Similar but Distinct: 12 Differences of Softball vs Baseball

... Credit :
Jane Taylor in Sport

Last updated: 09 January 2020, 10:12 GMT

If you have never played baseball or softball, you might find it difficult to understand what the differences are between them. Generally, there are not a lot of differences as far as the fundamental essentials of the games are concerned. Baseball was invented before softball, and softball was developed as a variation of baseball. Traditionally, softball has been primarily played by women, whereas baseball is traditionally played by men, though there have been and are some big exceptions to these rules.

Aside from this, there are several other differences between softball and baseball. To the casual observer, many of these differences might go unnoticed unless you know what to look for. This article will give an in-depth explanation of softball and baseball and the differences between the two.

What Are the Basics?

Baseball and softball are similar sports, both of which are popular. Softball was derived from baseball, which is the main reason that the two sports have so many similarities. However, there are some distinct differences, which will be discussed later. There is some debate on whether one sport is better than the other. Ultimately, you can decide for yourself regarding softball vs baseball.

Here is a more detailed explanation of what each game is and what it entails:


Baseball is frequently referred to as the U.S. National Pastime. As it is played today, the sport was primarily invented in the U.S. but it is a variation of much older sports and shares close links with English cricket. American children frequently grow up playing this sport, with many kids starting at the ages of 4 or 5 by playing T-ball (a type of baseball in which the ball is placed on a tee, rather than pitched) and then progressing on to little league, high school, and college baseball. A lucky few even make it to the major leagues.

Professional baseball also includes several levels of baseball known as the minor leagues. In the minors, players develop their skills and progress to the major leagues. Additionally, the minor leagues provide small towns with the opportunity to have a professional baseball team of their own, which plays a big role in maintaining baseball's popularity.


Softball is a variant on baseball and almost as popular. Softball was developed from a game known originally as indoor baseball; developed as a way to play the game when weather or space precluded playing a full outside game. Softball has also been known as mushball, kitten ball, indoor-outdoor ball, playground ball, and diamond ball.

According to those who play it, softball is a game of power, determination, and strength. As far as the players are concerned, a softball team is a family. The teams arrive together, like a family, play as a family would and finish strong, together, as a family would. Every player has the others' backs.

Softball and Baseball

Baseball and softball are different from most other major sports, such as football and basketball, because they are not timed. This lends baseball and softball a methodical, slow pace that they share with cricket and which is ideal for the long and lazy summer days in which the games are played. Subtlety and strategy are the key elements for winning in these sports.

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Benefits of Softball and Baseball

Across the U.S., baseball is the number one youth sport among boys. Similarly, softball is one of the top youth sports among girls. Both games are great for teaching young people the importance of teamwork.

Additionally, both of these sports are excellent ways to maintain physical fitness and good health when played regularly. There are many health benefits, and other benefits, provided by these sports.

Cardiovascular Training

Cardio exercise increases lung capacity and strengthens the heart. Outfielders running after a fly ball, catchers running to get a foul ball, and batters running around the bases all get short stints of cardio exercise.

Strong Arms

Throwing and catching a ball and swinging a bat is excellent for building arm strength and enhancing joint flexibility. Swinging the bat and throwing the ball uses all of your arm muscles, including triceps and biceps. The muscles in the shoulders and chest are engaged as well.

Strong Legs

Baseball and softball use all the major muscles in your legs. Squatting down to get a ball and moving laterally engages your hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, and glute muscles. Running is good both as a cardiovascular workout and as a method for building and toning your leg muscles.

Hand-Eye Coordination

Both batting and pitching the ball improve your hand-eye coordination.

Burn Calories

Strolling to and from the dugout, catching, running, and swinging a bat are all exercises that can boost your metabolism and burn calories. On average, a person can burn 300 to 365 calories an hour playing softball or baseball.

Total Body Conditioning

Softball and baseball require multiple skills that provide complete body conditioning. Swinging, running, throwing and fielding all require coordinated efforts from several muscle groups throughout your body.

Mental Benefits

Emerging yourself in a game of softball or baseball develops concentration and mental focus while refreshing the mind from day-to-day distractions. Furthermore, making split-second decisions determining the right strategy to implement on a particular play can maintain an alert and sharp mind.

Mid and Lower Body Conditioning

When batting, the power generated comes from your core and legs. Additionally, your oblique muscles are engaged during throwing and swinging motions.

Improves Self-Esteem

Individuals who are involved in sports such as softball and baseball typically feel better about themselves, both socially and mentally. Improving skills, practicing and achieving goals help reduce stress, build confidence, and makes a person more resistant to social pressure. Frequently, lifelong friendships are developed on the field as young girls or boys learn to rely on and trust each other.

Develops Leadership Skills

People frequently receive more advantages than they expect from playing sports, and softball and baseball are no exception to that rule. People who play sports get respect and attention that they might not get anywhere else. Additionally, participation gives them opportunities for socialization and leadership, not to mention the development of skills for handling failure or success.

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Softball vs Baseball: 12 Differences Between the Games

Although softball and baseball are very similar in many ways, if you compare the two, you will find several differences between them. If you are planning to play on a softball or baseball team or otherwise become officially involved in either sport in any way, it would be helpful to know what the differences are. Listed below are the 12 biggest differences between baseball and softball.

Ball Size

A regulation baseball is much smaller than a regulation softball. Baseballs are nine inches in circumference, while softballs are 12 inches in circumference. This makes it slightly easier to connect with a softball, but also harder to hit it a long-distance (a tribute to the original "indoor" nature of softball).

Ball Color

A regulation baseball is white with red stitches, while a regulation softball is yellow and a lot softer, though also significantly heavier. However, softball is not "soft." You still don't want to get hit with one!


Due to the larger ball size, softball gloves have deeper pockets. Baseball gloves are a bit longer than softball gloves and have shallower pockets.

Bat Size

Softball and baseball bats differ in weight and barrel size. At the highest level, a standard softball bat has a barrel that is 2 1/4 inches in diameter, while a baseball bat has a barrel that is 2 5/8 inches. Additionally, the required weight drop for an adult's baseball bate is -3; for a softball bat, the weight drop varies from -8 to -11. The weight drop and barrel size of the bats are specific to each sport in order to give the batter a fair chance at the plate.


There are three significant differences in pitching between softball vs baseball. To begin with, in baseball, pitches are thrown from a sloped mound that is 10 inches off the ground, whereas in softball, pitches are thrown on flat ground, level with the batter. 

Secondly, the pitching distance is different in each game. The standard distance from the pitching mound to the plate in baseball is 60 feet 6 inches. The distance from the pitching circle to the plate in softball is 43 feet. 

Finally, the pitching style is different. In baseball, the pitcher nearly always throws the ball either sidearm or overhand. In the game of softball, the ball must be thrown underhand.

Field Size

When it comes to softball vs baseball, field size is another big difference. In professional baseball, the distance between bases is 90 feet, compared to only 60 feet in softball. Also, in softball, the outfield fence is about 220 feet from home plate. In baseball, the furthest point from home plate is at least 400 feet. Again, this is because softball started out as a way to play the game indoors, so distances had to be shortened.

Base Running

Along with shorter base paths, there are different rules for running the bases. Unlike baseball, fast-pitch softball does not allow base leadoff. Stealing bases, however, is allowed in softball. This is done differently than in baseball, however. In softball, the base runner must not leave their current base until after the pitcher releases the ball; in baseball, the base runner may leave the base at any time.


In general, the game length of baseball is longer than a softball. In both games, an inning lasts until there are three outs on each side. However, a professional baseball game typically has nine innings. In softball, each game is made up of only seven innings.

Professional Salaries

Softball and baseball are both played professionally, however, there is a huge difference in the salaries. The average salary per player for Major League Baseball is 4 million dollars per year. The average salary per player for National Pro Fast-pitch (professional softball) is only around $5000 to $6000 per year.

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When it comes to softball vs baseball, the differences are both subtle and obvious. Some differences, such as the size of the balls, bats, and the field, are glaring differences. Other differences, such as the glove size, depth of the glove pocket, and game rules are probably less noticeable to the casual observer.

In any case, the great debate of which is better between softball vs baseball continues. Die-hard fans on either side of the argument are not about to give-in. Given the immense popularity of each of these sports, it is not likely that there will ever be a definite winner or loser in this debate!

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