Both baseball and softball utilize a round ball, a round bat and a glove. Both sports involve a pitcher throwing the ball to a batter with the hopes of getting him or her "out." Both sports play a certain number of innings and both sports require three outs to end the inning. So, what's the difference between the two?
Gender. Although there is no law against women playing baseball or men playing softball, the two sports often are aligned by gender, with women's team playing fast-pitch softball and men's teams playing baseball. However, 62 percent of adult slow-pitch softball players in 2010 were men, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA).
The ball. Although both sports use balls, bats and gloves, the size of each differs. Because a softball is significantly bigger than a baseball, those who play softball use bigger gloves and, often, thinner bats. In addition, a softball is not as hard as a baseball.
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Pitching. A casual viewer of baseball and softball can immediately recognize a difference in pitching styles in the two sports. A pitcher in baseball throws the ball overhand and a pitcher in softball throws the ball underhand. Baseball pitchers throw from an elevated mound. Softball pitchers throw from a surface level with that of the batter. The softball pitching area is much closer to the batter than the baseball pitching area.
The field. Both sports are played on a field that includes a diamond-shaped, usually dirt, infield and a grass-covered outfield. The size of the diamond, however, differs. This difference in diamond size is caused by a difference in base path length. Standard baseball bases are 90 feet apart. Standard softball bases are 60 feet apart. The distance from home plate to the outfield fences is much shorter in softball, it being more difficult to hit a softball the same distance as a tightly wound baseball.
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Rules. Although the basic rules are the same, there are significant differences in addition to the field size. An official baseball game consists of nine innings as opposed to a seven-inning softball game. The leadoff rule also differentiates the two sports. In baseball, the runner may leave the base at any time. This usually involves a short lead off the base with the occasional stolen base attempt. In softball, a runner may not leave the base until the ball is pitched.