Softball modifies the older sport of baseball with a larger ball, a smaller diamond and, in the case of slow-pitch, an underhand delivery that makes the ball easier to hit. The game began in 1887 with a broomstick for a bat and a boxing glove for a ball. It eventually matured into a legitimate sport, and the Olympics featured it till 2008. The International Softball Foundation has released specific rules defining softball equipment.
Softball allows two sizes of balls–those measuring 11 inches in circumference and those measuring 12. The smaller balls weigh between 5 7/8 oz. and 6 1/8 oz. The larger ones weigh between 6 1/4 oz. and 7 oz. The ball’s core consists of either polyurethane or kapok, a mixture of rubber and cork. Tanned horsehide, cowhide or synthetic material covers the core, and cement joins the core and the cover. Waxed cotton or linen thread stitches the cover shut. Red thread stitches smaller balls. Red or white thread stitches larger ones. Despite their name, softballs are as hard as baseballs.
Though bats can contain various materials, such as metal, plastic, fiberglass or ceramic, most must contain only wood and adhesive. Bats measure up to 34 inches long and 2.25 inches in diameter, and they weigh up to 38 oz. Softball bats include a safety grip of cork or tape measuring up to 10 inches. A safety knob at least a 1/4-inch long extends perpendicularly to the bat. Separate warm-up bats match regular bats in most specifications. Warm-up bats, though, include a barrel end at least 2.25 inches long.
Rules dictate that all players wear shoes. Player can wear cleats but not detachable cleats that screw into the shoes. The sport bans rounded metal spikes but allows spikes that measure less than 3/4 of an inch.
The catcher and first baseman may wear mitts, and everyone else may wear gloves. Webbing between the glove’s thumb and body cannot exceed 6 inches. Rules allow any color glove, but a specific rule bans designs modeled after a ball.
Male players must wear caps. Female players can wear caps and may also wear headbands or visors, but all of a team’s headgear must share a single color. Players can also wear non-uniform headgear for religious reasons. Players’ shirts must each display a unique number identifying them. Shirts also can include the player's name, but that is not required. Players wear either trousers or shorts, and they can also wear special pants to help them slide into bases. No players may wear jewelry.
All players can wear protective masks, and catchers must wear specific masks with throat protectors. Catchers must also wear body protectors and shin guards. Batters, on-deck batters and batters-runners must wear helmets. Defensive players also have the option of wearing them.
- Photo Credit Softball glove image by paolanogueras from Fotolia.com
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