What is Softball?

Short guide to slowpitch softball (pdf)

Short guide to indoor softball (pdf)

Softball is a recreational, amateur version of the American sport of baseball. It’s played with lighter bats, larger balls, underarm -rather than overarm- pitching, and mixed teams: at least 4 out of 10 players on a team must be female. Which makes it a bit safer, a lot easier, and definitely more fun for those of us who won’t get to play for the Red Sox!

Start with the basics. The pitch is called a diamond, because there’s four bases; Home, First, Second, and Third, arranged in a diamond shape (H, 1, 2, and 3 on the picture). Simple. In a game, teams of ten players each alternate between batting (at Home plate) and fielding. The batting team tries to get their players around the four bases – from Home plate to First, Second, Third, and back to Home – by hitting the ball where the fielding team can’t get it in time to get the batter, or a player previously on base, out. You don’t have to get all the way back to Home to be ‘safe’ – you can stop on any base – but you only score a run when you get back to Home.

There’s 10 fielding positions on the team that isn’t batting: Pitcher (who throws the ball for the batter to hit), Catcher (behind Home plate, who catches pitches the batter doesn’t hit), First (beside first base), Second (between first and second bases), Short Stop (between second and third bases), Third (beside third base), and four Outfielders (Left Field, Left Centre Field, Right Centre Field, and Right Field), beyong the bases, for when the batter hits a big shot.

The fielding team tries to get players on the batting team ‘out’. This can be done in a couple of ways:

1. Catching a ball after it has been hit, but before it has touched the ground (fly out).

2. Making contact with a base while you have the ball in your hand or glove, before the runner reaches the base (ground out).

3. Touching the runner with the ball, or with your glove while it holds the ball, when the runner is not in contact with any base (tag out).

4. Pitching three balls through the ‘strike zone’ (i.e. hittable balls) without the batter hitting them (strike out).

Once three players are ‘out’, the teams switch.

Once both teams have three players out, that’s the end of the first ‘inning’.  Games can be up to 7 innings long; but in tournaments, games are usually timed, lasting around 45 minutes.

That’s a brief introduction: it’s actually easier to just pick the rules up by playing and watching!

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