Softball vs baseball

Softball and baseball, while very similar, also include key differences between each respective sport. These differences can be based on varying aspects of each sport, such as equipment, rules, strategy, etc. Aspects such as these can drastically change the way each sport is played and can thus distinguish the two.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Softballs vs Baseballs
  • Batting Equipment
  • Fielding Equipment
  • Pitching Styles
  • Field Dimensions
  • Length of Game
  • Game Strategy

Softballs vs Baseballs

One of the first differences someone will notice between softball and baseball is the ball itself. There are several differences between the two including the circumference, weight, and color. All of these factors play a significant role in differentiating each sport.

Circumference of Softballs vs Baseballs

The standard sizing for a softball at the high school level and higher levels is 12 inches in circumference. However, the standard size of a softball for ages 10 and under is 11 inches in circumference, allowing the younger softball player to get a better grip on the ball. Baseballs, on the other hand, feature the same circumference for all ages and must feature a circumference between 9 inches and 9.25 inches.

Weight of Softballs vs Baseballs

For high school softball players and older, the ball itself will weigh anywhere between 6.25 ounces and 7 ounces. A softball player ages 10 and under however will use a ball that weighs between 5.785 ounces and 6.125 ounces. Baseballs at most levels feature a ball that weighs between 5 ounces and 5.25 ounces. However, youth baseballs can feature a slightly lighter ball between 4 ounces and 5 ounces. This is due to the materials used inside the ball as tee balls feature a soft sponge core compared to the traditional cork and rubber core on a traditional baseball.

Color of Softballs vs Baseballs

Softballs and baseballs also differ in color, as softballs are yellow and baseballs are white. This is to make it easier for softball players to see the ball while at the plate.

Along the same lines, softballs were created yellow to make it easier for the hitter to see the ball as softball pitchers in high school and older are only 43 feet from home plate. With the pitcher being this close to the hitter, reaction times are significantly reduced for the hitter. The bright yellow softball is designed to aid the hitter in making their split-second decision. Baseball at the high school age and older is different, as the mound is 60 feet and 6 inches from home plate, giving the hitter a little longer to see the pitch. The MLB experimented with a yellow baseball in the 1930s but ultimately opted for a white baseball as players and umpires did not notice a difference between the yellow and white baseballs.

Batting Equipment

Although very similar in equipment, there are key differences between softball and baseball to allow for better performance in their respective sport. One of the main differences in equipment used in softball and baseball is the bat for each sport.

Bat Designs for Baseball vs Softball

Baseball and softball bats are very different structurally and this is to provide the player with a bat to suit the needs of their respective game while adhering to safety standards. Creating a bat specific to each sport will also allow for better performance on the field.

Baseball Bat Design Features

  • Barrel size - Baseball bats have a larger and thicker barrel that assists the player in making more solid contact with a smaller and more dense ball
  • Handle size - A baseball bat will feature a slightly thicker and longer handle to provide the player with a better grip and more balanced bat while swinging
  • Bat weight - Baseball bats are heavier than softball bats and in high school leagues and up bats must feature at least a -3 drop weight

Softball Bat Design Features

  • Barrel size - Softball barrels are noticeably thinner and greater in length, allowing the player to whip the bat quickly through the zone and provide them with better plate coverage
  • Handle size - A thinner and shorter handle on a softball bat will also help the player increase swing speed
  • Bat weight - Softball bats feature a lighter weight than baseball bats, which also aids in faster swing speeds

Length and Weight Sizes for Softball vs Baseball Bats

With softball and baseball being played at all age ranges, it comes as no surprise that there are varying options in length and weight of bats to accommodate each player. The different lengths and weight sizes are designed to enhance both the safety and performance of each player.

Length and Weight Sizes for Softball vs Baseball Bats

  • Youth Sizes: 26” x 15 oz - 31” x 20 oz
  • High School/Adult Sizes: 27” x 16 oz  - 34” x 26 oz

Baseball Bat Size Ranges

  • Youth Sizes: 24” x 12 oz - 32” x 27 oz
  • High School/Adult Sizes: 31” x 28 oz - 34” x 31 oz

Baseball Bat Size Ranges

Over the past decade, baseball and softball have seen a significant rise in the use of protective batting gear. Companies such as Evoshield provide innovative protective equipment for baseball and softball players including elbow guards, shin guards, hand guards, sliding mitts, and more. With the games of baseball and softball seeing rapidly increasing velocities at the plate, it’s no wonder why there has been such a spike in protective batting gear.

Fielding Equipment

Overall, softball and baseball gloves are very similar with only subtle differences to distinguish the two. The main difference someone will see is that softball gloves will be slightly larger than baseball gloves. Along with this, many softball gloves feature a pull-strap or velcro wrist for easy and quick adjustments while baseball gloves typically do not have this feature.

Fielding Gloves for Softball vs Baseball

Softball gloves are slightly larger than baseball gloves to accommodate the size of the softball. With a larger ball, softball gloves will also likely be designed to provide the player with a deeper pocket. Contrary to softball, baseball gloves on the other hand will feature a more shallow pocket to allow for a quicker transfer from glove to throwing hand with a smaller ball.

Softball Glove Sizes by Position

  • Infield: 11.5” - 12.5”
  • Outfield: 12.5” - 13”
  • First Base: 12” - 13”
  • Catcher: 31.5” - 34”

Baseball Glove Sizes by Position

  • Infield: 11.25” - 12”
  • Outfield: 12.25” - 13”
  • First Base: 12” - 13”
  • Catcher: 31” - 35”

Protective Fielding Gear

A big difference between softball and baseball is the use of protective fielding gear. In softball, it is much more common to see a pitcher or infielder with a face mask and this is due to the shorter distance from the mound to home plate and home plate to infielders. However, in baseball, the use of face masks is extremely rare. Most protective fielding gear in baseball can be seen on third and first base coaches as they are required to wear helmets while on the field.

Protective Fielding Gear

If you turn on any baseball or softball game, one of the first things you might notice is that baseball and softball pitchers have completely different throwing motions. Baseball pitchers throw the ball overhand, while softball pitchers throw the ball underhand.

Why Do Softball Pitchers Throw Underhand?

Historically, softball was created in 1887 as a baseball game to play indoors during the winter time. With the fields being smaller to accommodate indoor play, the distance from pitcher to a hitter is also only 43 feet compared to traditional baseball’s 60 feet 6 inches. Thus, the pitcher would throw underhand to allow the hitter to gain similar reaction times to baseball.

Why Do Softball Pitchers Throw Underhand?

When looking at the field dimensions of a baseball field versus a softball field, one will notice that baseball fields are significantly larger than softball fields. The reason for this is solely based on how far the ball travels. Baseballs being smaller and lighter than softballs allow for a further traveling ball, thus the reason for larger fields.

Professional Baseball Field Dimensions

In Major League Baseball, no two fields are the same but they are all around the same distance down the lines, in the gaps, and to dead-center. Most fields however will be around 320-330 feet down either foul line, 360-380 feet in the gaps, and around 400 feet to dead-center. With different field dimensions, there are also consistent aspects of each baseball field. The bases are to be 90 feet from one another at high school ages and up, and the pitcher's mound should be 60 feet and 6 inches from home plate.

Professional Baseball Field Dimensions

Just like baseball, softball field dimensions vary from field to field. However, most softball fields are around 190 feet down both foul lines and around 220 feet to dead-center. Although the field dimensions vary, softball fields have set distances for bases and pitching rubbers. For ages high school and older in softball, the bases are 60 feet from one another and the pitching rubber is 43 feet from home plate.

Professional Baseball Field Dimensions

As many people know, baseball games are 9 innings long and split into two halves each inning. For example, the top of the 3rd inning is one half and the bottom of the 3rd inning would be another half. 9 innings came about because there were 9 players on the field at a time. This originated in 1856 and still rings true today. Softball on the other hand plays 7 innings that are also composed of two halves per inning, although there are still 9 players on the field. 7 innings compared to 9 significantly reduces the time of the game and softball will be a faster game than baseball.

Professional Baseball Field Dimensions

The strategy during a baseball game is very different from that of a softball game. With runs being harder to come by in softball “small ball” can be more prevalent and this can include bunting and slap hitting to get runners on base or just to advance runners. Baseball on the other hand, especially in modern-day baseball, power hitting is more prevalent and runs will thus come more frequently. In baseball, “small ball” is still around from time to time but it is not as common as in previous decades of baseball or softball.

Softball vs Baseball FAQs

What is the main difference between softball and baseball?

There are several differences between baseball and softball such as field size, pitching mechanics, rules of the game, etc. The main difference is the ball itself, as softballs are noticeably larger than baseballs which has a drastic effect on pitching, flight of the ball, hitting, etc.

Why do females play softball instead of baseball?

One reason many females play softball over baseball is due to the implementation of Title IX in 1972, dictating that universities had to provide an equivalent women’s sport to baseball. However, there are also men’s fastpitch softball leagues and women still play baseball around the world.

Who throws faster, softball or baseball pitchers?

In terms of MPH, baseball pitchers throw harder than softball pitchers. The current average for pitch speed in the MLB is 93.6 MPH and elite-level college or professional softball players will throw the ball anywhere from 66-74 MPH.

Is it harder to hit a softball or a baseball pitcher?

Each sport has its respective challenges but research has shown that a 95 MPH baseball reaches the plate in 0.425 seconds and a 70 MPH softball reaches the plate in 0.35 seconds. Thus, softball players will have to react quicker in order to make contact.