Ahhh…summer! It’s a time for trips to the beach and picnics. People flock to the pool or sip lemonade on the front porch. There’s another summer tradition many Americans enjoy: a trip to the ballpark! With a hot dog in hand, we watch players toss around a ball and hopefully hit it over the fence!
Of course, many people enjoy playing ball more than watching a game. From tee ball to little league, millions of children love to grab a bat and swing for the fences. There’s nothing like running the bases on a hot summer day.
What about when summer is over? Do we have to face months without baseball? Not all ballplayers give up so easily. On Thanksgiving Day in 1887, George Hancock gathered his friends to play indoor baseball.
Indoor baseball? Doesn’t that sound dangerous? Hancock did his best to make it safer. Instead of using a baseball, he tied up a boxing glove into a ball. After a lively evening of indoor baseball, the group found that they’d invented a new sport. They gave it the perfect name--softball.
The softballs we use today aren’t exactly...well, soft. Anyone who’s played the game can tell you being hit by a ball hurts. We also no longer play softball inside. Instead, it’s played outdoors on a field like baseball.
Softball and baseball still have some major differences. The first thing many spectators notice is the difference in pitching style. Baseball players throw overhand, while softball players throw underhand. There are also two different styles of softball--slowpitch and fastpitch--while baseball only has one.
Another major difference between the two sports is the equipment they use. For one thing, softballs are larger than baseballs. While baseballs have a circumference of nine inches, softballs have a circumference of eight to twelve inches. You may also notice differences in the bats baseball and softball players use. Softball bats tend to be made of metals, while baseball players often use wooden bats. Softball bats sometimes also have a longer barrel than baseball bats.
The size of baseball and softball fields also differs. In many places, softball and baseball players might play on the same field. However, official fields differ in size. On a baseball field, the bases are 90 feet apart. On a softball field, they are 60 feet apart. Because of the shorter distance between bases, the rules about stealing bases are different. Baseball players can lead off a base before the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand. However, softball players have to wait until the pitch is thrown to lead off.
The atmosphere at softball and baseball games are often very different. Softball games are typically louder, with much plenty chanting and cheering. Softball is also fast-paced, with only seven innings per game. Nine-inning baseball games are usually slower paced and more relaxed.
Softball has evolved to be a unique sport since its days as “indoor baseball.” Professional softball players are part of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league, just like professional baseball players in Major League Baseball (MLB). Whether you play baseball or softball, though, you’re sure to have a ball on the field!