Softball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of 9 players. It is a baseball-related sport although there are some key differences: softballs are larger than baseballs, the pitches are thrown underhand rather than overhand, softball is played on a smaller diamond than baseball, overall that makes softball a faster sport.
Softball is played on a large field, typically consisting of a grass outfield and a dirt infield. There’s a square made of 4 bases in the infield (first base, second base, third base and home plate). Near the centre of this square is the pitcher’s circle, inside it is the “rubber”, a small flat rectangular area from which the pitchers hurl the ball towards home plate.
There are nine players on the field playing defence, who carry gloves, catch softballs hit by the opponents and make outs (playing defence at that time). The object of the game is to score more runs (points) than the other team by batting (hitting) a ball into play and running around the bases, touching each one in succession (playing offence at that time). When three outs are made, the teams switch position on defence/offence.
The ball is a sphere of light material, covered with leather or synthetic material. It is 10 to 12 inches in circumference (depending on category).
The game is officiated by one or more neutral umpires. Players and umpires are generally free to ask for a brief stoppage at any time when the ball is not in play, or immediately following a play once its outcome is clear.
There are two basic versions of softball:
FASTPITCH SOFTBALL – 9 defensive players, pitchers try to pitch as fast as they can
SLOWPITCH SOFTBALL – 10 defensive players, slowpitch is most recognized for its high-arching lob pitch. Slowpitch softball is often played as a recreational sport as hitting the slower pitch is easier.
There’s also a version of softball for kids, where there’s no pitching. Kids hit balls off a tee. Such version of softball is usually called t-ball, teeball or also beeball (especially in Europe).
A version of softball where the team’s coach pitches to enable players to hit the ball easily is called coachball or coachpitch.