What is softball? Rules, history, and facts of the sport

What is softball? Rules, history, and facts of the sport

Kevin Omuya
December 21, 2022 at 6:56 AM

It is a modification of baseball. It is typically played for fun rather than competition, and on a far smaller pitch than a baseball diamond. Some rules are different, but they are mostly the same. It is primarily a North American sport, but professional leagues are also in Asia, Europe, and South America.

What is softball?
A yellow ball and glove lying on a softball baseball field. Photo: Akajhoe
Source: Getty Images

The game has been around for quite some time and has undergone numerous evolutions. A boxing glove and a broomstick were the first pieces of equipment used in the game. These days, it is played with rubber, cork balls, and leather gloves. Bats are often made of metal alloys or composites.

How do you play softball?

Two teams of nine players each attempt to outscore their rival by circling the bases and going around the plate as frequently as possible. The batting team continues to bat until the opposing team's defence retires three hitters. Just to take you through the significant moments in the history of softball, here is a chronology of those moments:

How do you play softball?
Thompson hits a triple for Great West Life Credit on May 19, 1990: Photo: Denver Post
Source: Getty Images
  • In 1887, while George Hancock and his companions were watching a Harvard-Yale football game, the game was conceived.
  • After Hancock drafted rules for the "Mid Winter Indoor Baseball League of Chicago" in 1889, fire departments throughout the city started playing the game.
  • Kitten ball was played outside in 1990 and earned its new name.
  • Walter Hakanson created the first formal name for the sport in 1926.
  • In 1934, the National Recreation Congress formally acknowledged the Amateur Softball Association. The game was nationalized after the rules were developed.
  • In 1965, Australia hosted the first-ever international competition, the Women's Softball World Championship.
  • In 1982, the first games at the College World Series were played.
  • In 1996, the game was included in the Olympic program.
  • It was not until 2004 that the United States saw the creation of its first professional fastpitch league.
  • In 2012, it was dropped as an official Olympic event.

Rules of softball

Is softball the same as baseball?
Mike "The Miz" Mizanin bats during the Legends & Celebrity Games at Nationals Park on Sunday, July 15, 2018, in Washington D.C. Photo: Alex Trautwig
Source: Getty Images

It is important to note that many rules govern the game. It is important to remember that some of these regulations apply only in limited contexts and are hence relatively unimportant. However, the very character of the sport is defined by a set of rules that apply to all players. Continue reading to find out how the top ten rules have developed.

  • There are nine people on each squad, and any gender is acceptable.
  • A baseball game consists of seven innings, each of which is divided into the top and bottom halves.
  • In each inning, both teams get an at-bat before switching roles.
  • The fielding lineup consists of a pitcher, a catcher, a first baseman, a second baseman, a third baseman, three outfielders, and a shortstop.
  • To get as many base hits as possible, a batter must successfully hit the ball and then sprint around the bases. After completing the full circle without being thrown out, a run is scored.
  • The fielding team can thwart the batting team in several ways: by causing a batter to miscue the ball, by catching the ball, tagging a base before the runner reaches it, or by typing the runner while he has the ball in his hand.
  • In foul territory between first and third base. When the ball reaches this line without bouncing, it is considered "dead," and a new pitch must be used to start the game.
  • Hitting the ball over the outfield fence or foul territory and into the scoring zone counts as a home run. The batters and any other runners on base can then stroll around the grounds and try their luck at scoring.

Softball facts

What is softball and how is it played?
Boston Bruin Milan Lucic at a charity softball game at LeLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass, on August 4th, 2010. Photo: Stuart Cahill
Source: Getty Images
  1. The game was not always played outside. In 1887, George Hancock, a Chicago Board of Trade journalist, came up with the idea of creating a winter version of baseball that could be played indoors. The Boat Club organized regulations and a league for the game in 1889, when it was played outside for the first time.
  2. George Hancock created it. After firefighter Lewis Rober's softball team, "The Kittens," popularized the sport as a pastime, the term "kitten ball" was coined to refer to the game.
  3. A version of the game known as a 16-Inch ball (sometimes called mushball) is still played in the Chicago area, where softball was first played. The gloves are optional, and the ball is more significant and squishier in this softball game.
  4. In 1996, softball became the fourth Olympic medal sport. Dot Richardson, a 1996 U.S. Olympic team member who hit the game-winning home run, is a doctor specializing in orthopaedics.
  5. All tickets to the fastpitch softball competitions at the 1996 Olympics were sold out.
  6. After 69 years, it was the first Olympic sport to be eliminated. Women's fastpitch game was eliminated from the Olympics in 2005; the last medal was awarded at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
  7. Not even a ball could be considered the first softball. The tale goes that a Harvard fan was attacked with a stick after being hit with a rolled-up boxing glove by a Yale fan during a Harvard-Yale football game in Chicago. That inspired George Hancock to create baseball and bat.
  8. A women's event took place in 1965 and was the first-ever world championship. The exciting element is that, contrary to popular belief, it took place in Melbourne, Australia and not the United States.
  9. When it comes to youth sports, it is one of the safest options. Softball and baseball have relatively low injury rates compared to other sports, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If players adhere to AAP safety recommendations and use protective equipment, many injuries can be avoided.
  10. During the summer, more than 40 million Americans participate in the game, making it the most popular team sport in the country.

What is the difference between softball and baseball?

What is the difference between softball and baseball
Arizona State Sun Devil infielder Kristiana Watson during the NCAA Div I Championship Regional Final softball game on May 22, 2022, at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, AZ. Photo: Zac BonDurant
Source: Getty Images

Most people have been debating on if softball is similar to baseball. When compared to a baseball, a softball is substantially larger. A baseball weighs between 5.00 and 5.25 ounces and has a circumference between 9.00 and 9.25 inches, whereas a softball has a circumference between 11.88 and 12.13 inches and a weight between 6.25 and 7.00 ounces.

Softball evolved from baseball and is a widely played sport today. Although the game is not currently included in the Olympics, advocacy groups are working to change that.

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Kevin Omuya
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