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9 Similarities and Differences Between Softball and Baseball

Softball is often seen as a baseball’s close relative or a younger brother.

This comes as no surprise when we know that softball was initially created as an indoor version of baseball.

In the late 19th century, baseball players from Chicago inadvertently created softball while looking for a way to stay in shape and keep playing during the cold winter months.

So. it’s understandable that people sometimes view softball as just a variant of baseball.

There are still some strong ties between the two sports and similarities between softball and baseball still exist.

However, as softball developed, it evolved into a completely separate sport with its own set of rules and unique gameplay.

Today, differences between softball and baseball are numerous.

Some of them are fairly obvious while others are more subtle and visible only to those more familiar with both sports.

Similarities Between Softball and Baseball

Field Layout

Softball FieldBaseball Field
Softball Field by Larry D. Moore (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Even though there’s a size difference, the basic format of a softball and a baseball field is practically the same.

In each of these two sports, there’s a diamond-shaped field with three bases and a home plate.

In addition, playing fields in both sports consist of the infield, outfield, and warning track.

Scoring System

The basics of the scoring system in softball and baseball are more or less the same.

The ultimate objective in both sports is to score more runs. The team with more runs wins in both baseball and softball.

Players in each sport score runs by rounding the bases and reaching home plate. Each team is allowed three outs per inning while at-bat.

Three strikes make an out and the batter is awarded a base for four balls. In both sports, swing-and-misses also count as strikes.

Players and Positions

Positions on a baseball /softball field by Michael J (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The number of fielding players in both sports is the same with 9 payers going against the batter.

The nine players are also similarly deployed on the field and play the same positions.

The nine positions in both baseball and softball are pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder.

A lot of leagues in both sports also allow one designated player who may hit instead of a fielder.

It should be noted that slow-pitch softball features 10 fielders,

Basic Equipment

While the particular parts of the equipment are a bit different, the basic pieces of gear are the same in each sport.

Both softball and baseball are played with balls, gloves, and bats.

Furthermore, the basic protective gear is the same and includes helmets, face masks, shin guards, and chest protectors.

Differences Between Softball and Baseball

Balls

As you can guess by the name of the sport, softball players use somewhat softer balls than their baseball counterparts, although not by much.

Nevertheless, this isn’t the only difference when it comes to balls.

Softballs are also bigger, with an 11-inch circumference in fast-pitch, and 12-inch in slow-pitch softball.

The circumference of a regulation baseball is 9 inches.

In addition, softballs are also heavier. They commonly weigh 6.25-7 ounces, while the weight of baseballs is in the 5-5.25 ounces range.

Another difference between balls is their color. The common color of the balls used in softball games is bright yellow.

Baseballs, as we all know, are almost always white with red seams.

Field Dimensions

The most obvious difference between softball and baseball is the layout of the field in each sport.

While, as I mentioned, the basic format is the same, the field dimensions differ.

The distance between the home plate and the outfield fence varies from around 150 feet in lower leagues to 225-250 feet in the higher-level leagues.

In baseball, this distance is different from field to field but is commonly over 325 feet. The minimum distance to the centerfield fence is 400 feet.

Also, in softball, the pitchers are closer to the home plate, at 40 to 46 feet depending on the level of competition.

The baseball pitching mound is 60 feet and 6 inches from the home plate. Furthermore, baseball features more distance between the bases. They’re 90 feet apart.

On the other hand, the baselines in softball are 60 feet long.

Bats and Gloves

Softball BatsBaseball Bats

Softball and baseball bats differ in terms of length, weight, and barrel diameter.

In general, softball bats are about an inch longer than baseball ones. They are usually 32-34 long, while most baseball bats are between 31 and 32 inches.

Although they’re shorter, baseball bats are heavier. They are mostly in the 28-31 ounces range.

Bats for the fast-pitch softball weigh 23-28 ounces, while those used in slow-pitch are a bit heavier on average, 26-30 ounces.

The baseball bats feature a wider barrel diameter, at 2 and 5/8 inches. The barrel diameter of softball bats does not exceed 2 and 1/4 inches.

Because of the bigger ball, softball players also use bigger gloves. Infielders’ gloves are 11.25 inches long for infielders and 13 inches for outfielders.

In softball, infielders commonly use 11.5-inches gloves, while for outfielders, it’s around 15 inches.

Softball gloves also have bigger and deeper pockets.

Rules

Gameplay rules of softball and baseball are pretty much similar but with a few notable differences.

In baseball, base stealing is allowed any time the ball is live. Runners are allowed to lead off and steal bases whenever they want.

While base stealing is allowed in softball, too, the runners can’t move before the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.

They can’t leave base if the pitcher still has the ball within the circle.

The length of the games is also different. In softball, the winner is decided after 7 innings.

The games in youth and kids leagues are even shorter, 3 or 5 innings.

Baseball games last for 9 innings, at least at pro and adult leagues. High school and Little League games are usually shorter.

In both sports, extra innings are played if there’s a tie after the regular number of innings.

Pitching

Softball PitcherBaseball Pitcher

As I already mentioned, pitchers in softball throw from a longer distance than their baseball colleagues.

However, that’s not the only pitching difference. The pitcher’s area is also different.

In baseball, pitches are thrown from a raised sloping mound, with a 9-feet radius.

In softball, the pitching area is a flat circle, with a radius of 8 feet. The even bigger difference is the pitching mechanics.

Softball pitchers always throw underhand.

In addition, fast-pitch has no speed or arc restrictions, while slow-pitch rules determine that the ball must have an arc within certain height restrictions.

The baseball rulebook has no limitation when it comes to pitching techniques. However, in practice, the vast majority of baseball pitchers throw overhand.

Underhand pitching is almost non-existent, while you may rarely see submarine or sidearm pitches.

Conclusion

Clearly, the fundamentals of softball and baseball are pretty similar.

Both sports involve pitching, batting, and running, and employ a seemingly similar set of skills.

Still, due to a few important differences, there’s no doubt that these are two distinctive sports.

It’s obvious and you can notice it just by watching the game.

The gameplay is different and each sport has its fans who would argue that one is superior to the other.

Still, there’s no denying that both sports are extremely fun to watch and to play.

Baseball and softball put different kinds of challenges in front of the players but are both enjoyable in their own way.

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