Sport

Softball vs Baseball: What Sets These Sports Apart?

posted by Chris Valentine

You’ve heard of baseball; you’ve heard of softball. From a distance, they appear to be the same thing. Then why do they have different names?

While similar, baseball and softball are actually quite different. Interested in learning about their differences? Then read on.

Here’s everything you need to know about softball vs baseball.

The Similarities

The reason that baseball and softball look similar from a distance is that they are. They share a number of similarities. We’ll cover the most prominent of these similarities below.

The Shape of the Playing Field

First and foremost, baseball and softball are played on similarly shaped playing fields. These fields are commonly referred to as diamonds, as their infields are shaped like, well, diamonds. In addition, they possess large, grassy outfield portions, the ends of which are brought to a halt by fences.

The General Objective

Generally speaking, softball and baseball share objectives. This is true both offensively and defensively.

Their shared offensive objective is to hit the ball with the bat, run around the bases, and score runs. Their shared defensive objective is to get the other team out, preventing that team from scoring runs.

The Core Rules

While baseball and softball have different rules, their core rules are generally the same. As such, it’s not hard for a softball player to learn baseball or for a baseball player to learn softball.

Catching the ball in the air before it hits the ground is an out. Getting the ball to first base before the runner gets there is an out. Tagging a runner with the ball is an out.

In addition, both sports allow for 3 strikes and 4 balls. When 3 strikes are registered, an out is registered. When 4 balls are registered, the batter gets to go to first base.

Stealing bases is allowed in both sports as well. However, in softball, it is illegal to leave the base before the pitch is thrown. This is not true in baseball.

The Equipment

On a general level, the equipment in softball is equal to the equipment in baseball. The batter swings a bat, the catcher wears a catcher’s mask, the fielders wear fielding gloves, and each player wears cleats.

While softball gloves are a little bigger than baseball gloves and while baseball bats are shaped a little different than softball bats, they are essentially the same things.

The Differences

The differences between baseball and softball are not readily obvious to those who are not familiar with the games. These differences are small but have a large impact on the way their respective games are played. They include the following.

The Field Dimensions

One of the biggest differences between baseball and softball is the dimensions of their respective fields. For the sake of this article, we’re going to discuss the dimensions of top-level playing fields.

In top-level baseball, there are 90 feet between each base. In softball, there are only 60 feet.

In top-level baseball, there are 60 feet and 6 inches between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. In softball, there are only 43 feet.

The total field dimensions vary in both sports. However, baseball fields are almost always bigger than softball fields, usually by 100 to 150 feet. Whereas a centerfield fence in baseball might be 400 feet from home plate, a centerfield fence in softball might be 250 feet from home plate.

The Size of the Ball

Perhaps the most obvious difference between baseball and softball is the size of the ball. Whereas fast-pitch softballs measure in at 11 7/8 inches, top-level baseballs measure in at only 9 inches or 9 and a quarter inches.

We should also make a note of the ball colors. Whereas baseballs are white, softballs are yellow.

Why are softballs yellow, you ask? Because the field is smaller and it’s imperative to players’ safety that they are able to spot the ball as quickly as possible.

The Size of the Bats

Not only do the balls in baseball and softball possess different sizes, but the bats as well. This is true of their lengths, their weights, and their barrel diameters.

Top-level softball bats can not exceed 34 inches in length or 2 1/4 inches in barrel diameter. Their maximum weight is 31.5 ounces.

Top-level baseball bats can possess lengths of no greater than 42 inches; Their barrels can be no bigger than 2 5/8 inches in diameter; And their weight drops can be no more than -3 ounces (for example, a 38-inch bat can possess a weight of no less than 35 ounces). Because they’re bigger, they often require bigger transport bags. Find the best baseball bat bag right now.

The Way the Ball is Pitched

When watching the two games, the thing that will stand out to you the most is the difference in the way that the ball is pitched. Whereas baseball pitchers will throw the ball overhand, softball pitchers will throw the ball underhand.

These pitching styles are accompanied by different types of windups as well. Generally speaking, the softball pitching windup is slower and simpler.

The Size of the Mound

Another notable difference between softball and baseball is the size of the mound. The height of a top-level pitcher’s mound is 10 inches. In contrast, a softball pitcher’s mound isn’t a mound at all (it’s called a pitcher’s circle); softball pitchers deliver the ball from flat on the ground.

The Intricacies of the Rules

While the core rules of baseball and softball are the same, there are a number of intricate rule differences that separate the sports from one another.

For one, there’s the leadoff rule. Whereas baserunners can lead off the bag in baseball, they are not allowed to in softball.

There’s also a difference in substitutions. When a baseball player leaves the game, he is not allowed back into the game for its duration. When a softball player leaves the game, she is allowed to sub back in, though only once.

These are only two examples of minor rule differences. The only way to learn them all is to scour the sports’ respective rulebooks or to play the sports until you’ve got the hang of things.

Softball vs Baseball: Different, But the Same

And there they are, the differences in softball vs baseball. As you can see, while the sports share a number of similarities, they are actually quite different.

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