Even though it was invented by men, softball today is mostly dominated by women.
After originating as “indoor baseball”, softball has been considered by many to be a female version of the sport.
Still, over the years, softball has grown to be a fully distinctive sport, with several notable differences when compared to baseball.
However, it’s still a sport mostly played by women, just like men dominate baseball.
One of the reasons for this division is that, for a long time, softball was considered to be an “easier” sport, a game that required less strength, skill, and effort.
Nevertheless, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Softball, especially its fast-pitch version, is mostly played by top-notch female athletes who often exceed men in terms of athletic ability.
So, while the sport is mostly played by women, it’s logical to ask can boys play softball?
Can Boys And Men’s Play Softball?
There are numerous recreational, church, business, and amateur leagues for men playing softball.
Also, Little League has numerous divisions for boys aged 7-16. T-ball teams (5-6-year-olds) are usually mixed gender.
In addition, a lot of schools feature co-ed teams that have both boys and girls playing and competing.
In slow-pitch softball, where strength doesn’t mean that much, the different body development of boys gives them absolutely no advantage over girls.
Plus, a lot of girls playing fast-pitch are on par with boys when it comes to strength, speed, and skill.
Interestingly, most of the softball leagues featuring men or boys are slow-pitch leagues.
It’s probably because, at the amateur level, slow-pitch is more dynamic, interesting, and doesn’t require a high skill level from pitchers.
Are There Men’s Softball Teams?
As I already mentioned, there are plenty of softball teams men can join.
Still, this wasn’t always the case.
In the early history of the sport, professional softball leagues for both women and men gained a lot of popularity across the country.
Men’s and women’s games were often played as a part of a double-header, with male games usually garnering more attention.
Men’s professional softball had its heyday in the late 70s and early 80s.
The American Professional Slow-Pitch League was initiated in 1977 but folded 5 years later.
That also marked the end of the men’s profession softball in the US. At least for now.
There were some attempts to get things off the ground in the last 20 years but to very little success.
Can A Male Play College Softball?
In theory, male college athletes can play intercollegiate softball, but in reality, these cases are extremely rare.
In 1972, after Title IX was issued, equal funding of both male and female collegiate sports become mandatory.
It was designed to provide an equal opportunity for female college athletes.
This meant that every college that had a male sports team, needed to have its female counterpart.
This worked easily in cases of basketball or volleyball, but softball was considered as an equivalent sport to baseball.
So, schools prohibited girls from joining baseball teams, and boys from joining softball teams.
Theoretically, if a school didn’t have a baseball program, according to Title IX, male athletes would have to be allowed to play softball. Still, as I said this is practically never the case.
What is the Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Softball?
In general, softball for women and men is mostly the same.
The most difference can be seen in preferred competitions for each gender and some pieces of equipment.
In the United States, the huge majority of male teams engage in slow-pitch softball, which is also the preferred version of the sport for plenty of female teams and leagues.
However, fast-pitch softball is almost exclusively played by women. In addition, almost all leagues are recreational.
There’s no professional male softball. This results in a relatively low quality level of the male softball.
On the other hand, besides the National Pro Fastpitch, a female professional league, the female softball on other levels, such as collegiate and high*school is a lot more competitive than any league where men are involved.
As a result, female softball often features top athletes which is rarely the case with the male variety of the sport.
While women and men in softball mostly use the same equipment, there are some slight differences.
Depending on the age and gender of the players, slow-pitch and slow-pitch softball leagues use 11 or 12-inch balls.
11-inch balls with higher compression are used for kids’ leagues in both female and male fast-pitch competitions.
Slow-pitch 11-inch balls are used in women’s competition on all levels and in the co-ed leagues when a woman is at the bat.
12-inch softball is required for male regulation play in both fast and slow-pitch, and for female fast-pitch leagues.
When it comes to gloves, they’re mostly interchangeable, but there are some differences.
Fast-pitch gloves, as this variety of softball is mostly played by women, have skinnier finger stalls and tighter hand openings.
Slow-pitch gloves are usually bigger with and with deeper pockets so they would suit both men and women.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see boys playing softball. Many kids see it as a way to prepare for baseball and learn basic skills.
However, as anyone who’s ever played it knows, softball is as challenging as baseball, maybe even more.
Softball players have shorter time to react to pitches and less time to run to the bases.
In addition, it’s harder for hitters to send the ball high and far which makes their job harder.
To make it big in softball, you need supreme athleticism and an incredible level of skill, not to mention all the hard work you have to put in.
And, this goes for both genders.
Women still dominate the game, but it has more to do with cultural bias than the fact that the game is “easier”.