Do You Know The Differences Between Baseball and Softball?

Do You Know The Differences Between Baseball and Softball?

A casual observer of baseball and softball will see little differences. However, there are numerous rule differences, some subtle and some more profound.

Softball is a game played in two distinct ways, depending on the style of pitching. Slowpitch softball is popular in leagues played on a more casual level. Skill levels and number of games played per week vary. Fastpitch softball is played in more competitive leagues throughout college and is seen in Olympic play. A major difference in rules in slowpitch softball is to allow for more competitive games by removing aspects such as bunting and stealing. There may also be more local ground rules and time limits for games.

The comparisons between baseball and softball make sense since softball came from baseball. Abner Doubleday is given credit as the inventor of baseball in 1839, but references to the game date back to the 18th century. Softball, on the other hand, was invented in 1887 when people mingled inside the Farragut Boat Club waiting for the final score of a football game between Yale and Harvard. Word has it that after the score was announced, the group decided to play a game of indoor baseball, which was introduced outdoors the following year.

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Comparisons The Differences

Game Length Differences Between Baseball and Softball

Baseball games vary in length from six innings in Little League games to nine innings at the professional level. High school games are generally seven innings, while doubleheader games are also seven innings at the Minor League level.  

Slowpitch softball games are all seven innings unless local rules limit the times of the games, which can reduce the number of innings.


Ball Size Differences Between Baseball and Softball

It’s clear to notice a difference in the size of the ball when viewing a baseball game versus a softball game. A baseball used in a professional game is white and measures nine inches (230 mm) in circumference. The ball used in both fastpitch and slowpitch softball is 12 inches in circumference for men, but 11 inches for children 10 years and under in fastpitch and for women in slowpitch. Perhaps not as noticeable to the viewer is the consistency difference between a softball and a baseball. The baseball is more dense and hard, whereas a softball is less dense and less firm. To make things interesting, softballs come in optic yellow as well as white. The optic yellow is more visible during night play.


Bat Differences Between Baseball and Softball

Very noticeable in amateur baseball leagues from Little League through high school and college is the use of aluminum bats. Balls hit with aluminum bats have a distinct ping sound, have a larger sweet spot and come off the bat with higher velocity. Professional leagues use strictly wooden bats and must be no longer than 42 inches. Most professional players use bats between 32 and 36 inches in length.

Softball bats generally have a noticeably thinner barrel and must be no longer than 34 inches. While wooden bats may be used, almost all bats used in both fastpitch and slowpitch softball as made of aluminum or a composition of metals.


Field Dimensions Differences Between Baseball and Softball

One of the first things a casual observer will notice with regard to field size is a baseball field from the high school level through the professional is much larger than a softball field.  There is 90 feet between each base on a baseball field, except 60 feet at the Little League level. The pitching distance is 60 feet, 6 inches, except 43 feet at the Little League level. Distances to the outfield fences vary but are typically around 300 to 330 feet down the left and right field lines, 370 to 390 feet in the power alleys, and 400 to 420 feet to the centerfield fence. Little League distances are considerably shorter and are generally consistent from field to field.


Both fastpitch and slowpitch softball have 60 feet between bases. Distances from the pitching mound to the batter vary from 40 to 46 feet in fastpitch depending on the level of competition. Slowpitch leagues at the youth level pitch from 46 feet from the batter, whereas adult leagues pitch from 50 feet away from home plate..


The pitching areas are very different between baseball and softball in that baseball pitchers throw from a raised mound, whereas softball pitchers throw from a flat circle or pitcher rubber only.



Players Batting Techniques: A Comparative Look at Hitting in Baseball and Softball

What might not be noticed immediately is the difference in the number of players on the field. Baseball always uses nine fielders as does fastpitch softball, whereas slowpitch softball uses 10 fielders, adding an outfielder. This is because balls as much more easily put into play in slowpitch games, needing an additional player to cover ground in the outfield.


Regarding substitutions in baseball at the professional level, no player removed from the game may return to the game. This is different at lower levels, such as in high school where a player removed can come back into the game once. There is no limit to the number of times a player can be removed and re-enter at the Little League level.

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In both fastpitch and slowpitch softball, free defensive substitutions are allowed so long as they take the same spot in the batting order. A designated hitter for the pitcher is used in most professional baseball leagues. In fastpitch softball, a designated player can bat for any defensive player on the field. In the more relaxed slowpitch game, many extra players can bat, even up to the entire roster depending on the structure of the league.

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Rules of the Game: Batting,  Baserunning, and Pitching

Bunting is allowed in baseball and fastpitch softball, but not in slowpitch softball where power hitting is the name of the game. Batters can foul off as many pitches swinging with two strikes and not be ruled out in baseball and fastpitch softball. Hitting a foul ball with two strikes in slowpitch softball results in a strikeout. Batters hit by a pitch earn first base in baseball and fastpitch softball, but not in slowpitch softball.

Stealing bases is allowed in baseball anytime the ball is in play. This differs from fastpitch softball in which runners cannot leave the base until the ball is released from the pitcher’s hand. There is no base stealing allowed in slowpitch softball in most leagues. In some leagues, stealing is allowed once the pitch lands past the plate.

The method of pitching delivery is generally overhand or sidearm in baseball. In both fastpitch and slowpitch softball, the ball must be delivered in an underhand motion. The difference is that in slowpitch softball there are restrictions with the arc height of the pitch, generally between six and 12 feet.


Although the goal to score more runs than the opposition at the end of the game is the same in baseball and softball, there are numerous differences between the sports. Knowing these differences will enhance the enjoyment the next time you observe a baseball, fastpitch, or slowpitch softball game.

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