Baseball vs. Softball

Gabriel Lucas
4 min readNov 21, 2022

While softball started out as an indoor variant of baseball, it later on developed as an outdoor baseball-style game. Although there are similarities in the layout of the field and the required set of skills (pitching, batting, and running) to play both sports, there are still key differences between the two sports. They’re very similar, but not the same. So what are these differences exactly?

Bats

Softball bats are limited to a length of 34 inches whereas baseball bats are permitted to be up to 42 inches long. The most common bat length in both sports falls between 32 and 34 inches, despite the different maximum lengths. Aside from the difference in length, baseball bats are also often heavier.

Players may use bats made of metal, wood, or different composite materials in softball and amateur baseball. But, only wooden baseball bats are allowed in professional baseball.

Ball Size

Baseballs have a 9-inch circumference with white and red stitching.

Softballs, on the other hand, are bigger — having a circumference of 12 inches. And, as what the term ‘softball’ refers to, softer. Younger players may use 10-inch softball that makes it easier for their little hands to handle.

Gloves

Even though it is possible to use a baseball glove when playing softball, a softball glove is still unquestionably more appropriate for the game. As I have mentioned the difference in ball size is used in each sport, this is the reason why it’s preferred to use baseball gloves for baseball and softball gloves for softball.

Because softballs are larger than baseballs, softball gloves are also larger. For instance, a baseball outfielder’s glove often measures 13 inches in length, but a softball outfielder’s glove typically measures 15 inches. The fit and pocket depth all have an impact on the ease and precision of use when playing. However, at the end of the day, the choice is still entirely up to the player.

Pitch

This is the can’t-miss difference between baseball and softball. Baseball pitchers throw overhand and softballers pitch underhand.

Pitchers in softball throw from just 43 feet away and may reach speeds of more than 60 mph. In baseball, the distance from pitcher to hitter is 60 feet and 6 inches, and the ball frequently travels at speeds of more than 90 mph. The shorter distance means that the ball’s velocity is quite identical to that of baseball, despite the faster pitching speeds in baseball.

Pitching Mound

Aside from the throw and distance, the pitcher’s area is also different. In baseball, pitches are thrown from an elevated, sloping 9-foot-radius mound. While in softball, the pitching zone is a flat circle with an 8-foot radius.

Field

Softball fields are generally smaller. Though exact sizes can depend on the player’s ages, softball fields are smaller than baseball fields.

The distance between the bases confirms this. Baseball bases are 90 feet apart while softball bases are 60 feet apart despite having the exact same layout. Baseball fields typically measure over 300 feet. Whereas softball ground typically measures no more than 250 yards from home plate to the outfield fence. Baseball fielders have significantly more ground to cover.

Gameplay

Both sports have pretty similar overall gameplay rules. Like how in both baseball and softball, if there is a tie after the standard number of innings, extra innings are played. but there are a few key distinctions.

  1. Base Stealing: Although base stealing is allowed in both sports, in softball, the pitch must be thrown before runners can move. While in baseball, runners are free to lead off and steal bases anytime.
  2. Slap Hitters: Slap hitting is not exactly a thing in baseball. However, it is a widely popular hitting style in softball, particularly for quick lead-off hitters. Slap hitters aim to hit the ball hard to the ground in order to advance to second or third base and steal the bases.
  3. Game Length: Softball games last for 7 innings, while baseball games last for 9 innings. Note: Little League and high school games are often shorter.
  4. Number of Players: In both baseball and fastpitch softball, there are nine players on the field at all times. Slowpitch softball, on the other hand, always has 10 players on the field.

Although both baseball and softball require similar skill sets and are played on similar fields, there are still key differences between the two sports. These differences may seem small, but they can make a big impact on the game.

Hope I didn’t miss any key difference between the two sports. Let me know in the comments if I did!

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