Important Differences Between Baseball and Softball

To the casual observer, baseball and softball appear very similar to one other. That is because softball grew out of baseball that was originally meant to be played indoors. However, softball eventually became an outdoor sport as well. The differences between baseball and softball are often subtle, but they are important to those who play the games or would like to. Here are some of the most important differences that you are likely to observe between the two.


One of the most notable differences between baseball and softball is the balls used for each. It is often necessary for players to obtain special softball gloves because softballs are larger in circumference than baseballs, measuring approximately 12 inches around. Therefore, a ball intended for the latter may not be sufficient to aid a softball player with catching or protect his or her hand. Baseballs are relatively harder than softballs, hence the name for the latter. However, softballs are still hard enough to hurt if you get hit by one.

It may be difficult to tell the difference in size between a baseball and a softball from a distance. However, the color may be an indicator. Softballs are usually bright yellow in color, while baseballs are white.

Field of Play

Anywhere from nine million to 12 million people play softball every year. Many of these are amateurs just playing for the fun of it. They sometimes have to play on baseball fields because that is all that is available to them. However, people who are serious about softball and baseball play on fields dedicated to their respective sport. There are slight differences between the design and set-up of each.

A baseball field features a pitcher’s mound that is elevated several inches off the ground. In softball, the pitcher throws from a pitcher’s circle rather than a mound. Therefore, one way that you can recognize a softball field is by the level pitcher’s area rather than a small elevation. A softball field is also smaller than a baseball field, meaning that the pitching distance is less and the base paths are shorter.

Pitching Style

In baseball, the pitcher usually throws the ball either sidearm or overhand. There is nothing in the rules that prevents a baseball pitcher from throwing underhand, but it is very rarely done. More speed and power is available from sidearm or overhand pitches, so baseball players favor them. The rules of softball, on the other hand, require that the pitcher throw underhand. The style of pitching is an obvious way that a casual observer can tell the difference between softball and baseball.


Professional baseball players are only allowed to use wooden bats. Bats of other materials are permitted in amateur baseball as well as softball. Softball bats are lighter and shorter than baseball bats and are smaller in diameter. However, these are very subtle differences, and it is difficult to tell the difference just by looking.

Game Length

Softball games usually don’t last as long as baseball games. A softball game may be completed in approximately an hour, while a baseball game may take three times that long to complete. Part of the reason is that a softball game can be completed in seven innings, while a baseball game requires nine.


If you’re watching a match between professional teams or otherwise serious players, the uniform may indicate which sport is being played. The pants of softball uniforms only extend a little past the knees, while baseball pants extend all the way down the leg. However, this may not be helpful if you are watching a casual game in which the participants get to decide what they want to wear.

There is a perception that men play baseball and women play softball, and in the professional leagues this is true. However, there are many recreational softball leagues around the country consisting of men, women, or a combination of the two. Children’s baseball and softball teams may be co-ed or not depending on the rules of the youth leagues that organize the program.