Softball is often compared to baseball as both are rather similar, especially because softball was derived from baseball. However, there are a lot of differences as well, which is why softball is a sport of its own. The softball is a unique-looking big and yellow ball, so it’s only natural to think, why is that?
Softballs are yellow because they are easier to see, thus safer. A softball pitching distance is 17 feet shorter than baseball, and the bases are also closer to the home base. Therefore, the players have less time to react to the ball, so it needs to be easily seen, so they are yellow.
So essentially, the coloring is yellow because of vision and safety. To fully understand why this is and what these reasons stand for, I’ll need to dive deeper into the subject!
- Reasons Why Softballs are Yellow
- How to Protect Yourself From Softballs?
- Are Softballs Always Yellow?
- When Did Softballs Become Yellow?
- What are the Three Types of Softballs?
- My Favorite Softball Equipment
Reasons Why Softballs are Yellow
The fact that softballs are yellow comes down to safety and is easier to see. These two things are related to each other, but they hold other meanings.
1. Easier to see
The main reason softballs are yellow is that they are easier and faster to see to react to them on time.
Baseballs are smaller and white, making them harder to notice than softballs. However, baseball pitching distance is 60ft, whereas the pitching distance in softball is 43ft. This gives the softball players considerably less time to react to the ball, so it needs to be made up somehow. Thus, the balls are yellow.
The batting position isn’t the only softball position that requires quick sight of the ball. In fact, the whole softball field is smaller than a baseball field, and the bases are closer to each other. So, the ball travels less distance everywhere; therefore, the ball must be yellow for all softball players.
This makes the players play with optimal performance, at least when it comes to the ball, and it’s also safer, which brings us to the next part.
2. Safety concerns
Unlike the name softball makes some people think about a soft ball, it’s not like that. A softball is very hard and will make big bruises and pain if you are unlucky to get struck by one. If a softball comes to the wrong area hard, it can even hospitalize you.
According to Stanford Children’s Health, nearly 110,000 children from ages 5-14 were treated in hospital within one year because of baseball and softball-related injuries. These numbers are very high and come third after football and bicycling. Note that there are injuries from both baseball and softball. However, the records stop at year 14, which rules out all the hard hitters and professions, so the real number is higher.
That should give you a little perspective on how injury-prone sports softball is; even though not all of the injuries came from the ball, but it’s safe to assume that many of them did.
Safety should be taken very seriously in all sports, and that’s why softballs are yellow. To minimize the risk of injury when getting struck by a hard softball. There are ways to protect yourself further, so let’s look at that next.
How to Protect Yourself From Softballs?
Sometimes there is no way to prevent getting struck by a softball even when the ball is yellow, and whether that is you or someone else, it will happen. Keeping this in mind, there is various equipment that you will be glad you wore when you get hit by a softball, so let’s take a look at what those are.
1. Helmets & Mask
Helmets are used every time you bat, wait to bat, run bases, catch, or sometimes pitch. So, catchers pitchers may wear helmets virtually all the time if it’s required in the particular league, and everyone wears a helmet half the time at a minimum.
Helmets are the most important safety equipment in softball as it protects the most important part of your body. Imagine getting hit by a softball on your head without a helmet; that could potentially be life-threatening. Some masks protect the face. For example, the EvoShield XVT Batting Helmet & Mask protects your head fully.
2. Chest Protector
A chest is also a vulnerable place that a softball could damage. In addition, it’s a large part of your body, so if you get stuck somewhere, it’s a good chance that it will be in the chest area.
Chest protectors are mainly used by catchers and especially pitchers. Catchers also need chest protectors because they will easily get stuck on the chest, and even when the ball isn’t batted to the catcher, softball players can throw the ball at the speed of 70mph, which will certainly hurt.
Pitchers are closest to the batter’s swing, so they must wear proper chest protectors like the Mizuno Samurai Fastpitch Chest Protector.
3. Shin Guards
Again, catchers and pitchers are most prone to get hit by a softball, so they need more equipment, including shin guards.
Catchers shin guards are bulkier, longer, and heavier as they squat a lot exposing the whole leg; they need more protection. The pitcher’s shin guards are smaller and cover less area on foot. Many pitchers use general shin guards that can be used in other sports as well, if they use any at all.
4. Ahtletic Cups or Pelivic Protectors
In one of my articles, I went through whether softball players wear cups, and the answer is that definitely yes. A survey made with the NEIS system reveals that over 240 severe genital injuries were reported between 2002 and 2010. Even when the amount of injuries isn’t much, they still happen, and it’s better to wear a cup instead of wishing that you were after getting injured.
The cup usage depends on the softball position, gender, and personal preference. Generally, catchers and some pitchers and infielders wear athletic cups (men) or pelvic protectors (women).
There are no regulations that a softball player must wear cups other than male softball players in the youth program. But still, it’s good to know that softball players care for their health to wear cups, especially in positions that would require them.
5. Be smart
Last but not least, being smart is always a good way not to get hit by a softball or anything else. When you are on the field, remember to focus, keep the distance from the batter, and of course, wear proper equipment.
Are Softballs Always Yellow?
As yellow is the traditional softball color, it makes you wonder, are there any other colors?
The official and most used softball color are yellow. Yellow balls are always used in professional matches. However, white softballs are used in recreational and some slowpitch leagues. In addition, various other softball colors often are determined by weight.
I have gathered example balls for you from Amazon from five different colors and added a short explanation of what they are used for. Take a look if you will! (Click a color to see an example)
- Yellow softballs – The official ball color of softball. Always used in serious and professional matches.
- White softballs – Used in recreational leagues and certain slowpitch matchs.
- Red softballs – Often has heavy weight such as 9-12 ounces.
- Orange softballs – Often has a mediocre weight such as 6-8 ounces.
- Blue softballs – Often has a light weight such as 4-5 ounches.
In addition to these colors, there are also brown, bright yellow, light red, sand, grey, and probably a lot more, depending on the manufacturers. However, yellow and white are by far the most common softball colors.
When Did Softballs Become Yellow?
It might be clear by now that softballs should be yellow most of the time, especially in fastpitch. However, has it always been so?
Softballs became yellow in 1993 when a new optic-yellow colored ball first appeared in the NCAA. Since then, it has become the official color of NCAA and NAIA softballs. Today, yellow is the standard color of most professional softball matches, especially fastpitch softball.
If you aren’t familiar with NCAA or NAIA softball, you can check both their websites below.
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
- National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
What are the Three Types of Softballs?
There are three types of softball played: fast pitch, slow pitch, and modified. In all types, softball is thrown underhand, and the basics are similar. However, there are noticeable rules that set’s them apart. Let’s learn more.
1. Fastpitch softballs
Fastpitch softball is the toughest type of softball, and all the professional games are fastpitch matches.
What sets fastpitch softball apart is the pitching speed between 60-75mph and game speed in general. It’s much faster than other types.
If you watch a fastpitch match and compare them to modified and slowpitch, you will instantly notice that the players are far more athletic as it is the highest level of softball that one can play.
This means in terms of softball is that it’s different from the rest. The regulation fastpitch softball-size is 11″ instead of 12″. Also, fastpitch balls are a bit harder than slowpitch softballs.
2. Modified softballs
Modified is the rarest type of softball, and it’s a mixture between slowpitch and fastpitch.
The pitcher can’t use the windmill motion in modified softball, which is very well known from fastpitch softball. However, modified softball rules allow bunting and stealing, which varies from both fastpitch and slowpitch softball. There are various other differences, but we want to know about the ball!
Modified softballs are 12″, so they’re the same size as slowpitch softball. Modified softball is played mostly by men, whereas other softball types are definitely women’s turf.
3. Slowpitch softballs
The by far most popular softball type is slowpitch. To give you a little perspective, there are 1.81million. Fastpitch softball players in the US, but 6.35 million slowpitch players. According to Statista.
Slowpitch softball is different from fastpitch as there isn’t the windmill motion, making the pitchers throw at the average speed of 25mph. In addition, the whole game is slower than fast pitch or even modified softball.
The slowpitch softball is 12″ so that it is harder to throw, and it’s also a bit softer, making it travel slower. This is intentional as the speed of slowpitch isn’t meant to be as fast.
All in all, be careful when you buy your softballs as there are different variations so that you will end up with the right one.
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.