Softball is a very popular sport in the United States.
Although it is a sport very similar to baseball, it is not exactly baseball.
The point of this game is to score more runs than the other team.
Runs are scored by hitting a ball into play and running around the bases, touching each one in succession.
Now let’s talk about Softball’s origins and history in the US.
Origins of Softball
Softball was originally called indoor baseball, which was first introduced in Chicago, Illinois, on Thanksgiving Day in 1887.
In the early days, it was later referred to by various names like kitten ball, mushball, diamond ball, indoor-outdoor, and playground ball.
The first-ever softball game was held at the Farragut Boat Club at a gathering to discuss the results of the Yale University and Harvard University football match.
The Farragut Boat Club game started with a boxing glove tightening to form a ball, and the broom handle acted as a bat. The outcome of this match was 41-40.
The ball back then was soft and could be fielded without a glove.
The Inventor of Softball
George Hancock, a reporter, is believed to be the creator of Softball.
He was the one who initiated the first game of Softball.
Following the first game, he created a 17″ ball and a smaller bat within a week.
The Farragut Boat Club soon set guidelines for the game, which quickly spread to non-members.
In the beginning, this sport was known as “Indoor Baseball.”
The idea was to allow baseball players to play the game and maintain their skills in the winter.
The game was moved to outdoors the following year and was referred to as indoor or outdoor baseball.
The first-ever set of rules for Softball was published in 1889.
The basic principles of Softball are the same as those of baseball.
The fielding strategy and the bat are almost the same.
However, Softball is played in a smaller area, and games are only seven innings in length.
The field used for playing a softball match is a diamond-shaped area with 60 feet baselines.
The pitching distance for males has been set at 46 feet, and for females, 43 feet.
Softball bats must be round, smaller than 34 inches in length, and not exceeding 2.25 inches in diameter at the most.
Officially, a softball is a smooth seam ball measuring 12 inches in circumference and weighing approximately 6.25 and 7 ounces.
In Softball, a pitcher can pitch the ball using an underhand motion. Whereas in baseball, the pitch is either overhand or sidearm.
Base-stealing is allowed in both games. However, in Softball, the runner must remain on the ground until the ball is released to the batter.
A well-known variation of Softball, called slow-pitch, can be played using regulation equipment.
Slow pitch and Fastpitch Softball
Slow pitch softball is played on a slow pitch where fielders generally play without gloves.
The primary difference with Softball (fastpitch) is the fact that there are 10 players on a team.
The pitching distance for players (both men and women) is 46 feet, and the pitch must be pitched at a moderate speed, with an arc of at least 3 feet as it travels towards the batter.
The pitch’s speed and size are up to an umpire’s discretion. An umpire could also expel a pitcher for throwing the ball too quickly.
The practice of stealing bases is not permitted in slow-pitch.
Slow-pitch is popular in Chicago and some other American cities.
Another type of Softball is played in Chicago, with balls measuring 16 inches (40.64 cm) in diameter on a diamond base. Its base paths measure 55 feet (16.8 meters) and 50 feet.
Popularity of Softball
As per the Amateur Softball Association, the governing body of softball in the world, the sport has gained status as the top sport on the planet both from a spectator and participant perspective.
Today, there are more softball players than in any other sport in the United States.
Every corner has its team, and most cities and towns are home to more leagues for Softball than have facilities for them.
Softball has numerous advantages as people from all walks of life can play it. This game can be taught or used in physical-education classes worldwide.
Softball has been one of the most popular sports in the United States in recent years.
In 2021, the softball accessories wholesale market of gloves and mitts alone accounted for a whopping $137 million in sales.
A softball game could be anywhere between 3 and 7 innings or about 1-2 hours, depending on the rules of the league and the kind of Softball.
The teams alternate batting. An arbitrary coin toss determines which team will bat first.
However, the league can decide otherwise as they have the choice.
It is more common for many teams to bat second.
Many softball players prefer to bat second as they believe they are in more control in the final innings.
In the case of a tie, extra innings are typically played up until the tie has been broken, unless for individual championships and tournaments.
If the home side leads and the team on the road have completed its seventh inning, the game will end as it isn’t required for home teams to play again.
In all Softball, the defensive team is the one that fields. The offensive team is either at bat or batting and attempting for runs.
Softball in the United States
In America, over 1500 college softball teams span five different levels.
Five professional softball teams are professionally coached: the Aussie Peppers, the Chicago Bandits, the Cleveland Comets, the California Commotion, and the Canadian Wild.
The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America is among the biggest organizations that govern the sport across the United States and sponsors annual sectional and World Series championships. It was founded in 1933.
There are also additional regional and national regulatory bodies, such as the USSSA.
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) regulates the rules of play in over 110 nations, including Canada, the United States, and Canada.
Before the WBSC was created 2013 in 2013, the International Softball Federation (ISF) played this role.
The USA Softball Men’s Fast Pitch National Team has won six gold medals (1966, 1968, 1976, 1980, and 1988) and three other medals.