Go to any ball field on a sunny Sunday afternoon and chances are likely that you will see a slow pitch softball game in action. Slow pitch softball is one of the most popular recreational and community sports, as it requires little equipment and is easy to learn and to play.
Softball began as an indoor sport in 1887 with a broomstick and a rolled-up, tied boxing glove at the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago. That first indoor game, between Harvard and Yale football fans, grew to become known as “kitten ball.” By 1888, softball caught on as a viable sport, with specific field dimensions and rules. Slow pitch softball evolved from that and slowly gained fans in the 1950s. The Amateur Softball Association officially recognized slow pitch softball in 1953. the sport has grown worldwide in popularity as well.
There are three different types of softball: fast pitch, modified pitch and slow pitch. The biggest difference between these types is in the speed of the pitch. In a fast pitch softball game, the pitcher throws the ball underhand with a strong windmill motion. In contrast, the pitcher in slow pitch softball must “lob” the ball; that is, throw the ball underhand without a windmill motion so the ball is delivered in a high arc to the batter. The arc must be at least six feet from the ground, so that the batter hits the ball with an almost uppercut motion.
The ball is larger in slow pitch softball than the ball used in baseball. It can be 12 inches or 16 inches in diameter. The materials used to make the softball vary but are usually either kapok, polyurethane, or cork and rubber. A yarn is then wrapped around the ball. Finally, rubber or latex cement seals the ball.
Like baseball, fast pitch soft ball puts nine players in the field. In contrast, slow pitch softball uses 10 players to field the ball. Slow pitch soft ball prohibits stealing bases or bunting the ball, while fast pitch softball does allow stealing. These differences make offense, not defense, more important in the slow pitch version of the game.
Baselines and pitching distances are different in fast pitch and slow pitch softball. In fast and modified pitch, you’ll find the bases are 60 feet apart. Slow pitch’s rules place the bases 65 feet apart. The pitching distance also differs among the variations of softball: The distance between home plate and the pitcher’s mound ranges from 40 to 46 feet in fast pitch and modified pitch; however, in slow pitch soft ball the distance extends to 50 feet.
Despite the differences, all three versions of softball are equally popular with men and women, and college and recreational leagues. What started as a friendly game with a broomstick and a boxing glove has become a popular worldwide sport for players and fans alike.