike count remains the same. If a foul ball is caught without hitting the ground the batter is out.
While advancing around all four bases, runners must stay within the designated base path or they will be called out. Between each base an imaginary straight line is drawn, runners are allowed to run up to three feet on either side of this line (base path). This gives players some space to avoid potential tags by fielding players while still containing them within the base path.
When a batter is hit by a softball thrown by a pitcher outside of the strike zone they are awarded first base. It does not matter what the strike or ball count is at, it's an automatic base. Runners on bases are also able to advance a base if necessary. Hitting a batter with a pitch is usually accidently on the side of the pitcher, but if it is repetitive in nature can be seen as poor sportsmanship. The batter should always try to avoid being hit by a pitch, but in many scenarios it is easier said than done.