What is Softball?

softball

Softball is played very similar to baseball in that it is a bat and ball sport. The biggest difference between the two is that softball involves a bigger ball and softball pitchers pitch underhand. There are two different types of softball: fast-pitched and slow-pitched. Fast-pitched is typically played at the collegiate and professional level. While men and women play softball, the sport is considered to be played predominantly by women.


History

softball history

Softball started in the United States in 1887 as an alternative to baseball. Known as "indoor baseball," the sport was invented by George Hancock and was played with a boxing glove and broom handle. The sport was originally played by men until 1933 with the formation of the Ametuer Softball Assosciation (ASA). The name soon changed to softball and grew in popularity. Softball was first added to the 1996 Summer Olympics but was soon taken off in 2012.

Playing Surface

Softball Diamond

Softball is played on a softball diamond. The field is smaller than a baseball field with a distance of 60 feet between the three bases. The pitcher mound is typically 35 to 40ft away from home plate. The foul line is two lines from home plate to third base and first base. If the ball is hit behind this line, it is a foul ball. The infield is made up of dirt, while the outfield is grass. Unlike baseball, the pitching surface is flat.

Equipment

softball equipment list

There is a lot of equipment involved in softball. Similar to baseball, equipment is used to protect the safety and protection of players. Softball catchers wear specialized equipment that involves extra padding to protect against fast softballs. Some essential equipment includes:

  • Bat
  • Glove (or "Mitt")
  • Helmet with face guard
  • Hat
  • Batting Gloves
  • Cleats
  • Jersey
  • Pants

Gameplay

Softball Gameplay

Each softball team is made up of nine players. A softball game is made up of seven innings. Each inning includes a top and bottom half in which each team has a chance both at bat and in the field. On offense, players take turns trying to hit the ball that is thrown to them with a bat. When the ball is hit, the player attempts to advance to all three bases in a counterclockwise fashion and make it back to home plate. The defending team attempts to field the ball in order to stop the opposing team from making their way through all the bases. A point is scored when a player makes their way around all the bases. The goal of the game is to score more points then the opposing team before the seven innings are over.

Positions and Roles

softball positions

There are nine positions in softball. These positions are made up of infielders and outfielders. The infielders are the basemen, pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. In the outfield, there are three outfielders. On offense, the batter attempts to hit the ball that the pitcher throws. Another important role is the coach along with the referees who call the game.

Rules and Regulations

softball rules and regulations

There are many rules to the sport of softball. Pitchers are only allowed to take one step forward and must pitch underhand. A thrown "strike" in softball is when either the batter does not swing at a pitch in the strike zone, or he or she swings at a pitch and misses. A batter has three strikes before they are out. A "ball" occurs when either the ball is thrown outside of the strike zone or the batter hits the ball behind the foul line. If four balls are pitched, the batter gets to freely walk to first base.

On defense, the objective is to get players out by catching the ball and either tagging the player or throwing it to the appropriate base before the runner gets there. The runner can also get out if the ball they hit is caught while it's in the air. The inning is over when the defense makes three outs.

Referees and Officials

softball referees and officials

In softball, referees are called umpires. Typically there is an umpire at all four bases, as well as a line umpire. An umpire calls the outs of the game and determines what counts as a strike. The umpire also must watch the pitcher to make sure they follow the pitching rules. Umpires usually wear black pants with a light blue or black shirt to distinguish themselves from the players.

Lingo and Terminology

softball lingo and terminology

Just like baseball, there are hundreds of different words and phrases that softball players use. The terminology is unique and describes the types of plays that happen in a game.

Grounder: Ball is hit on the ground.

Fly Ball: Ball is hit in the air to the outfield.

Double Play: Defense gets two outs in one play.

Tag Out: Runner is tagged and not on a base.

Line Drive: Ball is hit parallel to the ground.

Sacrifice: An intentional out to move a player to the next base or score.

Pop Up: Ball is hit in the air to the infield.

On Deck: The next batter in the line-up.

Coaching

softball coaching

A softball coach must be very knowledgeable about the game. A coach is responsible for training the players, knowing the rules and making the fielding decisions for games. A coach needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of the players in order to make a successful team. Sometimes a coach is responsible for recruiting new players too.

Skills and Techniques

softball skills and techniques

There are many skills that a player can improve on to help their performance. Improving on these skills takes time, effort, and patience. Softball players can work on skills like baserunning, pitching, throwing, and catching. A softball player's physical fitness is also important and can help their in-game performance.

Strategy

softball strategy

Many softball teams use a variety of different strategies depending on the situation and performance of the opposing team. Pitchers can throw different types of pitches in an attempt to confuse the batter and get them out. A batter can "sacrifice" in which they purposely hit a ball that will get them out in order to advance a player on a base. Coaches communicate these strategies with a series of unique hand signals that are different to each team.

Drills

softball drills

There are many different drills that players and teams can use to help their performance. Many of these drills focus on fielding skills, which are essential to getting the opposing team out before they can score. Other drills can help improve hitting performance, by helping players focus on their technique and power.

Olympic Softball

olympic softball

Softball was first introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. However, softball was removed for 2012 and 2016 because it was thought that the sport lacked international popularity. Softball was added back for the 2020 games. Outside of the United States, softball is extremely popular in countries like Japan and Australia.

Softball Brands

softball brands

There are many softball brands that sell equipment at a range of different prices and qualities. Some specialize in bats and gloves while others specialize in uniforms and apparel. These brands also sell protective gear that some players choose to wear like mouth guards and face guards. Here are some of the most popular softball brands.

  • Rawlings
  • Wilson
  • Mizuni
  • Worth
  • Franklin

Softball Youth Organizations

softball youth organizations

Youth leagues and organizations are a starting point for many young athletes. Organizations range from recreational to more competitive leagues. In youth softball, double AA leagues are mostly recreational and have many starting players. Triple AAA leagues are more competitive. The Little League Softball World Series is known as the highest level of competition for youth softball athletes.

NAMETYPE
Little League Softball Recreational and Competitive Youth League
Premier Girls Fast-Pitch Competitive Youth League
USSSACompetitive Youth League

Softball Coaches

softball coaches

Softball coaches are an essential part of the game. Many of the most notable softball coaches come from the collegiate level and have prior softball experience. These coaches are known for building some of the top teams in the United States. Below find three famous softball coaches.

NAMETEAM
Mike Candrea University of Arizona Softball
Kelly Inouye-Perez UCLA Softball
Ken Eriksen Team USA Softball

Softball Players

softball players

There are hundreds of talented softball players who play on all levels from collegiate to professional. They are known for their hitting and fielding ability and some are recognized as highly talented pitchers. Some of the most well known softball players are:

NAMETEAM
Jessica Mendoza Stanford University
Jennie Finch University of Arizona/ Chicago Bandits
Dot Richardson UCLA
Tanya HardingAustralia Softball

Softball Leagues

softball leagues

There are many different softball leagues around the world. The most notable softball league is the NCAA in which college level players compete in high level competitions. Professional Softball Leagues are less common and lack in popularity. Many collegiate softball players go on to play professional softball.

NAMETYPE
NCAACollegiate League
National Pro FastpitchProfessional League
Athletes Unlimited SoftballProfessional League

Softball Teams

softball teams

Softball teams are composed of not only the players, but the coaching staff and administration. The most famous softball teams are known for their communication and skills. These teams have gone on to win multiple championships in their league.

NAMETYPE
USA SoftballOlympic Softball
Cleveland CometsNational Pro Fastpitch
UCLA BruinsNCAA Division 1 Team
University of Oklahoma SoonersNCAA Division 1 Team
Chicago Bandits National Pro Fastpitch

Softball Events

softball events

Softball events often happen in season, which at the collegiate level is from February to early June. These championships and games showcase some of the best softball with some of the most notable athletes. Below find two of the most popular softball events.

NAMETYPE
Cowles Cup National Pro Fast-Pitch Championship
Women's College World Series NCAA Collegiate Championship

Softball Tournaments

softball tournaments

Youth tournaments happen at all different levels and occur all over the country. These tournaments can range from U10 to the high school level. Club softball teams depend on these tournaments to go up in the national rankings. The following are some of the most well-known and competitive tournaments.

  • Little League Softball World Series
  • PGF Nationals

Softball Books

softball books

Softball books cover many topics from how to improve the stories of famous players. There are also many books for young players to learn more about the sport. Many of the most famous softball books are written by former softball players. Below find a list of some softball books:

NAMEAUTHOR
Throw Like a Girl Jennie Finch
Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the GameErica Westly
Softball Switch Up Jake Maddox
You Throw Like a Girl Rachele Alpine

Softball Websites

softball websites

Softball websites range from sites made to purchase equipment to sites with a team's ranking and overall performance. Some of these sites are by official leagues while others are meant for youth players to improve their performance.

NAMETYPE
Softball.comEquipment
Justbats.com Tips, Tricks & Drills
Profastpitch.comNPF Website

FAQ

What is Softball?

Softball is a sport that has some similarities to baseball. The game is played on a diamond pitch with a large yellow ball. Unlike baseball, pitchers throw underhand.

Why is a softball called a softball?

The sport is called softball because the ball was originally soft when first invented. However, today the ball is hard.

Is softball a sport only for girls?

No, softball is not only for girls. While the sport is often played by women, there are many male softball teams across the country and world.

Is softball harder than baseball?

Softball and baseball are two different sports that require a variety of different skills. While many say that baseball is harder, the sport requires skills that are different from baseball.