When you first look at softball, you really would think that the ball is soft as it is in the name. However, that certainly isnt’ the case, and when you first discover that the ball is, in fact, very hard, you start to question where it is made of. In this article, I will dive deeper into the subject, among other things.
So, what are softballs made of? Softballs consist of three parts: center, cover, and seams. Quality ball centers are made from kapok or polyurethane, whereas recreational ball centers are made from cork or rubber. The cover is made from synthetic, natural, or composite leather. The seams are made either from cotton yarn or linen.
If you know anything about baseballs and their construction, you will notice by comparing a softball to it that softball doesen’t have the core that a baseball has. Inside softball is only one material that often surprises people.
Anyways, to fully understand what softballs are made of, you need to stick with me and read all about it.
What Materials Are Used to Make a Softball?
A softball has three parts: center, cover, and stitches. The biggest part and the only hidden part is the center. Let’s examine it first.
Generally, there are two kinds of softball centers: hard center and soft center:
The harder softball centers that are also the highest quality are often made from polyurethane (PU) or kapok fiber which is a fiber collected from a tropical tree part of the Malvaceae tree family. These balls are white from the inside and are used in professional and college-level softball matches.
The reason why advanced and professional softball games want a hard softball center relates to many things such as:
- Improved elasticity
- Better durability
- Increased flight distance
- Less damage on the bat
- Decreased bat vibration which improves comfort
As you can imagine, all of the benefits above come in real handy in fastpitch softball. Then there is the softer softball center.
The softer softball centers aren’t even when you might think that. They are just softer than the hard centers. These centers are usually made from cork that has been ground into little pieces and pressed together rubber or a mixture of both. A softball made from these materials is brown on the inside and is used in little league, recreational, or certain slowpitch softball matches.
The reason why these leagues and people prefer softer center softballs are that they provide:
- Shorter flight distance
- Decreased injury risk
As people that want the slower center ball doesen’t hit as fast as experienced fastpitch players, they won’t be needing extra durability, bat damage control, or decreased vibration as they are low, to begin with. Instead, they don’t want a super hard ball that could do serious damage when hit and don’t want the ball to fly off so easily.
Both of these centers play an important role in different circumstances, and they are often chosen these things in mind.
Cutting a softball in half is a fun experience as it often reveals something that you wouldn’t expect. I have included a video of splitting a recreational softball in half after examining the parts of a softball, so remember to check that out below!
The cover of a softball is the majority of what you see. In most cases, the color is yellow as it is the standard softball color, but there are also white softballs for slowpitch or recreational purposes. In addition, there are many more colors such as red, blue, and you name it. To understand why softballs are yellow, I highly encourage you to read my article about it.
Now, back to the subject. Softball covers are made from either synthetic, natural, or composite leather. Most of the ball has synthetic leather covering in today’s world as they are the cheapest, cruelty-free, and they get the job done. However, professional games use softballs with leather covers.
When the manufacturers have decided on the material, they cut two pieces shaped like the number eight. In the meantime, the leather is dyed to yellow or other colors that the ball is destined to be. When the two pieces are ready, they will be placed over the center and are now ready to be stitched together.
This brings us to the final step, seams.
Softballs like baseballs have very clear seams that connect the two number eight-shaped pieces tightly to complete the softball.
The stitching material is either cotton or linen, more commonly cotton yarn. A standard 12inch softball has 88 stitches, and an 11-inch ball has 80 stitches. Altrough the seam linen or yarn is red most of the time, USSSA Softball uses blue, which is often surprising, especially to beginners.
You can see an example softball with blue seams on Amazon.
When you look at the seams on a softball, they are quite large and elevated. This is done on purpose so the pitchers and other people grabbing the ball can have grip support, so it’s easier to hold and throw. However, the manufacturers can select how elevated the seams are, so not all balls are equal as some balls have flat seams.
Here is the video I promised of cutting a softball in half. It’s funny how the granulated cork looks like dirt.
Are Baseballs and Softballs Made the Same?
After learning all of this about softballs, you might wonder whether it’s relative; baseball has similar balls?
Baseballs and softballs aren’t the same as softballs are usually 12″, whereas baseballs are only 9″. Also, the majority of softballs are yellow, and baseballs are white. Lastly, softballs have one material in the core, whereas a baseball has a physical center, and softballs are denser than baseballs.
So, essentially, there are three differences between baseballs and softballs: size, color, and center.
My Favorite Softball Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Here are my top softball equipment recommendations that I think will take your game to the next level.
- Bat: My favorite certified fastpitch softball bat is the Easton Ghost. This bat has a double-barrel construction which is incredible if you are looking for a great feel and are a fan of satisfying pop and sound. The handle is a great bonus as it’s great to hold on to and very thin. The technology used for this bat provides great durability and flexibility. This bat comes in various styles and sizes.
- Softball: The best softballs, in my opinion, are the Franklin Sports Official Softballs. These affordable yet official featured balls are perfect for practice if you want to train with a similar ball as in a real game. These balls have the official 12-inch circumference and weight. The yellow color makes it easy to spot, and the flat seams enable minimal air resistance so that they will fly consistently and far.
- Glove: Rawlings Liberty Advanced Fastpitch Glove should be introduced to every softball player. The 12.5″ size makes it a breeze to catch and secure softballs. The glove is very comfortable as it’s made from full-grain leather, and the pull-staps will perfect the fit. The design is breathtaking as well. Be prepared for a little break-in time tho.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.