Baseball and softball are very similar in concept yet have many different elements to each contest. They are both built around the same core concepts of pitching, hitting, fielding, and running the base paths. In addition, both baseball and softball use similar equipment, such as square bases, round baseballs/softballs, bats, batting helmets, batting gloves, and fielding gloves, while being played on a diamond.
Also, baseball and softball are enjoyed in warmer seasons, including late spring, summer, and fall, with many leagues adding Fall Ball.
In this article, we take a close look at baseball and softball to help you learn more about their similarities and differences. Here is a look at baseball vs. softball.
How to Pitch
When it comes to the two sports, one of the significant differences is pitching. In baseball, the pitcher uses an overhand motion to throw the baseball from the mound to home plate.
Pitchers have adapted over the years to add variations to the arm angle to include the traditional over-the-top throw, ¾ over the top, sidearm, and a submarine-style release.
In both slow pitch softball and fastpitch softball, the arm comes from underhand pitching release, with the speed of the pitching changing from the two types of leagues.
Another difference between softball and baseball is the pitching distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. The pitching distance will vary based on the baseball league age and the softball league age.
In baseball, starting with Little League, the major division and below begins with a 46 feet pitching distance moving up to 60 feet 6 inches in senior league. The 60 feet 6-inch mark is then used as the high school pitching distance, college baseball pitching distance, and Major League Baseball pitching distance.
Fastpitch softball is similar in concept, with Little League softball leagues using a 35 feet pitching distance in majors and below, jumping up to 40 feet in junior league softball before reaching the standard 43 feet distance that is the high school, college, and professional softball pitching distances.
The slow pitch softball pitching distance is set at 50 feet.
A third difference between baseball and softball in pitching is the layout of the pitcher’s mound. In baseball, the pitcher’s mound is situated on a raised pitching mound approximately 15 inches high, depending on the league, which is the height used in Major League Baseball. In softball, the pitcher’s mound is situated on flat ground.
Players – Positions
Baseball vs. softball positions are very similar, with some differences depending on the league. Baseball has 9 positions making up the fielding team. Those positions include the pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, right fielder, and center fielder. In Major League Baseball, the designated hitter position is used in place of the pitcher batting.
Both fastpitch softball and some slow pitch softball leagues have 9 positions. Those nine positions include the pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, right fielder, and center fielder. However, in some slow pitch softball leagues, a fourth outfielder is added, moving the center fielder to left-center field and adding a new outfielder in right-center field.
Baseball Equipment vs Softball Equipment
While all equipment in softball and baseball is similar, minor differences set the two apart. One of those equipment differences is the differences between the actual baseballs and softball used to play the game.
A softball is bigger and heavier, weighing 6.25 to 7 ounces depending on the softball used and measuring between 11.88 inches and 12.13 inches.
A baseball weighs approximately 5 to 5.25 ounces, depending on the baseball used (little league baseballs, for instance, are as light as 2.2 ounces), and measures between 9 and 9.25 inches in size.
Another equipment difference is the bat used for softball versus the bat used for baseball. While both have the same concept, including a handle and barrel, there are differences between the two bats. Baseball bats slowly increase in barrel size, with MLB bat barrels measuring 2.61 inches while high school bat barrels and college bat barrels measure 2 5/8 inches.
When it comes to baseball vs softball gloves, the main difference between the two is typically the size, with larger glove sizes used in softball to accommodate the larger softball. Baseball glove sizes range from 9-11.5 inches used by infielders to 11 to 12.5 inches used by outfielders.
Softball glove sizes range between 9-12.5 inches used by infielders to 10.5 to 13 inches used by outfielders. Other differences include alterations to the pockets to adjust to the ball size.
Both sports use first baseman mitts and catcher’s mitts to allow for scooping the ball.
When it comes to the rules of baseball vs softball, the overall concept around the fielding team recording three outs to complete the inning is similar. Each team focuses their batting counts around three strikes for a strikeout and four balls for a walk.
Once the ball is put into play, the fielder attempts to throw the ball to the appropriate position to record an out or tag the runner out. The runner attempts to move to the next base in order from first base to second base to third base before scoring a run by reaching home plate.
The one difference depending on the league age is in older baseball leagues, including high school baseball, college baseball, and professional baseball, where the base runner is allowed to take a lead off of first base.
Length of Games
When you compare the length of baseball vs softball games, baseball games eventually become longer based on the number of innings played per game. In Little League, the innings start at 6 while working up to the 9-inning game used in older leagues such as college baseball and Major League Baseball. In softball, innings start at 6 innings and cap out at 7-inning games. The added innings are where the difference in the lengths of the games begin to separate.
Additional reading: How many innings are there in a baseball game?
Difference in Fields
Another difference is the baselines or base paths from one base to another. Little League baseball starts with a six-foot baseline while eventually moving up to the standard 90 feet baselines used in Major League Baseball. The same length is given between each base; for example, home plate to first base is the same as second base to third base, and so on.
In fastpitch softball, the baselines are set to 60 feet from base to base at all levels, while slow pitch softball uses 65 feet baselines.
The baseball and softball field length will also vary from the league’s age to what we have in the professional leagues.
In Little League baseball, the size of the field starts at 200 feet moving up to at least 300 feet from home plate in the senior league divisions. From there, the field lengths vary from field to field, stadium to stadium, with professional fields ranging from 300 feet down the foul lines to over 400 feet to the center field fence.
For Little League softball, the sizes of the fields range upwards of 200 feet to the outfield fences, with the fences extending to at least 220 feet in college fastpitch softball and professional softball.
In addition, slow pitch softball fields range in size from between 275 feet to the outfield fence to just over 300 feet, depending on the field complex.
Lastly, another difference that may vary from league to league is whether the interior infield is a skimmed infield consisting of just dirt or if the infield features grass.
Softball fields use skimmed infields. In baseball, some little league organizations use skimmed infields to allow baseball and softball to be played on the same field.
In high school, some baseball fields will also have skimmed infields. However, most college baseball stadiums, MLB stadiums, and Minor League Stadiums have grass infields.
Baseball vs Softball Salaries
In the end, the most significant difference in the baseball vs. softball debate is the salaries between professional baseball players and professional softball players, with minor league baseball players making under $30,000 for a season and the top MLB stars making over $30 million per season.
In comparison, most professional softball players make no more than $4,000 to $6,000 per season, with a few individual softball players making upwards of 100 thousand dollars.