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The History of Softball

Softball originated in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day, 1887. A group of about twenty young men had gathered in the gymnasium of the Farragut Boat Club in order to hear the outcome of the Harvard-Yale football game. After Yale's victory was announced and bets were paid off, a man picked up a stray boxing glove and threw it at someone, who hit it with a pole. George Hancock, usually considered the inventor of softball, shouted, "Let's play ball!" He tied the boxing glove so that it resembled a ball, chalked out a diamond on the floor (smaller dimensions than those of a baseball field in order to fit the gym) and broke off a broom handle to serve as a bat. What proceeded was an odd, smaller version of baseball. That game is now, 111 years later, known as the first softball game. Softball may have seen its death on the day of its birth if Hancock had not been so fascinated by it. In one week, he created an oversized ball and an undersized rubber-tipped bat and went back to the gym to paint permanent white foul lines on the floor. After he wrote new rules and named the sport indoor baseball, a more organized, yet still new, game was played. Its popularity was immediate. Hancock's original game of indoor baseball quickly caught on in popularity, becoming international with the formation of a league in Toronto. That year, 1897, was also the premiere publication of the Indoor Baseball Guide. This was the first nationally distributed publication on the new game and it lasted a decade. In the spring of 1888, Hancock's game moved outdoors. It was played on a small diamond and called indoor-outdoor. Due to the sport's mass appeal, Hancock published his first set of indooroutdoor rules in 1889. While Chicago was definitely softball's birthplace, the game saw some modification in Minneapolis. The year was 1895 when Lewis Rober, Sr., (a fire department officer) needed an activity to keep his men occupied and in shape during their free time. He created his game to fit the confines of a vacant lot next to the firehouse and the result was instantly appealing. Surprisingly, Rober was probably not familiar with Hancock's version of the sport because it was still concentrated in Chicago at that time. The following year, 1896, Rober was moved to a new unit with a new team to manage. In honor of this group's name, the Kittens, the game was termed Kitten League Ball in 1900. The name was later shortened to kitten ball. In order to reach the Olympics, the women's sport of softball obviously had to grow greatly from its beginnings. The first women's softball team was formed in 1895 at Chicago's West Division High School. They did not obtain a coach for competitive play until 1899 and it was difficult to create interest among fans. However, only five years later, more attention was given to the women's game. The Spalding Indoor Baseball Guide 1904 issue fueled this attention by devoting a large section of the guide to the game of women's softball. The Chicago National Tournament in 1933 also advanced the sport. At this competition, the male and female champions were honored equally. The International Softball World Championships in 1965 developed women's softball by making it an international game, a step towards the Pan-American Games and the Olympics. Eleven years later, women softball players were given the closest equivalent to Major League Baseball with the 1976 formation of the International Women's Professional Softball League. Player contracts ranged from $1,000 to $3,000 per year, but the leage disbanded in 1980 because of financial ruin. Vicki Schneider, a St. Louis Softball Hall of Famer and former professional player, recalls this league as being the high point of her career (Schneider). The popularity of women's fastpitch softball has grown steadily since the professional league's end in 1980. In fact, once again, there is another professional fastpitch league. The Amateur Softball Association reports that it "annually registers over 260,000 teams combining to form a membership of more than 4.5 million" (About the ASA). These numbers do not all apply to fastpitch, yet it is consistently growing along with slowpitch. Vicki Schneider has seen a major growth in popularity and intensity for the sport since she has been involved. She says it is also very obvious that girls are consistently getting more involved and more competitive at an earlier age. Increased media coverage and the Olympics have greatly contributed to this development (Schneider). There is obviously some special appeal of fastpitch softball that has allowed it to steadily grow in popularity through the years. Through the technology of the internet, those who are currently involved in the sport were asked for their personal opinions on the mass appeal of women's fastpitch softball. First of all, why are these millions of people involved in softball, not baseball? Is it just a substitute for baseball or is there a difference? John Kralik replies, "...[Baseball] can't adapt to the age groups without corrupting the game. Softball can and does" (Kralik). Megan Flaherty, 18, says that unlike baseball, softball is "not all about raw strength. You must think about what to do and when to do it. Out-of-the-park homeruns won't occur too often so you have to rely on other methods of getting around the bases quickly" (Flaherty). Londa Kauffman feels that softball is much faster and more exciting than baseball (Kauffman). More specifically, Dave Davis, an ASA umpire, says, "I grew up loving baseball in an era before sports became a big business. Labor strife and big egos have gone a long way to taint my view of the Major Leagues. I have found that sports are played more intensely on the amateur level. I also believe that in most cases, the fastpitch softball games are more exciting to watch than baseball. The rules are similar, to be sure, but the smaller dimensions seem to add to the action" (Davis). Once a person chooses to become involved in fastpitch softball, the sport must have some priority to him or her. Does fastpitch play an important role in a person's life? Dot Richardson put aside her medical career in order to fulfill her Olympic dream. Therefore, softball must be a high priority to her. Robin Scott obviously agrees with Richardson, to a more extreme degree. She says, "NOTHING comes before softball. I don't care what it is. My first priority is softball, then everything else comes next" (Scott). Dave Davis, 35, has the same attitude. On his first anniversary, his wife insisted that he miss a softball game in order to take her out to dinner. Looking back, he replies, "Some nerve!" (Davis).

Others put softball high on their list of priorities, but it is not first. Many players agree that school must come before their sport. Skelly Skadsen, 17, feels that "school will take you somewhere in life and softball is good for memories" (Skadsen). Kelly Dwyer, a former Division I player, always put family and school before softball because "as much as [she] loved it, [she] knew that after college there wasn't a pro league" (Dwyer). Vicki Scheider, now the owner of The Batting Cage in Valley Park, Missouri, puts God and family at the top of her priority list and they have been in that position all of her life, no matter what she achieved in fastpitch softball (Schneider). Why is softball so often a top priority? What aspect of softball makes it so appealing? Everyone who plays, coaches, umpires, or watches women's fastpitch softball has something in common. They all like and enjoy the game. However why do they, similar to generations before them, enjoy fastpitch softball? Erin Anderson, a fourteen-year-old player in Tennessee, says, "The girls are great... I've met so many people and had such a good time these past couple of years. You can really find some good friends... Road trips, hotels, playing all kinds of different teams are all a part of why I love this game" (Anderson). Kelly Stellfox loves "the friendships you make [in fastpitch]" (Stellfox) and another player, 16, says that there is a "sorority among her teammates" (Anonymous). Katherine Hyrcyna supports this personal aspect, pointing out that there are no superstars in fastpitch. She says, "Softball is all about trust and family. [For example,] the shortstop made a great diving catch, but the first baseman caught her throw, or the pitcher threw a no-hitter, but [the right fielder] caught that line drive and saved the no-hitter" (Hyrcyna). Many others enjoy the physical activity that surrounds fastpitch. Michelle Eastman, 16, loves "... the rush of winning, sliding, making a diving catch, hitting an awesome triple... [and] the pure adrenaline that comes with playing hard and succeeding" (Eastman). A player in Dallas, Texas, loves "... that action of fielding a ball and throwing it... diving for balls and making the catch... running bases, leading off, stealing, and sliding... the competition... the athleticism... the fast-paced nature of the game... the team work... [and] how everything comes together and fits together like puzzle pieces, everyone doing their job" (Anonymous). Laurel Munski, from New York, is fascinated with the "unknown" aspect of fastpitch. She states, "You can't really predict what the batter might do when up at the plate; you can only react. The same is true when you [are batting]. You don't know what the pitcher is going to pitch to you; you can only react to where it is and decide [whether or not] to swing" (Munski). Similarly, Cyrena Gawuga plays because she "[likes] the challenge" (Gawuga). Others, like Vicki Schneider, enjoy the fact that softball is a team sport, but a player can set individual goals for herself (Schneider). Coaches also have important points of view on why they are involved in women's fastpitch softball. Bob Prastine remarks, "When you see in [your players'] eyes that something you have been trying to get them to understand for weeks finally clicks and they use and understand that knowledge in a real game situation, well, it makes all your effort worthwhile" (Prastine). Lynn Ditlow, from Pennsylvania, says of coaching, "If I can coach others with good skills, theory, and mechanic, help them develop their knowledge and skills, and have fun with this sport, then I've been able to contribute to another's success." She adds, "My reward is knowing [that] I've helped [players] to reach their goals" (Ditlow). Bill Lammel supports this viewpoint. "I love and care for all the girls that play for me and want them to excel. Softball is a good way to teach them values, self-esteem, and how to work together for a common goal. [These are] skills that they can use throughout their lives" (Lammel), he says. Paul O'Brien in Maryland enjoys coaching young women because they "are much more appreciative of a coach's work than boys and there are less superstar/knowit-all attitudes" (O'Brien). From an umpire's point of view, Rich Rosa, 44, believes that he has "the best seat in the house" (Rosa). Another ASA umpire, Dave Davis, says that his job is rewarding: "Knowing that I'm giving something back to the game from which I have received so many great memories is great." He also adds, "I want people to be happy to see that it's me working their game. I pride myself in my preparation and my main goal is to become the most consistent official that I can" (Davis). Sharon Whaley, the mother of a college softball player, also has a special feeling about the sport. "I love seeing my daughter excel at something she loves so much... It's really hard to explain the feeling you get as a parent when your child is so happy with her accomplishments" (Whaley). Whaley is not the only one with unexplainable feelings concerning softball, feelings well described by Kelly Dwyer. She says that softball's appeal is "... just a feeling you get when you play, just an overall feeling of elation and joy when you are playing. It's kind of like asking someone why they love their boyfriend. It's hard to name one thing; it's just that you feel comfortable and happy when you are with them. [It is the] same thing with softball" (Dwyer). Dot Richardson agrees. When she plays there is a "passion from within" that is impossible to explain. It is that passion that makes her love the game, not the championships, gold medals, endorsements, autographs, or other publicity (Richardson). This unexplainable love and passion for softball has allowed the sport to grow, develop, and maintain universal appeal throughout time. For the past 111 years, softball, "a game for everyone," has united people with a mysterious feeling. George Hancock had this feeling in 1887 and Dot Richardson, along with millions of others, has it today. The feelings that surround softball and its players are timeless.

Rules & Regulations in Softball

Individual league rules and regulations differ based on age and player skill level. General rules and regulations form the backbone for any softball game to establish levels of fair competition. General softball rules affect appropriate field layout, placement of players, preferred pitching methods, batting and game length. Most league play requires an umpire to monitor and guide players in interpreting rules and regulations. Basic Rules y Hitting rules include some bat allowances based on leagues. Many bats are made of aluminum or composites, and each league has an approved bat list. Umpires will often check the bats before game time. Basic rules require players to touch every base in consecutive order. Softball doesn't allow runners to leave the base to steal until the batter hits the ball. Batters are allowed to run past first base only but not second or third base. Runners are permitted to slide into second and third base and home plate. Outfielders must catch the ball in the air for the hit to be considered an "out," and a caught foul ball counts as an out. Most softball leagues start batters with one out to speed up game play. Many leagues require home run hitters to run the bases as a courtesy to their opponents. Field Layout y Four bases are positioned 60 feet apart on the infield. In sequence, these bases are called home plate and first, second and third base. Batters run counterclockwise around the bases after hitting the ball. The infield is called the "diamond." The "outfield" refers to the areas outside the infield diamond. The foul line runs along the base line from home plate through first base into the outfield. Fields are typically marked with a home run boundary marked by a fence or line. Player Rules y In softball, two teams compete against each other by alternating at-bats and fielding positions. Each team has an opportunity to bat for each inning. Each team has a maximum of 10 players, but teams can play with as few as eight. Softball defensive player positions include the catcher, who is at home plate; the pitcher; players at first, second and third base;the shortstop, between second and third base; and outfielders in right field, right-center field, left field and center field. Hitting y Just as in baseball, a batter is allowed three strikes. Foul balls are considered strikes if the player has already struck out two times. Most leagues require pitchers to keep one foot stationary when pitching. Game Length y Softball games tend to be considerably shorter than baseball games; most take about an hour. Basic rules require seven innings for a complete game. Most leagues have a mercy rule that ends games with great scoring disparities within five innings as long as both teams have had five chances to bat.

Softball Equipment Need help finding something? Looking for a particular item? Need faster delivery? Want a quantity discount? Call today to discuss your specific needs. Our staff is available via phone or email to answer any questions. 1-800-380-5056 Softball gear is available for all ages and skill levels. When shopping for bats, gloves and protective wear, you'll find a wide range of sizes and styles. Many are custom designed for fast or slow pitch as well as position on the field. You'll find specialty items that are designed for safety and all at affordable prices. While the pros are required to use wooden bats, most younger and non-professional players find aluminum alloy is a popular choice. Some feature compounds such as carbon and titanium, which can aid in vibration control and how the ball responds. The lighter weight allows even the youngest kids to develop a more powerful swing that packs a punch. In general, they tend to last longer, but some individuals will certainly prefer the pop of a ball off the wood. Comfort and feel are the most important aspects of choosing a bat and each person will develop specific preferences. It's important that the youngest kids have a bat that's not oversized, or they will certainly struggle on the plate. The choice of bats can be determined by an individual's height and weight. These are basic recommendations designed as a guide only. But you may also see a listing for the "weight drop," which is a negative number relating to length and weight. A higher "minus" means the bat is lighter. Manufacturers incorporate many different definitions regarding the performance of their bats. Gloves are also one of the first pieces of softball equipment you'll want to purchase. These are designed with variations depending on the position played. A catcher's mitt, for instance, will have more padding than a first base glove. Gloves for the outfield are longer than those used at infield positions. Open and closed web styles should also be selected based on whether you're pitching or catching and whether you need a fast release at infield or a greater catch area in the outfield. Size is important, of course, and you'll find designs to fit both small and large hands. Never substitute a baseball or T-ball glove as these are all designed to accommodate smaller balls. Be sure to give yourself time to soften the glove to fit the hand. The leather can be oiled in a number of ways and you'll want the pocket area to conform to the ball. Casual practice is one of the best ways to break in a new glove. For protective gear, you'll find our helmets incorporate the latest materials to meet the highest safety standards. Even in slow pitch at the youngest levels, you'll want to have your child outfitted with a helmet. While he or she may not be in danger from pitches, a wildly swung or thrown bat might make head or face contact. It's also recommended that beginners start out with helmets so they can become accustomed to the feel of a head covering while they're at bat. As they progress through the league, a batting helmet will be mandatory. If you're coaching a softball league or simply want to bone up on batting, catching and pitching at home, cages provide a contained spot for practice. You'll find all sizes and most are portable so you can set up at home or take them to the field. You can include the use of pitching machines, as framing and netting are rugged and durable for multiple users on a daily basis. These are excellent investments for improving the game at all age and skill levels. At Softball Equipment USA, you can see how easy it will be to become enthused about America's favorite pastime.

Leaf Arrangement (Phyllotaxy)

Leaf Venation

Leaf Bases

Leaf Margins