Softball is one of the most popular sports in the United States, and it is very similar in gameplay and tools to another sport – baseball. One of the things that makes these two sports so different from one another is their use of differently sized balls which got me to wonder, why are softballs bigger than baseballs?
Why are softballs bigger than baseballs? Softballs are generally bigger than baseballs because softball originated as an indoor sport in 1887. The larger size enables the game to be played over smaller distances, and the soft texture makes it easier to avoid breaking precious items inside as well.
To really understand what has caused softball to look like what it does today, we need to look at the history of the game, along with its technical rules and needs. So, if you want to explore even more about this illustrious game, keep reading the rest of this article as I’ve detailed everything you need to know!
The average softball used in major league games is much bigger than the average baseball. In fact, the softball can be up to 12 inches in size and can weigh up to 7 ounces. On the other hand, a baseball can only have a circumference of 9.25 inches at the most, and its weight can be a maximum of 5.25 inches.
This means that a softball by any means is much larger than a baseball. Many game enthusiasts wonder why this difference in size and weight is so prominent, considering the similarities between the two games.
The difference in size is easy to follow when looking at the history of the two games. Historians have traced the origin of baseball all the way back to the 18th century, and it gained popularity by the time of the American revolution.
Softball, on the other hand, originated as a sport in 1887, many decades later. In fact, the game originated as a clearly indoor sport, which enthusiasts could play inside their homes in bad weather, especially during the winters.
Baseball is not ideal for playing indoors. The smaller size and weight of the ball led it to be thrown at higher speeds. It would not be able to keep up with the small distances available indoors, and it can cause a fair amount of breakage and chaos.
Softball, therefore, came into being. This ball was softer, larger, and heavier, lending it to be easy to use inside the home. The size and weight mean it can be thrown with great strength at smaller distances without causing any serious damage.
Early softballs were not as large as the ones we see today, although they were still larger than the average baseball. The balls were marketed as ‘indoor baseballs’ to the general public at the time.
As time went on, the popularity of softball grew, and at the same time, the rules of the game changed. Today, softball is a distinct game from its predecessor, baseball. In fact, the game is played in major leagues as a distinct game with a larger women-dominated player base.
In the modern-day, the size of the baseball makes sense. The game is played over considerably smaller fields, with a lower distance between the pitcher and the batter. At the same time, there are differences in the equipment, the bats, and even the technical rules.
The heavier and larger softball can be hit with ease over these distances, and the logistics of the game have grown and changed to accommodate this fact.
Aside from the obvious difference in size and weight, how do softballs and baseballs compare in other metrics? Below is a summary of differences between the two on the basis of color, bounce, and feel.
Baseballs in general are always white and adorned with red laces. These are stitched onto the ball, creating the iconic look of the baseball. In the early years of baseball, the red color on the ball was nowhere to be seen – instead, naturally coloured cow hides were used.
However, over time, the red color became an iconic part of the ball. While there is no specific reason, most people theorize this was to make the incoming ball easier to see. Combined with other rules to avoid distraction from the pitcher’s uniform, this makes the most sense.
While baseballs have a distinct color story, softballs are available in a number of colors. And, different leagues and softball associations have different rules on the kinds of softballs that can be used during their games.
For example, the ASA allows softball players to use balls that can either be white, or yellow. On the other hand, other leagues choose either white or bright yellow. But the question that comes to mind is, where does the distinctive yellow color even come from?
It is probably common to see the bright yellow appearance of a softball to help make it distinctive and easy to see. Since softball is played over smaller distances, this often gives batters far less time to notice the ball, and react accordingly.
A brightly coloured ball on the other hand makes itself far more noticeable, and as a result, a better choice for the fast-paced game of softball.
The term softball implies that the balls in this game are softer, and that is an established fact. The core of the softball is much softer than the baseball, which is why it has a much lower bounce.
In fact, there is a measurement tool that can be used to calculate the amount of ‘bounce’ an object has. This term is called the coefficient of restitution. According to some major baseball leagues, the coefficient of restitution can be as high as 0.55.
However, in softball, the coefficient of restitution is much lower, with a maximum amount of 0.47. This means that softball in general has a far lower bounce than that of baseball.
Another difference you can see between a baseball and a softball is the feel. This isn’t just the feel of holding one in your hand, but even the feel of impact. Now, a softball when you hold it, feels much softer than a baseball, although both are relatively untextured.
In terms of the feel-on impact, there is no doubt that when you get hit by a baseball, it will hit much harder. This is compounded with the element of weight and speed – since baseballs are lighter, they can travel with greater speed and therefore, hurt more upon impact.
Now we are aware of some classic differences between baseballs and softballs based on how they act and feel, it’s time to think about how either ball is made. Baseballs and softballs are usually similarly made, but there are some key differences between the two.
In general, baseballs have a center that is created out of rubber. This is called the cushioned cork because the cork is surrounded by the rubber to give it bounce and weight. This center is then covered up using cotton, wool, or synthetic covering.
In some cases, the covering may be a combination of all the materials mentioned above/. This blend is then layered over the ball several times to give it a strong coat. The quality of the ball depends on the quality of the thread and yarn used.
In fact, the more pricey balls will have significantly better thread count or will use better materials for the wrapping. Finally, the ball’s topmost layer is generally made of leather. This leather wraps around the ball in two panels, in the shape of the number 8.
Finally, the balls are stitched by hand to keep the wrapping pieces together. The number of stitches can depend on the league’s requirements, but about 108 stitches is the standard when it comes to professional baseball.
There are regular seams across the ball, created by a stitch that remains flat on the surfaces. Aside from this, all baseballs also have raised seams, these are noticeably higher than the surface of the ball, and are an excellent aid in gripping.
Softballs are created usually of polyurethane instead of the cork you see in a baseball. This is what lends the balls their softness. The balls are covered using glue and either covered with leather, synthetic cloth, or even in some cases, rubber.
The types of seams used in softball change depending on the league and the type of softball being played. For example, in fastpitch softball, you will need to use a ball with raised seams to keep grip when pitching at higher speeds. Click here for How Much Do Official Softballs and Baseballs Really Weigh?
However, in slowpitch softball, this is not a necessity, and you are more likely to see flatter seams. This helps to keep the air resistance down, so the ball can travel higher distances and reach the batter at the end of the pitch.
In general, softballs are easier to pitch than baseballs. However, due to the sheer speeds required in fastpitch softball, the game is much harder than baseball because of the weight and size of the balls involved.
Yes, baseball players in general make more money than softball players. Major league baseball players can make over a million dollars in just a year. On the other hand, softball players can make as little as $6000 a year. Some experts attribute this to gender disparities.
We know that softball and baseball are two games that have an intrinsic link and interconnected history. However, over the years, softball has divulged and created its own unique rules, and a completely different ball. The differences between the balls are obvious in plain sight and indicate that softball is a unique sport in its own right.