While there are many similarities between the games of baseball and softball, there are a few major differences between the two. If your child plays softball or you are coaching a team, these fun facts can give you some insight into the differences between the two games.
Both sports are played on a field that includes a diamond-shaped dirt infield and a grass-covered outfield, but the dimensions of a softball field are much smaller. With an infield less than half the size of a baseball infield, softball is a more quickly moving game in which players really have to hustle.
Baseball pitchers throw from a raised mound, but in softball, the pitcher delivers balls on level ground with the batter 40 feet from pitcher, a distance much closer to the batter than in baseball. Softball pitches can reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour, with the ball reaching the batter in just .35 seconds.
Because of the short distance between pitcher and batter, when hitting a fastball softball batters may have only 25 milliseconds to decide when to swing, 55 percent less time than in major league baseball.
In a line drive the ball may reach 100 miles per hour, making catching the ball even more challenging for infielders. If the batter hits a grounder, an infielder might have just 3.2 seconds to get the ball to first base, a full second less than a major leaguer can reach first base.
When a batter delivers a slap hit infielders have even less time to react, as the batter is already moving before the ball is in play, fighting the player’s resting inertia. Slap hits can reach up to 19 miles per hour and batters can reach first base in a matter of 2.66 seconds. If a third baseman takes any more than 1.5 seconds to field the ball down the third baseline it becomes virtually impossible to throw the runner out at first base.
Unlike baseball, in softball players are not allowed to lead off, but a fast softball runner can sometimes get from first to second base in a matter of three seconds. A softball catcher may have just 1.5 seconds to nail a runner, about one-tenth of a second less than in baseball.
- Balls. A softball is significantly larger than a baseball. A softball measures between 11.88 and 12.13 inches in circumference and weighs between 6.25 and 7.00 ounces; a baseball measures between 9.00 and 9.25 inches in circumference and weighs between 5.00 and 5.25 ounces. Leagues for the youngest softball players often use smaller and softer softballs. At this level of play girls’ hands may not be big enough to grip and throw a regulation softball. Softball players sometimes use bigger gloves and slimmer bats.
- Bats. At the youth level, bats used for softball and baseball are very similar, but many players use softball-specific bats, which come in a variety of different materials, such as graphite, carbon, metal, Kevlar. Many softball programs and leagues only allow specific types of composite bats.