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Softball

INTRODUCTION

Softball is a very popular sport in North America. Millions of children and adults play

and enjoy this game. Softball has been played in the United States and Canada since the

late 1800
s. An International Softball Federation was formed in 1952. This organization

coordinates international competition and regular regional and world championship tournaments

for men and women. In 1996 softball was added as an Olympic sport. In that

same year the United States became the first gold medal winner of this new Olympic

sport.

The fundamentals of softball are the same as those of baseball.

Batting and fielding is similar in both games.

Softball is played on a smaller field, however, and

the game is seven innings long instead of nine.

In softball, the ball is pitched underhand,

whereas in baseball the pitch is overhand

or sidearm. Base stealing is permitted in

both games, but in softball the runner must keep

in contact with the base until the pitcher throws a pitch.

There are many variations to the game of softball; some are officially recognized and

others are not. In Chicago, for example, Windy City or Cabbage Ball is played with a 16-

inch ball and without gloves. In Maine and Alaska, people play softball in the snow. In

California, a game has developed called Over the Line: OTL players don
t use glovesand they dont run bases. These variations of the game exist in many regions, however,fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball are the two dominate the games in North America.

HISTORY OF THE GAME

The game of softball began in Chicago, Illinois on Thanksgiving Day in 1887. Several

young men at the Farragut Boat Club were waiting for a telegraph to see who won a

Yale-Harvard football game. While waiting, one man threw an old boxing glove at a

friend. He in turn hit it with a broom handle. Another friend, George Hancock, grabbed

the glove, tied it into a sphere and said,
lets play ball!The friends chose up sides, and

the first game of softball began.

After the game, Hancock created a crude ball that was larger than a baseball. He then

drew up a list of rules and decided that the game could be played in a field much smaller

than a regular baseball field. He thought an area like a school gym would be just right for

this new game of softball.

In 1887 several softball teams were formed in Chicago. It was not long before the game

spread to other parts of the country. Hancock wrote the first set of rules in 1889. As new

teams formed, they adopted new rules. One of the obvious differences between the teams

was the lack of a standard bat or ball size.

Eventually, a committee of the Amateur Softball Association was formed and met in

1933 to set standard rules. Today the game of softball is played worldwide with standard

sets of rules. There are still three sizes of balls in use: 12-inch, 14-inch, and 16-inch. The

12-inch ball is the most popular.

The first softball fast-pitch national tournament for both men and women was held in

1933 in Chicago. More than 350,000 people attended the three days of playoffs. In later

years the national tournament was held in a variety of large cities. Today the Amateur

Softball Association crowns national champions in both fast-pitch and slow-pitch, with

fast-pitch dominating international competition.

HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED

The game starts as the batter steps into one of the

batter boxes on either side of the home plate. The

pitcher then tries to throw the ball through the batter
s

strike zone using an underhand motion. For slow

pitch, the strike zone is between the shoulders and

the knees. For fast pitch it is between the armpits

and the knees.

If the batter doesnt swing and the ball passes through the strike zone, the umpire willcall a

strike.But if the ball pitched is outside the strike zone and the batter doesnt
swing, the umpire calls the pitch a ball.The batter can get a strike if he swings at a

pitch and misses. He can also get a strike if the ball is hit into foul territory. A batter

remains at the plate until she hits a ball into fair territory, takes four balls for a walk to

first base, or gets three strikes for an out. If the count is already at two strikes, a foul ball

will not be called a strike unless it
s a three fouls and youre outleague.

If the batter hits a fair ball, the defense can make a force-out by throwing the ball to first

base before the runner gets there. The umpire will call the runner out as long as the first

base player has control of the ball and a foot on the bag. If another runner is already on

base, the defense will often choose to pick off

the lead runner. It
s important to remember thatif the lead runner doesnt have to run, a fielder

must tag the runner to get an out. For example,

a runner on second base doesn
t have to go to

third if first base is empty. If the runner heads

to third, the person playing third will place the

ball in his glove and touch the runner with it to

get the runner out. The defense can tag an offensive

player who overruns second or third

base.

The defense can also get the batter out by catching a fair or foul ball on a fly. After a fly

ball for an out, all runners on base must tag up (they must be touching their original base

until the ball is caught). When a fly ball is hit deep into the outfield, a runner may tag up

and then run to the next base. Since the runner doesn
t have to run, he or she must be

tagged out.

The offense scores a run when a person makes it all the way around the bases without

being tagged or forced out. Each team bats until there are three outs. An inning is completed

when both teams have batted. The visiting team bats first. This is called the top of

the inning. The home team bats second, or in the bottom of the inning. Softball games

last seven innings unless there is a tie or the game is rained out. The team with the most

runs wins.

THE PLAYING FIELD

Softball is played on a diamond-shaped field with bases located at each corner of the

diamond. The field is divided into an infield and an outfield.

The dimensions of the field vary with the type of softball being played and

the age and sex of the players. These differences ensure that the field is

appropriate for the strength and skill level of the players using it. For

example, in a ten-year-old boys
game the pitcher stands 35 feet

from the batter. In order to hit a home run the batter must hit the

ball over a fence 175 feet away.

In a men
s slow pitch league, on the other hand, the pitcher

throws from 65 feet away and the outfield fence is 300 feet away.

Most field dimensions, including distance from the pitching rubber

to home plate, length between the bases, and distance to the outfield

fence, will be slightly smaller for a fast pitch game than for a game

of slow pitch.

THE VARIOUS FORMS OF SOFTBALL

Although the many games of softball have similarities, they also have some basic differences.

Each type has a number of rules that regulate the style and speed of pitching.

For example,
modified pitch eliminates two of the fastest and

most difficult-to-hit pitches (the windmilland the slingshot)that are used in straight fast-pitch softball.

Slow-pitch rules require,

among other things, that the ball travel within minimum

and maximum limits of arc when pitched. One form of slow pitch

is played with a ball that is 16 inches in diameter, which is much

larger than the standard 12-inch ball.

Since slow pitch has a larger field, it uses more players than fast

pitch.
Fast pitch is played with nine people while slow pitch adds

an extra player to the outfield to make ten. Slow pitch, unlike

baseball or fast pitch, sets limits on the number of out-of-thepark

home runs allowed per inning. Depending on the league
s

classification, this number can range from zero to 12. The batter

will be called out for any home runs hit in excess of the limit.

THE PITCHER

Rules for the pitcher differ for each type of softball. An obvious reason for pitching rules

is to make certain that a certain speed of pitch is thrown to the batter. Another reason is

to ensure that the pitcher doesn
t confuse the batter and base runners with fakepitches.Failure to follow the pitching rules will result in an illegal pitch.In fast pitch, the

penalty for an illegal pitch is a ball called for the batter and an extra base for any base

runners. In slow pitch, a ball is called for the batter but the runners do not advance

automatically.

Men
s and womens fast pitch softball have rule variations that

determine the stance of the pitcher. Both games require the

pitcher and the catcher to be in position before the pitcher is

considered ready to pitch. The catcher must stay inside the

catcher
s box until the ball has left the pitchers hand. Whenstepping up to the pitchers rubber, the pitcher should approach

with both hands separated. The ball may be held in either the

glove or the throwing hand. For men, one foot must be placed

on the pitching rubber and the other may be on or behind the

pitching rubber. Women must have both feet on the pitching

rubber. In either case, the shoulders should be squarely facing

the batter. Only at this time may the pitcher receive signals from

the catcher.

When the pitcher is ready, both hands must be brought together holding the ball still in

front of the body, for from one to ten seconds. The moment the pitcher takes one hand

off the ball, the pitch proper has begun.

The pitcher may use any windup, but it is illegal to reverse the forward motion of the

windup before the pitch is released. This will prevent the pitcher from throwing fakes.

In mens play, the ball must be thrown with an underhanded

motion with the hand below the hip. The wrist

may not be further from the body than the elbow. When

the pitcher takes a step forward, it must be taken at the

same time as the delivery of the ball. The pitcher
s other

foot must remain on the pitching rubber until the forward

stepping foot has touched the ground. Women start with

a different ready-to-pitch stance; the pitcher may allow

her pivot foot to drag forward, off the pitching rubber,

before her other foot touches the ground. She must make

sure that her pivot foot, in leaving the pitching rubber,

remains in contact with the ground.

Unless there are base runners that may be stealing the

next base, the catcher should return the ball only to the pitcher. This eliminates wasting

time and the danger that a ball could actually be called for this infraction.

The pitching in
modified pitch softball is very similar to fast pitch, but the ball is released

a little lower, since the pitchers begin with both feet on the pitching rubber. In

modified ball, the pitcher may not use the windmill or sling-shot pitches.

Slow pitching regulations are a simplified version of the

fast pitch regulations. To start, a pitcher must simply pause

with the ball held in front of his body, keeping a foot on the

pitching rubber. When pitching, the pivot foot must be kept

in contact with the rubber but the other foot may step either

forward, or backward during the pitch. In slow pitch softball

the ball must not be delivered at excessive speed: two

such offenses could result in the removal of the pitcher from

the pitching position. After leaving the pitcher
s hand, the

ball must arc at least six feet from the ground before crossing

home plate. A pitch
s maximum height off the ground in

slow pitch is 12 feet.

EQUIPMENT

Bats come in a variety of lengths, weights and shapes. Usually a player has a good

chance of finding a bat that meets her needs. The bat used should be an official softball

bat that is clearly marked
Official Softballby the manufacturer.

An official bat must be round and can be made from wood, metal, bamboo, plastic or

laminated wood. It must not exceed 38 ounces in weight. Metal bats must be free of

burrs and any rough or sharp corners. Wooden bats must be made either from one piece

of hard wood or from a block of laminated wood.

An official softball bat must not be longer than 34 inches or have a diameter greater than

29/32 inches. All bats must have some type of safety grip of cork, tape, or composition

material. A batter can be called out for using an illegal bat and ejected for using an

altered bat.

The official softball measures between 11 and
7/8 and 12 and 1/8 inches in circumference,weighs between 6 and 1/2 and 7 ounces. It has a center made of fiber kapok or of a corkrubber

mixture. The ball is covered in chrome-tanned horsehide or cowhide sewed in a

seamless stitch with waxed thread. Cement applied to the underside of the covering

holds it to the ball.

Each player normally would furnish his own shoes and glove. Metal shoe spikes may be

used if the spikes are no longer than three-fourths of an inch. Rounded metal spikes,

such as track or golf spikes, are not allowed.

A ball player
s glove or mitt is her most important personal

furnishing. A good player keeps her glove or mitt in fine condition,

keeping it free from dirt. Only the catcher and the first

baseman are allowed to wear a mitt. The other players wear

gloves.

The rules require a catcher to wear a mask in fast pitch and recommend

one for slow pitch. Other catching equipment includes a chest protector and shin

guards. In most cases the team sponsor will furnish the catcher
s equipment as well as

the batting helmets. Batting helmets must be worn in fast-pitch games, not only by the

batter but also by the base runners and the on-deck batter as she warms up.

Uniforms for all players must be identical in color, trim and fit. Undershirts that are

exposed to view and worn by more than one team player should be of the same color.

Ragged or torn sleeves on uniform shirts or undershirts are not permitted. Caps are also

part of the official uniform.

SOFTBALL NOTES AND NEWS

The Amateur Softball Association registers over 260,000 softball teams annually. Today

there are also more than 73,500 Junior Olympic Youth Softball Teams.

One of the greatest victories for softball enthusiasts occurred in 1991 with the addition

of women
s fast pitch softball to the program of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta,

Georgia. In fact, the USA defeated China 3-1 to

capture softball
s first Olympic Gold Medal. On

that July 30, day a capacity crowd of over 8,700

witnessed the USA win behind the pitching of

Michele Granger of Anchorage, Alaska and Lisa

Fernandez of Long Beach, California.

Dot Richardson played shortstop for the 1996

U.S. Gold Medal Team. Dot was fully committed

to this team since she was willing to put her

medical training on hold for a year. By profession Dot is an orthopedic surgeon. She is

no stranger to international competition after playing on three Pan Am Games teams and

in three International Federation world championships.

Dot started in baseball but switched to softball when she was ten. She jumped directly

into a women
s softball league. Three years later she became the youngest player to join
the national Womens Major Fast Pitch League. Since then, she has won seven Golden

glove awards and is considered the best female shortstop in the world.

Canada also had a strong showing at the 1996 Olympics. They defeated Cuba 2-0 in the

Bronze medal game. In the 1999 Pan American Games Canada brought home Gold in

the Men
s division and Silver for the Women.

Fifteen women represented the United States at the 2000

Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The United States

rebounded from a three-game losing streak to repeat

as softball gold medalists, beating Japan 2-1. The

United States had an overall record of 7-3 in Sydney.

At age 39, Dot Richardson saw Olympic action again.

She was the oldest member of the USA 15 member

team. Catcher, Stacey Nuveman, 22, of LaVerne, California

was the youngest team member. Japan won the

Silver Medal and Australia earned the Bronze at the

Sydney Summer Olympics.

Watch for developments concerning the next Olympic Games to be held in Greece in

2004. This web site will help keep you informed:

http://www.athens.olympic.org/en/

In college softball, Arizona won the softball title for the 2001 season by defeating UCLA

1-0. Jennie Finch pitched a four-hitter to finish a perfect season (32-0).

There are softball leagues and organizations all over the world, including many excellent

high school and college softball programs. There are, however, still many people

who play the sport informally just to have some fun and get a little exercise. This is the

case with the Amateur Softball Association
s Junior Olympic Program that was developed

to foster softball interest, skills and desire in a new generation of softball players.

This Junior Olympics emphasize fun and gives players a chance for fellowship, sportsmanship

and a feeling of belonging.

WHAT TO DO:

The following questions will help you to have a greater appreciation and understanding

of softball. Write your answers in the spaces below the questions. If there is not enough

room, write on the backs of these sheets. Be neat, spell correctly, and write in complete

sentences.

1. How is softball different than baseball?

2. How did the game of softball get started?

3. Describe the strike zones in softball.

4. What are the official regulations for a bat?

5. What are the official regulations for an official ball?

6. In fast-pitch games which players must wear helmets?

7. What is considered to be one of the greatest victories for softball enthusiasts?

8. When were standard rules for softball developed and by whom?

9. What are the three sizes of balls that are used in softball?

10. What are the ways a batter can get a strike called on her?

Short Answer Questions:

1. The city where softball began
2. Where Over the Linesoftball was developed

3. Each team bats until there are this many outs

4. This team bats first in a game

5. Number of called
ballsbefore a player walks to first base

6. The team with the most number of these wins the game

7. The player who wears a mask

8. The shape of a playing field

9. The person who wrote the first set of rules for softball

10. In 1993 this softball association set standard rules

11. The fundamentals of softball are the same as this game

12. The boat club where softball is said to have started

13. The most popular size softball in inches

14. A 1996 gold medal winner in softball

15. How a softball is pitched

16. The zone where the pitcher tries to throw her pitches

17. These are considered part of the official uniform

18. These come in a variety of shapes, lengths and weights

19. This team bats in the botton of an inning

20. The team that is fielding is playing _______

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