Softball is another modified version of baseball which is quite popular in the USA, particularly in North America. The earliest known game of Softball was played in Chicago in 1887. The match took place at the Farragut Boat Club, where a nasty incident took place.
A Yale Alumni student who was attending a gathering witnessing the Harvard University football game threw a boxing glove at a Harvard supporter, who, in reply, grabbed the stick and swung it at the rolled up glove. A reporter there called out “Play ball!!!” and the game began.
This is how the game of Softball was invented. Its similarity to baseball is the reason for its rapid growth and the fact that it is relatively safer than actual baseball makes it more popular among people who don’t fancy playing with heavy baseball bats which can easily injure anyone.
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Object of Playing Softball
The object of the game is to score more runs than your opposing team. Runs are scored by running around the bases just like in baseball.
How to Play?
Softball is played between two sides of equal number of teams. They bat and field in alternate turns for a certain number of innings, during their turns, they try to score runs by running the bases. It is played with a Softball bat and Softball ball which have specific dimensions. While one team bats, the other team has a pitcher who pitches to the batter while his other teammates field around to stop the ball and tag the batsman out.
Fancy playing Softball? Why not learn all the rules first to play like professionals. You can find every rule regarding equipment, playing field and scoring in the next section of this article.
General Rules of Softball
- Each team can have 9 players of mixed gender. There are no limits regarding how many males and females can play per side.
- Each team bats for 7 innings, after each innings, they switch roles.
- Just like baseball, there are 4 bases. A batter has to run all these 4 bases in order to score a run.
- There is a pitcher who pitches the ball to the batsman, but unlike baseball, they pitch underarm which makes it safer and easier for batters to hit.
- There is an imaginary strike zone in the homebase where the batter stands, if the batter misses the pitch in this area it is called strike.
- If a batter misses any ball, it is also a strike.
- There are foul lines near the 1st and 2nd base, if the batter hits the ball outside these lines, it can be a first or second strike.
- After 3rd strikes, a batsman is given out.
- Pitching outside the strike zone is called a ball, and after 4 balls, a batter can walk to the first base.
- A batter can be tagged out while running between the bases.
- Also, a batter can be dismissed by catching the ball.
- Each team gets 3 outs, when three of their batters are out their innings is over. Then the other team bats. This combined becomes one inning.
- If a batter hits the ball out of the park between the foul lines, he gets the chance to Home Run. This home run results in one run for his team.
- In the end of 7 innings, the team with the highest score wins the game.
- In case of a draw, another inning is played to determine the winner.
Before the start of the game, a coin toss takes place and the winner of this toss decides which team will bat first.
Time Duration of Softball
Each game consists of 7 innings, and the time taken by each innings can vary greatly. There are no time restrictions regarding the completion of an inning.
The playing field of Softball is divided into two categories, one is known as ‘fair territory’ while the other one is known as ‘foul territory’. There are no specific total ground and baseline dimensions, but other markings in the ground must be marked in the following pattern.
A face running between the baselines indicated the field limit, distance between the home plate and fence can vary from field to field.
Backstop: Behind the homeplate is a ‘backstop’. The backstop must be between 25 to 30 feet behind the home plate.
Home Plate: Home Plate is always in the corner of a diamond with bases at each corner.
Traditional Bases: The 4 traditional; bases are 15 inch and 38 cm square each.
You need a bat, gloves and helmet, the very same things required for a baseball game are required in softball. Except, their dimension and hardness vary a bit.
Bat: The bats used in Softball are made of wood, aluminium or composite metal such as carbon fiber. A typical softball bat can’t be more than 34 inches long and 2.4 inches in diameter. They are light in weight, around 1.1 kg so anyone can lift them easily.
Ball: The ball used in it is hard, so take softball as a misnomer here. The size of the ball can vary and the circumferences for international play are 12±0.125 in (30.5±0.3 cm), in mass between 6.25 and 7.0 oz (177–198 g). For junior level tournaments, the organisers usually choose smaller and lighter balls.
Gloves: Each player from the fielding side wears gloves made of leather or from similar material. These gloves have webbing between the thumb and forefinger which is known as the pocket. The colour of these gloves must be different from the colour of the ball.
Protective Equipment: Certain protective equipment are used to prevent injuries, players wear a typical baseball like helmet which has two ear flaps, one on each side. Other protective equipment that players can use are throat protector, shin guard, chest protector and body protector.
Roles of Players
There are 4 different roles of players in Softball.
Batsman: A batsman is the one who strikes the ball and tries to score runs for his side during his turn.
Pitcher: Pitcher’s job is to pitch the ball in such a way that the batsman fails to hit it or hit it towards the waiting fielders.
Fielders: Every fielder wears gloves for protection and they are supposed to field every strike. A fielder plays a key role for the defensive side because he can catch the ball or tag the batsman to dismiss him.
Catcher: A catcher is similar to a wicket-keeper in cricket. He stands behind the batsman to collect the ball. Due to the sensitiveness of his position, a catcher has to wear all sorts of protective equipment to keep himself safe.
Different Pitching Styles
In Softball, we have got two different pitching styles.
Slow pitch and 16 inch
In some varieties of Softball slow pitch is used. This pitch is lobbed so that the ball rises above the batter’s head and lands on a small rectangular area marked just behind home plate. This restriction makes it easier for the batter to pull the ball. It is also known as slow pitch or slow pitching. For a better view of how this pitching is done, you can check out the plethora of Youtube videos available demonstrating this type of pitching.
Fast pitching is done in “windmill” motion style, the pitcher extends his arms over the body and releases the ball at about hip level at maximum speeds. For a better view of how this type of pitching is done, you can check videos available on Youtube.
It depends on the type of game/tournament which type of pitching is legal and players have to comply with it. If the tournament rules say you are supposed to pitch in Fast pitch fashion, then Slow pitch technique can’t be used and umpires always monitor the pitching style alongside taking care of other responsibilities.
The importance of an umpire in Softball is essential for smooth play. In Softball, there is one common umpire (head umpire) who is in charge of calling balls and strikes from behind the plate. He is further assisted by one, two, three or sometimes five field umpires who make calls from specific bases.
Famous Softball Events
Up Till now, the two biggest events of Softball are Men’s Softball Championship and Women’s Softball Championship. Moreover, in Australia, USA and few other countries where Softball is popular, yearly domestic level tournaments are organised to promote the game and pick talented players to represent the national teams.
The International Softball Federation (ISF) is the governing body for the sport of Softball at international level. It is a non-profit corporation recognized by the International Olympic Committee and SportAccord (formerly the General Association of International Sports Federations).
The responsibility of the federation is to organise and sanction all international level tournaments, including junior championships. The current headquarters are located in Plant City, Florida.