Softball was invented in the United States in 1887 as an indoor sport. The next decade, it was brought outside in recreational fashion. In the 1920s, the modern name “softball” was adopted. The sport spread across the globe and now it is played in more than 100 countries. It has become increasingly popular among women, particularly at the youth and collegiate levels.
Women’s softball was contested at the Olympic Games from 1996 to 2008, but was subsequently removed from the program. Men’s and women’s softball have been a part of the Pan American Games since 1979.
The softball diamond is 18.3 metres long, 9.1 metres less than a baseball diamond. The field is marked by foul lines, which extend outwards from home plate and through the first and the third bases. In 2001, the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate was extended from 12.1 to 13.1 metres and the fence-distance from 61 to 67.1 metres. This was in order to create more excitement in the game by bringing more offence back and to also speed up the game since batters would be swinging at more pitches from this distance.
Pitches in softball, just as in baseball, can rise, drop, curve and change the speed. A hitter’s reaction time in softball is extremely short. Pitchers have 20 seconds to pitch the ball in an effort to keep the game moving. Batters have less time to seek signals from the coaches. The third-base umpire is responsible for starting the 20-second clock after the plate umpire indicates “Play Ball.” The softball used in international events is optic yellow, changed from white in 2001.
All the same rules apply as those in baseball: a fair hit lands inside the base lines, three strikes is an out, four balls is a walk, three outs an inning, and so on. The one shining difference in softball is that games are seven innings rather than nine, unless the score is tied.