Baseball Vs. Softball: What’s The Difference?
Baseball and softball have been compared ever since both sports have been in our world. Many clear differences, data, and even opinions set baseball and softball apart. Because of this, I wanted to create the ultimate resource about the differences between baseball and softball from every aspect.
So, what’s the difference between baseball and softball?
Baseballs are white and small, whereas softballs are yellow and big. Baseball fields are bigger with 90ft between the bases, while a softball field is smaller with 60ft between bases. Also, baseball is more popular, and the players earn more, whereas fastpitch softball is considered more difficult.
There are much more differences, but those are the most considerable ones. Of course, you will find more information about those subjects as well.
That being said, where should we start? Well, let’s start with the playing differences and move on from there. If you want to learn in-depth about baseball vs. softball, stick with me, and you will!
I like to categorize the playing differences into the field and tempo sections. However, other areas naturally impact the playing differences from equipment to rules, but you will find them in their categories below.
One of the most significant differences between baseball and softball is the field.
In short, baseball fields are much larger both from the infield and outfield. In the infield, the distance from one base to another is 90ft (27m), and in softball, the distance is only 60ft (18m). The reason for this? Mostly because men play baseball (more strength overall), and the ball is smaller and lighter (easier to hit fast and hard).
Other infield differences include the infield material. Softball fields don’t have grass infields the same as baseball fields do. The reason is that grass would slow down the softball too much, dirt provides more traction for quick launches for the players, and high maintenance costs for a grass infield.
As the softball field is smaller, the players move in much smaller areas, causing more damage to the grass. In addition to the other two reasons, softball fields have dirt infields made from sand, clay, and silt.
Baseball fields are considerably larger when adding the outfield to the area size. Baseballs are smaller, the players hit and pitch harder, and the bats are slightly heavier in general, so the baseball will fly a lot further.
When considering the field size differences among other ones, the tempo varies as well. Generally, softball has a higher speed of the game. Therefore, softball players have less time to react and move on the field, which is also connected to the difficulty, but more on that later.
This can be hard to believe for many people, as it was for me when I first heard about it. Even when professional baseball pitches are typically 15 to 20mph faster, and the ball is lighter and smaller, softball is a faster sport. This is due to the field’s smaller size.
In softball, the base distances are 33% shorter, which haves a big impact on the game’s speed. Not only because the running distance is shorter, but the batting and throwing distance is also. That’s why if you are a left-handed slapper at-bat in softball, you are almost guaranteed to reach first base, which isn’t the case in baseball.
When comparing a 90mph baseball pitch and a 70mph softball pitch, the baseball batter has a reaction time of .44 seconds, whereas a softball batter has .35 seconds, According to League Apps. That shows that the tempo of the softball player at-bat is faster, and it’s the same for the fielders as well.
Moving on to the rules, there are some notable differences between baseball and softball. However, the differences are quite a few when comparing the sports to other sports because baseball and softball are relatives.
Below you can see some of the most considerable rule differences between baseball and softball.
|Rule||Professional Baseball||Professional Softball|
|Pitching style:||Any method (usually overhand)||Underhand (usually windmill motion)|
|Used bat material:||Wood||Any material (usually composite)|
|Regulation ball:||9in circumference & 5.25oz weight||12in circumference & 7.00oz weight|
|Baselines||90ft (27m)||60ft (18m)|
|Base stealing||Allowed when the ball is live||Allowed when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand|
|Innings per game:||9||7|
I already talked about the pitching distance; however, the pitching style is different. In baseball, 99% of the pitches are done overhand. However, you must throw the ball underhand in softball. In professional softball, the players use the windmill motion, which will add a considerable amount of speed to the ball, and it’s quite impressive.
In MLB, no other than wooden bats are allowed mainly because of safety and historical reasons. A composite bat would be too powerful for baseball, causing safety risks to the players and fans. In addition, all past and current comparisons would be impossible if the forever bat material were changed.
All wooden, composite, and aluminum (see the difference) bats are allowed softball. However, you practically never see wooden bats because they aren’t as powerful as other materials. Composite is by far the most used bat material in professional softball.
Base stealing would be too easy in softball because of the shorter baselines if the players could do it at any time when the ball is live. You can steal a base in baseball whenever the ball is at play. If you want to learn the best sliding techniques, check out my article about it!
The final substantial difference between baseball and softball is the game time. MLB games are nine innings long and can go on much further than that. However, fastpitch softball games are seven innings, meaning that the games won’t last so long.
On average, an MLB game lasts around 3 hours, whereas a fastpitch game lasts 75 to 90minutes. Even with only a two-inning difference, the game length difference is substantially lower in softball.
Let’s move on to the fun part, equipment! The equipment differences between baseball and softball are also worth mentioning because you can use some for both, but some you can’t. Let’s start with the bat.
There are many differences between baseball and softball bats, even when they look almost identical. First of all, the weights on them are different.
- Baseball bat weight range: 33-36oz (0.94-1.0kg)
- Slowpitch softball weight range: 26-30oz (737-850g)
- Fastpitch softball weight range: 15-26oz (425-737g).
See that fastpitch and slowpitch softball bats are very different. This is because the ball is coming in so much faster in fastpitch, so the swing speed is more important than the power coming from the bat. In addition, a faster pitch will add power to the swing better than a slow pitch. Baseball bats are the heaviest.
The bat length is quite similar in baseball and softball bats, yet the length range differs. Take a look a the adult bat lengths.
- Adult baseball bat length: 31″-34″ (79-86cm)
- Adult slow softball bat length: 33″-34″ (83-86cm)
- Adult fastpitch softball bat length: 32″-34″ (81-86cm)
The biggest difference comes when we compare the weight and length of the bats. Drop weight is often marked as (-3), (-10), and so on. The drop weight tells you how heavy the bat is compared to the length. For example, a bat 32″ long with a drop weight of (-3) would be 29oz, and so on.
Finally, there are differences in the barrel diameter. There is only one barrel diameter for baseball and softball when looking at adult bat sizes.
- Adult baseball bat barrel diameter: 2-5/8″
- Adult softball bat barrel diameter: 2-1/4″
That being said, baseball bats always have larger barrels diameter, even though softball bats often have longer barrels. This is carefully thought out and evolved through the years and is now perfected for each sport.
Material differences are also considered as discussed. In professional baseball, only wooden bats are used. This is maple wood 70% of the time as it’s the hardest and densest of them all. In lower levels of baseball, you can see alloy and composite bats.
Moving on to softball, you can see all materials used in lower levels of play, but composite and alloy are always the most used. On a professional level, you never see wooden bats as composite is the most used material in softball because of their powerful properties.
Other differences between baseball and softball bats are the cosmetics. Baseball is mostly played by men and softball by women. Thus, many bats are designed for each gender even though colors have no gender. Still, women often favor colors such as red and purple, whereas men favor blue. This is often shown in the design.
There are differences between softballs and baseballs; material, size, and appearance. Let’s start with the material.
Below you can find the materials and parts used to make baseballs and softballs.
- Baseball: A baseball is composed of several layers. In the center or ”pill” of a baseball, you will find a small cork ball wrapped around two thin layers of rubber. The pill is then tightly covered with various layers of yarn with special machines. The yarn is made usually from wool of different thicknesses, and the final layer is often a polyester-cotton blend. After the yarn coverage, the ball is coated with rubber cement, and only then it’s covered with cowhide. Finally, the cowhide is stitched with red thread.
- Softball: Professional softball centers are made from kapok or polyurethane, whereas slowpitch, recreational, and training softballs usually have cork centers. Cork centers are brown, and kapok or polyurethane centers are white. Softball covers are made from either synthetic, natural, or composite leather. Synthetic covers are the most common, but professional quality balls have natural leather covers. The seams on a softball are stitched with red yarn or other similar material. Learn more about what softballs are made of.
Baseball and softball building blocks are quite similar, yet baseballs are more complicated with more steps and few additional materials on the way.
Size & Weight
When it comes to the size and weight of baseballs and softballs, it’s one of the two most noticeable things. Take a look at the specs below.
|Circumference||9.00-9.25 inches (22.9-23.5cm)||11-12 inches (28-30.5cm)|
|Weight||5.00-5.25 ounces (142-149g)||6.25-7.00 ounces (177-198g)|
Note that professional fastpitch softball often uses a ball that is 11″ in circumference, whereas slowpitch softball uses the 12″ ball. The reason is that the 11″ ball is easier and faster to grab, making the sport more fastpitch.
Baseballs are smaller than softballs because the pitching distance is further, so it’s just right for the game. If baseball used a big ball like in softball, pitching would be difficult, and the batter wouldn’t get the ball as far.
In softball, a small ball like baseball would make the distances too small and almost impossible to play due to the increased speed and low visibility.
Moving on to appearance, it’s the most noticeable difference between baseballs and softballs.
Regulation baseballs are white, whereas regulation softballs are yellow; even tough slowpitch softball can use white balls.
The reason why softballs are yellow is due to two reasons. First of all, yellow softballs are easier to see, and as the distances are shorter, increased visibility is well received. Second, if the ball were white, it would be harder to see, which would raise some serious safety concerns, given that if the players can’t react to the ball in time, they could get hit by them.
As baseball distances are longer, the white color is acceptable as the players will have enough reaction time to spot the ball regardless of color. Finally, both balls are stitched with the iconic red yarn.
Baseball and softball gloves look the same in color, lacing, and leather. However, when you look at them close enough, you can spot some differences.
The biggest difference between gloves is the pocket. Baseball gloves have longer and smaller pockets, whereas softball gloves have shorter and bigger ones. This is because a baseball is 9″ whereas a softball is 11-12″.
The web also varies between the two. Because of baseball’s smaller size, the glove can have a more versatile webbing when compared to a softball glove with a deeper and more demanding pocket.
The third difference is all about the feel. Softball gloves are usually included with velcro straps because fastpitch players favor a tight feel on the glove. Baseball gloves, however, are much looser on the hand as an extension of your hand.
Of course, baseball and softball gloves have different designs related to the sports’ genre superiority. Baseball has more designs appealing to men, whereas softball gloves can have feminine touch in cosmetics.
The equipment won’t stop there as there are much more such as batting gloves, cleats or turf shoes, batting helmets, equipment for positions, and more.
There aren’t that many noticeable differences between the rest of the equipment, but some are worth mentioning.
For example, softball players use more turf shoes than cleats and vice versa because the infield on a softball field is dirt, generally better for turf shoes. Cleats are great for grass as they can penetrate the ground well, and you can get all the features why you choose cleats in the first place.
Batting gloves are generally the same, except the size is smaller with softball batting gloves. Again, this is due to the natural features between men and women, where men have bigger hands (on average) than women.
You can also spot more feminine designs in softball equipment such as shoes and helmets, whereas more masculine colors and designs are found in baseball gear.
If I needed to choose the most sensitive topic between the differences in baseball and softball, it would be the difficulty, without question. Baseball and softball players have been debating over this for a long time, but there is a proven scientific answer to the question.
Generally, fastpitch softball is harder than baseball because of shorter reaction times, higher speed of play, more difficult pitching style, and considerably smaller infield.
All of this makes softball harder the play when combining all aspects of both sports.
However, baseball games are longer, the pitching and running distances are longer, and the competition is harder, which can be valid arguments why baseball is harder. And for some of them, such as physical endurance and accuracy, it is.
Still, fastpitch is more difficult than baseball when looking at the big picture. However, when talking about slowpitch, it doesen’t come near to the difficulty level of baseball.
To learn more about the difficulty between softball and baseball, I recommend checking out my in-depth article.
When we look at the popularity differences between baseball and softball, there is a clear winner. However, this can be looked at from two different points of view; one of the players and one of the fans.
Before looking at the numbers, you can see the top five countries where baseball and softball were most searched worldwide.
|Top 5 Baseball Countries By Popularity||Top 5 Softball Countries By Popularity|
|United States||United States|
Now, let’s take a look at the numbers.
When looking at sports participant numbers in the United States from the age of six and older, baseball is more popular with over 15.64 million participants while softball has 9.69 million. When looking at attendees on a global scale, the gap is even wider in favor of baseball.
Both baseball and softball have been steadily increasing in participants year after year, so it’s safe to assume that the trend will continue. According to World Baseball Softball Federation (WBSC), over 65 million people play baseball or softball worldwide.
Not all softball is the same, and the popularity is well divided by slowpitch and fastpitch. Generally, more people play slowpitch softball because the entry-level is lower. However, fastpitch is taken much more seriously and has the only professional league in all softball.
When looking at the fanbase of baseball and softball, the gap is much larger when looking at the players where the popularity gap is surprisingly narrow if you ask me.
There are approximately 500 million baseball fans worldwide, approximately 6.25% of the world’s population. That’s a respectable amount of people interested in the sport. In fact, baseball is ranked as the 8th most popular sport globally.
When it comes to softball, the exact fan amount isn’t known. However, softball is the most-watched women’s college sport, and its viewers have been consistently rising 5-10% year after year.
Women’s sports everywhere have been gaining traction, which is very good because the athlete salaries are connected to the view amounts. This brings us to the next and final difference, the professional athlete salary.
Pro Athlete Salary Differences
Top professional athletes in most popular sports earn more money in a year than a regular person can earn in ten lifetimes. That says something about what the most skilled and fortunate athletes can earn but varies drastically between sports.
As baseball is the 8th most popular sport, the players earn a ridiculous amount of money each year. Softball isn’t nearly as popular and viewed as a sport, forcing earnings to decrease, even when the skillset would be the same.
Another factor that determines pro player salaries is the competition. As the 8th most popular sport in the world, the competition in baseball is unbelievable and only a selected few ones will ever reach even close to Major League Baseball (MLB).
The competition isn’t close to easy in fastpitch softball, but it’s much easier to get into National Pro Fastpitch League than in the MLB.
Below you can see the five best baseball earners from the year 2021.
Max Scherzer was the highest-paid MLB athlete of 2021, with astronomic earnings of more than 43 million dollars.
When it comes to softball earnings, only one person has ever signed a contract of exactly 1 million dollars. This was achieved by Monica Abbott, the best softball pitcher and one of the most known softball players of all time.
However, this 1 million dollar wasn’t from one year. It’s spread out evenly in six years, making the earnings $166,666 per year. This is 0,38% of the world’s most paid baseball player salary of 2021.
You should also note that the 1 million dollar contract was a record-high deal that blasted the media and internet, which means that the majority of softball players don’t earn nearly that much.
As you can see, the difference is mind-blowing and unfair. Yet, the viewers widely determine the salary, so as softball isn’t watched nearly as much as baseball, the teams can’t provide equal contracts for the softball players.
The frustration is seen in many places, but a popular tweet from Delanie Gourley in 2019 got a lot of popularity. Delanie tweeted, ”The Yankees batboy salary is more than my professional softball contract”. This is far from fair, and I can’t even begin to understand the frustration how that feels. Funny enough, Delanie added some humor to the tweet as well.
Videos About Baseball & Softball
To finish this article off, take a look at some incredible moments from both baseball and fastpitch softball!
Great baseball moments.
Incredible softball plays.