The pitching distance is the distance from the pitcher’s mound to the front of home plate. Note that this is certainly not the distance from the ball’s release point to the rear point of the plate, which can be several feet shorter depending on the pitcher’s height and method of delivery.
The pitching distance varies depending on baseball or softball and the age levels for each. First, let’s take a look back at the history of pitching distances in Major League Baseball.
History of Pitching Distances
From the beginning of baseball in 1845 to 1880, the pitching distance was 45 feet. In the beginning, the pitcher had to throw the ball from behind a 12-foot line. In 1863, another 12-foot line, 48 feet from home plate, was added to create a pitcher’s box. The dimensions of this box did not change for nearly two decades. The front line was 45 feet from home plate.
We must note that in the 1870s, baseballs were mass-produced with virtually no quality control. The dead ball was usually very mushy, and fans generally witnessed very low scoring games.
Over three years from 1877 to 1880, batting averages across the newly formed National League plummeted 26 points from .271 to .245. Strikeout rates skyrocketed to nearly three times the amount in 1871 due to pitchers perfecting curveballs. The league ERA was a slim 2.37, and the league was losing money at an alarming rate.
Harry Wright, known as the ‘Father of Professional Baseball‘ and founder of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, came to the rescue. In 1877, Wright had the pitcher’s box moved back five feet to 50 feet during an exhibition game. In addition, he had an exhibition the following year in which six balls were needed for a walk instead of nine.
Every pitch was counted as a ball or strike. Little known to many fans that in those days, only pitches swung on and missed were strikes. Instead of throwing underhand, as, by baseball rules, Wright had the pitchers throw any way they felt fit.
Before the 1880 season, Wright insisted that a flat bat be used with a cork-centre ball, which would create a livelier ball. By the end of December 1882, many of Wright’s proposals were tried and used in the game.
The pitching mound went back to 50 feet, a walk was awarded on six balls, and the batter could no longer ask for a high or low ball to hit. The most significant change was that the pitcher’s box was set at 56 feet.
Key to note, the pitching distance was measured from home plate to the front of the box in those days, unlike today, where it is measured to the rubber. It must also be noted that before 1893, the pitching distance was measured to the center of the plate and not the rear point.
The change in pitching distance increased hitting in 1881, but that was short-lived. The strike count was raised to four to add more offense, and the ball count for a walk was reduced to four in 1889. The length of the pitcher’s box was reduced a foot from seven feet to six feet and finally to 5.5 feet. The running start windup was banished in 1885.
In 1892 the pitching distance was only about 4 feet, 3 ½ inches shorter than that in today’s game, because before the introduction of the pitching rubber at 60’6″ in 1893, the pitcher threw from a box, 50 feet from the plate, with a backline 5 ½ feet further back.
Mound to Plate Pitching Dimensions
Major League Baseball
The distance from the pitching rubber to the rear point of home plate is 60’6″ for MLB, all Minor Leagues, college, high school, independent leagues, Base Ruth, Senior League, and just about all leagues ages 14 and above.
Little League Baseball
With six divisions, Little League baseball field dimensions change as children get older. The Little Leagues can range from ages as young as 4 to as old as 16.
There are strict rules in place around the distance from the pitcher’s mound, the size of the infield, distance to the bases, and distance to the outfield walls.
According to the official Little League rules, the pitching distance is 46 feet. The distance between the bases is 60 feet. This distance compares to 60′ 6″ pitching distance and 90 feet between the bases in MLB.
Therefore, the distance a Little League player has to pitch is 14′ 6″ or about 24% shorter. The actual dimensions to the fences depend on age. These dimensions are put into place to help in performance while lowering the risk of injury.
PONY Pitching Distances
The PONY League is a worldwide youth baseball organization that has a specific requirement for different age divisions. The pitching distances for the age divisions are as follows:
- Colt/Palomino (ages 15 – 19): 60 feet, 6 inches
- Pony (ages 13 – 14): 54 feet
- Bronco (ages 11 – 12): 48 feet
- Mustang (ages 9-10): 44 feet
Softball Pitching Distances
In high school and college softball, the distance from home plate to the front of the rubber to the center of the pitcher’s mound is an even 43 feet, while the rubber measures 24 inches long and six inches wide.
The rear tip of the plate to the front edge of the pitcher’s plate is 46 feet for slowpitch softball when using the 12-inch ball and 50 feet for female slowpitch leagues that used the 11-inch ball.
The distances for fastpitch softball depend on the age and softball size. For ages 8-9 with an 11-inch ball, the distance is 30 feet. For ages 10-11 with an 11-inch ball, the distance is 35 feet. Ages 12-13 with a 12-inch ball pitch from 40 feet. All leagues from ages 14 on up that use a 12-inch ball pitch from 43 feet.
It’s interesting to note that during the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, the fastpitch softball distance was a mere 40 feet. In 2011, the Pony/ASA softball leagues allowed pitching from 40 feet through ages 18 and up but then changed it to the standard 43 feet.