While softball and baseball are almost similar, these two sports also have significant differences. These differences include the balls used in these sports. In softball, players use a soft, oversized yellow ball.
But why is a softball yellow and bigger than a baseball?
Softball was actually created as an indoor sport. It was invented in 1887 by men who wanted to play indoors during winter. Men used a soft, oversized ball to adjust to the indoor setting. An oversized ball is used so that it would not travel far and break the objects in the room.
While the sport grew in popularity, and more people started playing competitively, the characteristics of the ball used did not change. The ball remained heavier and larger compared to a baseball, and, eventually, yellow became a standard color for a regulation softball because it is easier to see.
Table of Contents
What is the function behind a regulation softball’s characteristics?
As we all know, a softball is slightly larger and heavier than a baseball. We also highlighted previously that a large ball is used, so it would not have to travel as far. This was suitable in the early days of softball when it was still played indoors.
But why did the softball remain larger than a baseball, even as time passed?
The biggest reason for making softballs bigger than a baseball is because softballs do not travel as far as a baseball does. In softball, the distance from the pitching mound to the batter box is around 15 to 20 feet shorter compared to baseball. In addition to that, the softball already travels at the speed of 70 mph on average, so this already gives the softball batter less time to react compared to a baseball batter.
A larger ball would also be easier to hit when you have shorter distances between the pitcher’s mound and the batter box.
This is also the same reason why softballs are yellow instead of white.
Softballs are made to be bright yellow so that players can easily see it. Since the softball field is typically smaller than a baseball field, this gives all softball players less reaction time, so they need to be able to see the ball properly, which makes the bright yellow color easier for them to spot the ball.
Are softballs really soft Compared to baseball?
Compared to baseball, yes, softballs are made to be softer. The core of a softball is softer compared to a baseball, so it makes the former spring off the bat in a different way.
However, as a softball player who may have been unfortunate enough to be struck by one, you know that the name “softball” is a little misleading as it leaves various marks and bruises all over your body.
When softball was first played, a boxing glove was folded into a shape of a ball so that players are able to play the sport indoors.
As the sport developed over time, the specifications of a softball became more refined. Eventually, sports associations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) officially came to an agreement about the specifications of a softball.
While softballs are generally softer than baseballs, the ball used in softball is not soft at all, especially when you get hit by one. The balls used in this sport are made out of either long fiber kapok, a combination of rubber and cork, a polyurethane mixture, or another approved material.
Anyone who has been hit by a softball can tell you that a softball is anything but soft.
What Are The Standart Softball Diameter And Weight Should Be?
In 2002, NCAA and NAIA have come to an agreement regarding the standards of the ball used in softball.
According to the NCAA rulebook (which is dated in 2010-11), the standard softball used in collegiate competitions should be from 11.875 to 12.25 inches in circumference. Meanwhile, the weight must be 6.5 to 7 ounces.
This is significantly larger and heavier than a regulation baseball, which 9 inches in circumference and weighs 5 ounces.
Many softball leagues like the National Federation of State High Schools Associations (NFHS) and other youth leagues have followed this standard. However, Little League Softball lowers this standard. From 11.8 to 12.25 inches and 6.5 to 7 ounces, the Little League allows softballs with a size of 11.8 to 12.13 inches in circumference with a weight of 6.25 to 7 ounces.
What Are Other Facts about Softball Color and Materials?
While it was mentioned earlier that sports associations like NCAA and NAIA follow a set standard for softball specifications, other sports organizations have various types of standards regarding the ball’s appearance.
The Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), now USA Softball, is the governing body for the United States Softball team and oversees 150,000 amateur teams in the nation. This organization only allows its certified balls, which is supposed to be white or optic yellow, in sanctioned competitions.
Meanwhile, the NFHS mandates its own certified balls to be used in their tournaments, and the ball must be the same colors as ASA.
In NCAA and NAIA, these organizations only allow bright yellow balls to be used in their tournaments.
Despite the differences in these organizations’ standards, these organizations agree that the ball’s materials must use these following: polyurethane, long fiber kapok or cork, and rubber core. And the materials should be topped with a chrome-tanned horse or cowhide.
Since getting hit by a softball hurts a lot, what should you use to protect yourselves from the softball?
Even though softballs generally travel slower, the balls used in fastpitch softball generate a speed of 70 miles per hour. If you get hit by a softball, you may end up getting bruises, welts, or concussions depending on where you get hit.
As a softball player, it is important to wear protective gear to protect yourself from the ball and prevent injury. In fastpitch softball, the gameplay speeds up, and that usually means players are more likely to get injured.
Batters and runners are required to wear helmets. An approved helmet must have two ear flaps that will cover the players’ ears. Damaged or altered helmets are prohibited in games.
In intercollegiate tournaments, players can wear their helmets with or without a face mask. However, most teams require their players to wear a helmet that comes with a face mask.
For catchers, they are required to wear a helmet that comes with a face mask, a throat protector, shin guards, and a body protector.
Shin guards are typically worn by catchers and some pitchers to also protect their kneecap and shins.
While face masks are optional, they are highly recommended by sports organizations. They are typically worn by the pitcher, batter, and the basemen. These masks serve as protection to your face for severe injuries as most softball players are likely to be vulnerable to accidents, such as being hit in the face by a fast ball, which can result in concussions and temporary blindness.
Some players also opt to wear a mouth guard as well in case they get hit.
When playing softball, safety should be a priority. Despite the sport’s name, the ball used is not soft. In addition to that, the ball is thrown at the speed equivalent of a moving car on a highway. Getting hit by a softball can produce painful bruises, welts, and even concussions if you are not careful.