Some sports stand entirely alone, while others exist as deviations on other popular competitive activities; a few alterations to how a game is played, if made in the right place, can make an entirely different sport! Perhaps one of the greatest examples of a sport that resembles another, but is independent and popular in its own right, is softball. Softball is officially described as a “variant” of baseball, and was invented under a different name in the late-1800s, established as an indoor-playable game. Since its beginnings, Softball managed to accumulate popularity over time, allowing it to compete for the spotlight of sporting entertainment in the modern world. Though it may not necessarily be considered as classic or traditional as baseball, softball is still a popular batting-and-baserunning sport and, to the untrained eye, nearly indistinguishable from its “bigshot cousin.” Here are 5 of the biggest differences between modern softball and modern baseball…
- The ball is bigger. Softballs and baseballs alike can vary in size and mass, depending on each’s unique structure. In comparing the two, however, a softball is usually bigger and heavier than a baseball. Most softballs weigh slightly less than 7 ounces (~198 grams) and have a circumference of about 12 inches (~30 cm). In slow-pitch softball, the circumference can even be as great as 14-15 inches (~35 cm)! Additionally, the name of the sport is misleading, as softballs are just as rough and rigid as baseballs (a softball could likely cause more damage than a baseball, given its larger size.)
- There are 2 major game types of softball, but in both, pitching is underhanded. In most baseball, pitches are thrown from the mound in an overhanded, straight arc towards home plate. Speed, power, and precision are the priorities behind every strong pitch, and a good pitcher endeavors to throw the ball with as much accuracy as possible. In slow-pitch softball, on the other hand, the ball is required to arc mid-pitch on its way to the batter, and as the name implies, speed is not high on the priority list. Fast-pitch softball is more like baseball in that pitches are rapidly executed.
- A softball pitcher tosses on level ground. In baseball, the pitcher’s mound (which lies near the center of the infield) is an elevated surface of dirt from which the pitcher delivers throws to home plate. In softball, however, no such mound is used (or even exists as part of most dedicated softball fields). Pitches are delivered at the same ground level as that of the batter. Furthermore, the distance a softball pitcher must throw to reach home plate is usually shorter than that of baseball.
- The overall size of the field is smaller. Everything about a softball field, sans the players and bases themselves, is slightly more condensed than that of a baseball field. This makes for a smaller infield as well as a closer outfield. While the field may be a different size, however, the number of defensive players on the field at a time is usually the same as baseball – 9 (In the case of slow-pitch softball, there is a 10th member added). As a result, the dynamics and play strategies of the defensive team members also deviate from that of baseball.
- Games are ‘shorter’. The longest of softball games typically run through the 7th inning, but in less-competitive environments, a softball game can also run for 5 (or even as little as 3) innings. By contrast, baseball games are almost always 9 innings long.