Rules and History of Softball

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Softball: An Underhanded Way to Play

Created on Thanksgiving Day in 1887 as an ad hoc game of indoor baseball, softball has grown immensely over the past 120 years. Today it’s one of the most popular team sports in the United States, with more than 15 million Americans participating every year. We’ve compiled our favorite Web sites to help you learn about the game, follow competitive softball, and play the game yourself.

Rules and History of Softball

From a way to keep Chicago firemen busy during the bouts of inactivity between calls to an Olympic sport, softball’s rules, regulations, and style of play have grown and developed with the sport’s popularity. With this section we’ll provide sites that narrate the story of softball’s birth and expansion, and sites that outline its rules. 

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  • Softball consists of three main types: fast pitch, modified fast pitch, and slow pitch. Although the basics remain the same for each, there are some differences regarding field size, base runners, etc.
  • Fast pitch is sometimes spelled as one word; this guide will use two words, except in the names of organizations that spell it as one word. But if you use a search engine to find softball information, try your search with both spellings.
  • Softball rules often vary slightly between professional and college leagues, and can vary greatly between amateur leagues. For example, more-competitive amateur leagues typically allow stolen bases and unlimited runs, while many recreation-focused leagues put restrictions on the offense, and coed leagues have diverse rules about how many women and men need to play and where they can be positioned on the field and in the batting order.
  • The rules sites recommended in this section give guidelines for how softball is generally played. If you are looking more in-depth rules, look for specific league rule books, which can be found on official league Web sites listed in the “Where can I find information on international and professional softball leagues?” and “Where can I find an amateur softball league to play in?” sections.

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Softball Leagues and Tournaments

Softball is played competitively in more than 100 countries across the world, and there are international competitions for both men and women. In the United States, women’s fast pitch is played professionally, and at most high schools and colleges. This section will show you where to find information on softball’s premier leagues and organizations.

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  • The American women’s team has been dominant in the Olympics, having won gold medals in each of the three Olympics in which the sport has been featured. Unfortunately, the International Olympic Committee voted in 2005 to exclude softball (and baseball) from the 2012 London games.
  • New Zealand is the current men’s fast pitch champion, and has won the last three tournaments. The United States is the current women’s fast pitch champion, and has won the last six tournaments. In college softball, the University of Arizona Wildcats won the 2007 NCAA national championship, taking home their second Women’s College World Series title in a row.
  • In this section we reference two Web sites for the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association): NCAASports.com focuses on the playing of the game, whereas NCAA.org focuses on the administrative side of the NCAA, including rules and records.

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For international softball …
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Softball News

You don’t have to wait for the Olympics or College World Series to find coverage of women’s fast pitch softball. The following sites will keep you up to date on the world of competitive softball.

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  • The official league sites listed in the previous section are all excellent sources of news and statistics for their respective leagues.

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Recreational Softball Leagues

There are leagues across the country for every kind of player: man or woman, old or young, casual or serious, beginner or veteran. This section will give you the organizing bodies of amateur softball and help you find a league that fits your needs.

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  • The leagues and organizations we’ve included here are all national; most of their Web sites include links or contact information for local leagues and tournaments. Use this information to find teams and competitions in your area.
  • The sites below link to national organizations that oversee local leagues and tournaments. There are also many independent local leagues; too many, in fact, to be listed here. These leagues can be found using a common search engine: usually the name of the town or city plus “softball” is sufficient, but if you want to narrow your results, include terms like youth, adult, girls, boys, women, men, coed, competitive, recreational, fast pitch, and slow pitch.
  • Another good source for finding local leagues is the “Parks and Recreation” section on a town or city’s Web site. Most town and city sites can be found through state sites, which are usually the state’s two-letter postal code plus “.gov.” For example, the New York State Web site is NY.gov.
  • It’s important to recognize your talent level when looking for a league. Players and teams that are too good or not good enough ruin the competitive balance of the league and are sometimes even asked to leave.

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Improving at Softball

Whether you’re a competitive player or just playing for fun on a company team, the Web has sites full of advice on how to become a better player. We’ve tracked down the best.

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  • There is a distinct difference between the swing in a fast pitch game and the swing in a slow pitch game. In fast pitch, the swing must be short and quick to make contact with the speeding ball. The slow pitch swing often involves a long, slow coiling and uncoiling to generate as much power as possible.
  • Softball clinics and camps are a great way to improve your game. To find one in your area, use a search engine or look on the “Parks and Recreation” section of your town or city’s Web site.

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Buying Softball Equipment and Apparel

Though it appears to use mostly the same equipment as baseball, competitive players require equipment specifically designed for softball. Even casual players might want to put down their old baseball glove and buy a softball glove, which has a larger pocket for handling the larger ball. The sites in this section will help you find the bat, glove, or other piece of equipment that’s right for you.

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  • When buying a bat, make sure to check which leagues it is certified in; you will not be allowed to use it if it isn’t certified specifically for your type of league. For more information on how to do this, see the Softball Bats Bat Care Guide.
  • The Web sites we’ve included in this section specialize in softball merchandise. Such sites are often your best bet for selection, but if your needs are relatively simple and mainstream you can often find lower prices at large general sporting goods retailers. You’ll find our recommendations for these stores and many other great Web sites in the findingDulcinea Sports Web Guide.

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