Whether it's slo-pitch or fast pitch, men or women, young or old, casual
or competitive, softball has become one of the world's most popular and fastest-growing
Softball got its start in the 1880s as an alternative to the game of baseball,
a sport often stifled by bad weather and limited space.
In recent years, softball has been recognized as a competitive sport on
its own merits. In 1996, softball made its Olympic debut in Atlanta. And the
lineup at the Pan-American Games now includes softball as a medal sport for
But while some players compete for college or high school championships
and Olympic medals, the majority of the millions of softball players are in
it for the fun of it -- and maybe for bragging rights among their co-workers,
classmates or neighbors. It's a popular sport used for team building outside
of the office.
And let's not forget the stars of the future -- many kids are getting an
early start through local leagues.
According to Dana Lettow, head coach of a college softball team, it's important
to start as young as possible if you hope to go far as a softball player.
"Starting young is the key," she says. "And, obviously, the more you practice,
the better you'll get!"
Recreational softball makes up 70 percent of the sport. Each weekend, men,
women, boys and girls gather on fields across North America to play seven-inning
games designed for maximum fun.
Loris Fioritti is vice-president of a softball little league. He can literally
see the joy on his players' faces. In fact, it's his favorite part of coaching.
"When they make a good play that is routine for someone else, but tough for
them, and you see a smile on their face -- that's the best part of the game."
Both slo-pitch and fast pitch have rules that differ slightly from baseball.
But the bottom line doesn't change: outscore your opponent by sending more
runners across home plate and win.
Contrary to popular belief, men and boys do play fast pitch. However, women
remain the predominant players of the sport. At this point, only women play
softball at the college level.
While Lettow says that "traditionally, it's a women's sport," she's noticed
that men are showing more interest.
"I had a group of guys come and ask if they could use our gym to practice
soft pitch softball. So, I think that more and more people are seeing how
exciting the game can be, and now the men are starting to play a little more."
Part of the reason why some men shy away from softball is that there's
a misconception that softball is slower and easier than baseball. That perception
can be erased by a visit to a game -- while the ball is larger and the bases
are closer together in softball, the athleticism required is equal to that
Indeed, one of the best reasons to learn softball, say players, is that
it's a game you can stick with long after you stop playing most organized
sports. As well, it develops leadership skills that will stick with you forever.
Whether you're a born leader or not, says Fioritti, softball will teach
you the necessary skills to take charge in all aspects of life -- just imagine
what that could do for your resume!
"You can lead on the field by your actions [and] by what you say," says
Fioritti. "You don't necessarily have to be the oldest person on the team
to be a leader."
A glove -- the only piece of equipment every player needs -- can be bought
for as little as $28 for recreational use. However, Fioritti suggests spending
$80 in order to get a decent one.
After that, you'll need a good pair of running shoes or a pair of cleats.
If your feet have stopped growing, you're in luck. If not, prepare to purchase
new footwear annually. Beyond that, "everything else is supplied -- bats,
balls and uniforms," says Fioritti.
If you join a league, you'll be required to pay a team fee of about $100
to $150 a year.
Contact your nearest recreation center for information on local leagues.
You may also want to contact a national softball association for upcoming
events and advice on how you can get involved.
North American Fast Pitch Association
Amateur Softball Association
Amateur Softball Association
Learn more about the history of the game
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