In reality, you can use a baseball bat for softball. They’re both bats, right, designed to hit balls? The question really is; why would you want to? Softball bats are designed for softball. There are reasons for this.
At the youth level, whether you’re playing softball or baseball, the youth bat is the same size. So if you buy a youth bat, you can use it between games interchangeably. Awesome!
But perhaps you have an older brother who plays baseball and you’re just starting out in softball. Maybe you want to try softball without buying all the equipment. If you’re playing a casual game of softball, then yes, go ahead and use a baseball bat, but if you’re past the age of wanting a little league bat, then you really need to get a softball bat. Nobody wants to look like an amateur (even when they are one)!
You never know, with the right softball bat you could end up being the next Dot Richardson!
To understand why the adult bat sizes make a difference, it’s good to know the background of each game.
Where did baseball and softball originate from?
Of course, there’s debate over where the mighty game, baseball, came from. It’s huge. Rounders and cricket are said to have inspired the sport. Variations of the game were played throughout the U.S in the 18th and 19th centuries until a New York baseball club was founded in 1845.
Softball is more modern. It’s been around since the 1800s, but became governed by a standard set of rules in the 1920s. You might see it as the offspring (some might say, the upgrade) of baseball. It was originally designed as the indoor answer to baseball and has become the go-to game for youth players to start out.
Although there are many similarities, there are key features that vary between the games. These affect how suited a baseball bat is for softball.
What are the main differences between baseball and softball?
The premise is very similar: a batting game where the aim is for the defense to get the offense out. The team with the most runs at the end of the innings is the winner. (Admit it, you’re remembering how the Minnesota Twins beat the Yankees last year – 2019 – with the most home runs in history!)
But what are the differences in the two games?
- Pitch – A baseball pitch is larger than a softball pitch. The ball is pitched from an elevated position, whereas in softball the pitcher and batter are at the same level.
- Bats – In softball, bats tend to be longer and lighter than their shorter, heavier baseball counterparts.
- Balls – In MLB baseball, balls are made from cowhide, yarn, and cork. They are white and red. In softball, the yellow and red balls used to be a little softer (hence the name), and are usually made from synthetic and/or natural leather, thread, and long fiber kapok. A softball is larger; 12inches in circumference, a baseball is 9 inches.
- How balls are thrown – baseball: overhand and sidearm. Underhand is permitted but rarely used and fastballs are set to change-up, spin, curve, and fly. Softball: underhand, fastballs are set to change-up, drop, curve, screw, and rise. There are, of course, many types of pitches.
- Players: There are 9 players in each team in both games. In youth leagues, softball is more commonly played, but as players age, softball tends to be played by women and baseball by men.
Fun Fact: MLB Baseballs are made in Costa Rica.
Why can these differences impact whether you use a baseball bat for softball?
1. What’s wrong with hitting a softball with a baseball bat?
To put it into simple terms, hitting a softball with a baseball bat is kind of like trying to tango in ice skates; it doesn’t make much sense unless it’s a casual game. Also, if you’re used to playing with a softball bat, which is longer and lighter, it might feel alien trying to accommodate a shorter, heavier bat.
It would likely affect the quality of your batting skills. A softball is bigger than a baseball; a softball bat is bigger than a baseball bat. Go figure. In adult games, the bats are designed for the balls and size of the pitch.
2. How does this affect batting?
Arguably, some say hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports! It’s no wonder when professional pitchers throw baseballs at speeds averaging 80-95mph. On the other hand, fast-pitch softballs are usually thrown with speeds around 66-74mph, whereas softball slow-pitch, balls come in at 25mph.
“Softball is for everyone. Fast-pitch is for athletes.” (Unknown author)
Of course, if you aren’t an athlete and the game is more relaxed, then the odd game of softball played with a baseball bat isn’t going to be a problem.
What factors affect your batting?
- Size of the ball.
- Speed of pitched ball.
- How ball has been pitched (spun, curved, etc.).
- Speed of your swing.
- Circumference of a bat.
- Your level of playing.
- Your fitness levels.
Remember, even if you’re having a casual game of softball and are using a baseball bat if you can smash a ball into the outer field then be alert. Baseball bats tend to be heavier, there is usually more power in the swing and speed of the ball, and so it’s sensible to be aware of the adjustment. However, the weightier bat might make swinging more difficult for you.
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Will a baseball bat make you bat faster and further in softball?
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Quite simply, the answer is no. To play seriously, you need to use the right bat for the right ball. If you were to switch the situation around and hit a baseball with a softball bat at high speed, for instance, it could damage the ball. This is worth remembering!
Can you easily smash a softball homerun with a baseball bat?
Truth is, it all really comes down to finding the right softball bat for you. If you become “Lauren Chamberlain good” at softball, it’s likely that you would be able to easily smash a homerun in softball using a baseball bat. You need to look after the equipment, though. Why wouldn’t you just use the correct bat designed for softball?!
Softball and baseball might appear very similar on the face of it, but there are variations in bat size, ball size, techniques, pitch, and the rules of each game.
Having a baseball bat shouldn’t stop you from trying or playing softball, but if you intend to take softball up long-term then you should invest in a softball bat. There is even variation between softball bats, between youth and adult leagues, and in terms of what bats are made of. It’s worth shopping around, going into stores, and feeling what a swing of a bat is like. You will come to a point where one just feels perfect and you will know; that’s the bat for you.
Owning your own softball bat is a very personal thing, so choose well. And when it comes to stepping onto the pitch, remember the main rule: play hard, or go home!