By Alex Mackall
According to Jack Norworth’s famous tune “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” it’s “one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ball game.” Although the song is written about baseball, this line, and many other baseball rules, also holds true in the game of softball.
Even though both baseball and softball are played with a round ball, a glove, a cylindrical bat and are played on a diamond-shaped field, the two sports have significant differences.
According to softball player and senior Maria Huber, who has been involved with softball for 13 years, there are many factors that play a role in making softball different from baseball. Some of these factors are ball and bat sizes, pitching style and game rules.
Huber said that the setup in softball allows for “slapping.” Slapping is the ability of a left-handed batter to hit the ball as they are already on their way to first base. Huber said this is a useful strategy in softball because with the shorter distance to the base, the “slappers” can often make it to first base without hitting the ball very hard.
Although Huber said she thinks “small ball,” or hitting the ball a short distance, is more prominent in softball, baseball Head Coach Eric Lentz said, “Bunting and ‘small game’ are an important part of both baseball and softball.”
On the other hand, softball Head Coach Emily Good said that although small ball is important, she thinks there are many more powerful hitters in softball today due to the sport’s conditioning.
Lentz, who has been involved with baseball for 37 years and has been coaching for 18 years, said the infield also separates the two sports. Lentz said via e-mail that baseball fields have both a grass and dirt infield. Huber said, “A few of the really nice softball fields have grass in the infield, but the majority just have dirt infields.”
One of the most obvious variations between baseball and softball is the pitching style. According to Good, although the girls pitch underhand, they can still throw trick pitches like baseball players can. She said, “Absolutely. We can throw a drop; we can throw a curve ball; you know we can do screw balls; so there are a lot of people that are misled to believe that it’s a slower ball coming at you.”
Huber said she thinks that while pitching does contribute to the quickness of the game, a more prominent factor is the rules of stealing. Ben Backes, baseball player and senior, said that in baseball a runner on base may steal at any time, but Huber said that in softball a player may only steal once the ball has been released from the pitcher’s hand.
Despite their many differences, Huber said, softball and baseball do have similarities. In fact, Huber said she thinks the two sports are a lot alike. In both sports, the batters must stay in their batting order, they play with nine players on the field and have many of the same basic rules in terms of strikes, balls, outs, etc.