What are the differences between softball and baseball?

Getting into a new sport is a great way to work out and have fun, and baseball and softball are both fun team sports with plenty of action. If you're just starting to look into these sports, your first question may be: what is the difference between baseball vs softball?

Both games are very similar, but there are key rules that set them apart. Here’s a quick look at the differences, and how to pick the best team for you.

Baseball vs. Softball: what is the difference?
At first glance the two sports look quite similar, but there are a few important distinctions between the two. Baseball, also known as hardball, is the more demanding of the two sports. It is played with a smaller, denser ball, on a larger field and games last for nine innings. The ball is pitched overhand from a pitcher’s mound, usually at a much higher velocity than softball.

Softball consists of two different variations: fastpitch and softpitch. Both are played with a grapefruit-sized ball on a smaller pitch, and games only last for seven innings. The pitcher throws the ball underhand from the same level as the batter. In softpitch softball, the ball must be pitched in an arc before descending again on the way to the batter. This slows down the pitch, making it easier for the batter to connect with the ball. In fastpitch softball, the ball is pitched straight at the batter at a higher speed, making this version more challenging. Also, in softpitch, the base runner may not “steal” a base, while this is allowed in hardball and baseball. Baseball and fastpitch softball are played more competitively, while slowpitch softball is generally a laid-back recreational sport.

What types of teams are available?
Most cities have a variety of local leagues, from youth leagues, such as little league or junior league, to high school and university leagues, amateur recreation teams, and semi-professional leagues. Take your time researching options to find the best fit. As an adult, if you are just starting out, softpitch softball leagues often are ideal entry-level teams. If your schedule is holding you back from signing up, pick up leagues allow you to simply show up and ask to be placed on a team just for that game.

What gear will I need?
The amount of gear you are required to bring varies according to the competitive level of the league. The basic minimum requirements for most leagues are a baseball glove and running shoes. In more competitive leagues a pair of cleats is important, and for catchers, protective gear is vital for safety. A selection of bats and helmets are generally on hand for all players to use, but it can be preferable to bring your own to ensure fit and comfort.

How fit should I be to join a team?
One of the attractive features of softpitch softball is that it is open to a wide variety of fitness and skill levels. The larger ball, smaller pitch and availability of more casual leagues makes it ideal if you are still getting into shape. For hardpitch softball and hardball, it helps to first build up your cardio and upper body strength in order to stay competitive at hitting and pitching at much higher speeds.

If you’re feeling ready to get into a new sport, take a look into what kinds of leagues are around your area. Whether you’re looking for a physical challenge, or just want to have fun with a team, baseball and softball both provide fun options to get active.