While softball is generally considered as a female sport nowadays, it was actually men who first invented and played it. Even the It evolved from baseball and is pretty much considered as a form of indoor baseball. It has since become a staple sport for women, with a lot people at present regarding it as the “baseball for females“. But why exactly did this happen? What historical factors caused such an apparent shift?
However, before we start answering these questions, it’s important to gauge the main differences between baseball and softball first. Knowing these discrepancies could give a good hint as to why women are recommended to play softball instead of baseball. Here they are as follows:
• Ball size – The size of a softball is noticeably bigger than that of a baseball. The average softball’s circumference can measure 11 to 12 inches, while a baseball only measures around 9 inches. Of course, with bigger size comes heavier weight as well.
• Pitching – The softball pitcher delivers the ball not on a mound (as in the case in baseball) but on level ground. Also, in softball the ball is thrown underhand, while in baseball it’s done overhand.
• Size of the field and base paths – There are multiple variations of the field size, based on the league. However, softball fields are smaller than baseball ones. The distance of base paths is shorter in softball as well.
• Distance between home and pitcher area – In fast-pitch softball, the two are relatively closer to each other compared to baseball.
Take note, though, that these differences from baseball do not necessarily entail that softball’s mechanics were designed mainly to accommodate women more. While some may argue that this is really the case (with women’s hands being smaller thus requiring the ball to be larger for it to be thrown effectively being one of the common, skewed reasoning thrown in), a lot of people, both men and women, would readily condemn such a generalization.
Factors that May have Directly Influenced Softball Becoming a Sport Primarily Played by Women
• A lot of literature that has been written on the subject of women’s baseball point to Albert Goodwill Spalding’s statement that baseball should be off-limits to women as being one of the catalysts that limited women’s involvement in the said sport. After all, it’s no secret that attempts have been made in the past to suppress the development of women’s baseball. Most saw it as a threat to baseball as a whole, which is perceived as an all-male sport. Films and books have been created on the subject. With such open, ready hindrances, it’s no wonder that women’s skill in ball-playing were invested in softball instead.
• Many women players have admitted that they simply prefer and enjoy softball more.
• Many people claim that softball is better for women because it allows slow pitching. However, this has since faded because women’s softball has since incorporated fast pitching. While a lot of women willingly select softball as their sport option, that’s not to say that there aren’t a majority of other female ballplayers out there who prefer baseball over it.
• Some attribute entertainment as a factor as well. A lot of fans simply prefer to watch men’s baseball and women’s softball, respectively.
• Officials have made a claim in the past that baseball is more of a contact and physical sport than softball, one that women are not recommended to play due to higher risks of injuries.
• Lastly, there is a pervading ethos in America that softball (for females) is a sport that is equivalent to baseball (for males), even though there are obviously stark differences between the two.
Keep in mind that some of these points are mere speculation. This is due primarily to the seemingly quiet way in which softball has since transitioned to being a sport that is played more by women. Not a lot of books have been written about softball being a female-dominated sport, after all.
With that said, even though softball is widely regarded as a sport that is played by mostly women players, it simply wouldn’t be right to limit it as an all-female sport. Some would even consider such a label sexist. After all, the sport is still open to and being played by men even up to these present times, albeit mostly for recreational purposes rather than professionally. That’s not to say to that men don’t compete in softball competitions, though. What’s certain is that the belief that softball is best suited for women is not bound to change until that very ethos is dispelled from the minds of the general public. Of course, this can only be made possible if the fight for gender equality in baseball continues.