Differences Between Baseball & Softball Balls
While softball and baseball are similar games, there are many key differences between the two. The biggest difference between the two games is the ball being used in play. In softball, the iconic white and red ball is replaced with a bigger neon yellow ball. The balls also differ in material and makeup which creates a different game.
How do baseballs and softballs differ in size?
The primary difference between a baseball and softball is size. No matter what level, be it youth or professional adult leagues, the weight and circumference of a baseball is the same. Major League Baseball, along with every other baseball league, stipulates that the ball must weigh between 5 and 5 1/4 oz. and have a circumference between 9 and 9 1/4 inches.
Meanwhile in softball, the NCAA's 2010-11 rule book states that the official softball for use should be between 11 7/8 and 12 1/4 inches in circumference, with a weight between 6 1/2 to 7 oz. Unlike in Little League Baseball, Little League Softball lowers their size rules to 11 7/8 to 12 1/8 inches, with a weight between 6 1/4 to 7 oz.
How do baseballs and softballs differ in material and color?
The stock color of every baseball is white with red laces. Major League Baseball's rules state that the ball must be spherical and made with yarn wound around a core made of cork, rubber of a similar material. Two strips of horsehide or cowhide cover the ball and are stitched together.The ball also features a stamp of approval from the league of use.
As opposed to the white leather and red stitches found on a baseball, softballs can come in multiple shapes and colors. The Amateur Softball Association of America, NCAA and NFHS each differ on the appearance of the ball.
The ASA, which is the sport's governing body in the United States, only allows its certified balls to be used in sanctioning tournaments and that ball must be either white or optic yellow. The NFHS requires its own series of certified balls in the same colors as ASA, while the NCAA permits only yellow balls. What the trio of organizations can agree on is the ball's construction. This includes a polyurethane, long fiber kapok, or cork rubber core, covered by chrome tanned horse or cowhide.
What is the difference in bounce between a softball and baseball?
Softballs got their name because their core is softer than a baseball and, therefore, they do not spring off the bat in the same way. The measure of spring is known as the Coefficient of Restitution, with a higher number translating to a greater launch when ball meets bat. An NCAA baseball's coefficient cannot be greater than .555, while a softball may not exceed .470.
Jared Paventi is the communications director for a disease-related nonprofit in the Northeast. He holds a master's degree from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication and a bachelor's degree from St. Bonaventure University. He also writes a food appreciation blog: Al Dente.