Jenna Caira celebrates

What are the differences between baseball and softball?

Baseball and softball both use bats, balls, and gloves.

So if you’re ever invited to play a friendly game of softball at your local diamond, you might assume that you know the rules of the game after watching countless Blue Jays’ games over the years – but you would be wrong.

Don’t want to come to this realization after the pitcher throws the ball underhand to you? Read up on the unique features of each sport below.

How big is the diamond and field?

One difference between baseball and softball is the size of the field. On the Olympic stage, the distance between each base is 90 feet in baseball and just 60 feet in softball.

Joey Lye slides head first into second base
Canada’s Joey Lye, left, slides under the glove of Netherland’s Chantal Versluis (23) to steal second base in the first inning of the third place World Cup of Softball game in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 2, 2012. Canada won 11-8. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

And while the outfield fence on most baseball fields is about 400 feet, the furthest point in softball averages approximately 220 feet away from home plate.

Who uses bigger balls?

A regulation softball is significantly larger than a regulation baseball. A softball measures between 11.88 and 12.13 inches in circumference and weighs between 6.25 and 7.00 ounces; a baseball measures between 9.00 and 9.25 inches in circumference and weighs between 5.00 and 5.25 ounces.

Danielle Lawrie pitching
Canada women’s national softball team pitcher Danielle Lawrie pitches during practice at the 2018 Canada Cup International Softball Championship in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday July 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Who uses bigger bats?

By rule, baseball bats can be up to 42 inches long while softball bats max out at 34 inches. Despite the difference in maximum length, the most commonly used bat length in both disciplines ranges between 32 and 34 inches. The barrel of a baseball bat can have a diameter up to 2.61 inches, while all softball bats have 2.25 inch barrels.

Andy Stewart at bat
Team Canada’s Andy Stewart hits his third inning Grand Slam home run against Brazil during Pan American games baseball action in Winnipeg Sunday July 25, 1999.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)

Is the ball pitched overhand or underhand?

The most noticeable, can’t-miss difference between softball and baseball can be seen when the pitcher fires the ball towards the batter. Put simply, baseball pitchers throw overhand, while softballers pitch underhand.

In softball, pitchers throw from a distance of just 43 feet and reach more than 60mph on the radar gun. In baseball, it’s 60 feet 6 inches from pitcher to batter, with the ball often travelling faster than 90mph. So although pitchers achieve greater speeds in baseball, the shorter distance in softball means that the velocity of the ball in both sports is quite comparable.

Another difference is that baseball players pitch from an elevated, compact mound, whereas softball players pitch from a designated pitching circle.

How long are softball and baseball games?

Regulation baseball games are nine innings, but can go into extra innings if a game is tied. Softball games are played to seven innings, though they can end early if one team has a really large lead on the other, such as a 15-run lead after three innings or a seven-run lead after five innings.

Has Canada won an Olympic medal in softball or baseball?

Canada played in the last two official Olympic baseball tournaments, finishing fourth at Athens 2004 and sixth at Beijing 2008. Recently, Canada has enjoyed great success in at the Pan American Games, winning gold at Guadalajara 2011 and Toronto 2015 before a silver at Lima 2019.

On the softball side, Canada has played in all five of the previous official Olympic softball tournaments, finishing fifth at Atlanta 1996, eighth at Sydney 2000, fifth at Athens 2004, fourth at Beijing 2008 after a semifinal loss to Australia and — of course — their most recent success winning bronze at Tokyo 2020. The Canadian women have won eight medals at the Pan American Games, including capturing their first gold at Toronto 2015.