Softball Facts & Rules

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Softball ball is similar to baseball, but you use a larger ball in softball than you do in baseball. You pitch the ball underhand in softball. You throw fast pitches and you are allowed to steal bases in fast-pitch softball games. You must pitch the ball with an arc that is 3 to 10 feet high and you may not steal bases in slow-pitch softball.


According to the International Softball Federation website, softball originated on Thanksgiving Day in 1887 in Chicago. A football fan celebrating victory for his team threw a boxing glove at a fan of the opposing team. The fan hit the glove with a stick and a reporter named George Hancock witnessed this. Hancock was inspired to initiate a game and bound the glove into a sphere, marked lines on the floor with chalk and used a broomstick handle as a bat. Hancock held the first softball game the night he witnessed the glove toss and held games ever Saturday night. Hancock issued the first rulebook in 1889.

The Ball

The International Softball Federation rulebook stipulates that a softball must be a smooth-seamed, concealed stitched or flat surfaced ball. The center core of the ball must be made of long fiber kapok, a mixture of cork and rubber, a polyurethane mixture or other materials that the ISF Equipment Standards Commission approves. Softballs must be wound with twisted yarn and covered with latex or rubber cement. The cover of the ball must be attached to the ball with cement and sewn with a waxed thread of cotton or linen. Balls must be marked either slow-pitch or fast-pitch and the cover must be chrome tanned horsehide, cowhide or a synthetic material that is approved by the ISF Equipment Standards Commission.


A fast-pitch softball team may consist of nine players or nine players plus one designated player. The designated player is an offensive player who bats in place of a defensive player. Slow-pitch softball teams that are not co-ed must have 10 players and may have an optional 11th player. Co-ed softball teams must have five male and five female players. Two extra players may participate on a co-ed team but one must be male and the other must be female.


Regulation games consist of seven innings. A game may consist of six innings if the team that bats second has scored more runs through six innings or before the third out in the seventh inning. Games that are tied at the end of the seventh inning may continue until one side scores more runs at the end of an additional inning. Games that are tied at the end of the seventh inning may also continue until the team that bats seconds scores more runs in its half of an additional inning before the third out. The umpire may call a game at any time due to darkness, rain, fire, panic or causes that put the patrons or players in danger. A game that the umpire calls is a regulation game if five innings are complete.


A batter must have his feet inside the batter’s box when he makes contact with the ball. The batter may not touch the home plate with any part of his foot when he makes contact with the ball. An illegally batted ball occurs when the batter steps completely out of the batter’s box and returns to the batter’s box to make contact with the ball. Batters must use approved and unaltered bats. Bats must be wood or another material approved by the ISF Equipment Standards Commission. Metal bats must be made of angular metal and must not have a wooden handle. Softball bats must not exceed 34 in. or 38 oz.