How to Play Softball

Five Parts:Understanding the BasicsGathering Your EquipmentLearning to BatLearning to ThrowLearning to Catch

Softball is a fun game that people of all ages can participate in. Although not everyone can have a top-notch coach to help teach them the basics, learning how to play softball on your own is easy and enjoyable.

Part 1
Understanding the Basics

  1. Image titled Play Softball Step 1
    Know the difference between softball and baseball. Softball and baseball are two variants of the same game, with a few differences. The primary difference is that in softball the ball is pitched underhand, while in baseball the ball is pitched overhand. As the name implies, there is also a difference in the balls used as well.
    • Softballs are larger and a bit heavier than baseballs, although they are less dense. You will often see them in shades of neon green or yellow in addition to the classic white.
    • Softball fields are typically smaller than baseball fields, and the games last for seven innings instead of nine.
    • The bats you use in softball are a little shorter and have a wider barrel than the bats used in baseball do.
  2. Image titled Play Softball Step 2
    Understand the difference between slow pitch and fast pitch. There are two subtypes of softball, with slight differences between each. Both follow the same general rules though.
    • Slow pitch is typically coed, and as the name insinuates, the ball is pitched by lobbing it slowly into the air.[1]
    • Fast pitch is played primarily by women and has the main difference of the ball being pitched very quickly with a large wind-up.
  3. Image titled Play Softball Step 3
    Know the rules. Each softball game is comprised of seven innings, each with two halves. The top half, or first half, is when the away team goes up to bat. The bottom half, or second half, is when the home team goes up to bat. Each half of an inning is played until the fielding team makes three outs.
    • The pitcher will pitch to the batter until one of three things happens.
      • They get three strikes, which is when they throw the ball into the strike zone and the batter doesn’t swing, or they swing and miss.
      • They throw four balls, which is when they make bad pitches outside the strike zone.
      • They walk the batter by hitting them with the ball.
    • To get a batter out, a pitcher can throw three strikes, or a fielder can catch a fly-ball mid-air that is hit by the batter. If a fielder catches a pop fly by the batter they are automatically out, even if it was a foul ball.
    • To get a runner out, the fielders are responsible for getting the ball in a timely manner. Once they have the ball, one option is to tag the runner out by physically touching them with the ball in their mitt as they run between bases. Another option is to do a forced out, which is when you throw the ball to the base which the runner is forced to run to (first base is always the safest base to throw to for this reason).
    • Players up to bat will go to home plate, make a hit, and attempt to run all the way around the bases back to home plate. Every time a player crosses home plate, they get one “run” or point.
    • At the end of the seven innings, whichever team has more runs wins the game. If there is a tie, the choice can be made to end the game at a tie or play extra innings until one of the teams scores more runs.
  4. Image titled Play Softball Step 4
    Know the positions. When a team is fielding, each player will take a specific position on the field which they will not move from unless directed to by their coach. There are two parts of the field, infield, and outfield.
    • Infield is the dirt section of the field comprised of the catcher, pitcher, first base, second base, shortstop, and third base.
    • Outfield is the grassy section of the field and has three primary positions: left field, center field, and right field. Depending on the league or specific game, center-field may be divided into two positions: left center and right center.
    • Although the catcher and pitcher are infielders, they are specialized positions that require extra practice off the field. Often they will practice together separate from the rest of the team.

Part 2
Gathering Your Equipment

  1. Image titled Play Softball Step 5
    Find the right mitt. Your mitt is the glove you wear to field balls when you aren’t up to bat. It is made of leather and is worn on your secondary (non-writing) hand.
    • If you purchase a new mitt, you will have to break it in order to remove the stiffness of fresh leather. There are several methods of doing this, including baking it in the oven with special oil, leaving it in the sun, and playing a lot of catch.
    • Playing in the catching position uses a special glove, so if you are interested in being a catcher consider this before purchasing.
  2. Image titled Play Softball Step 6
    Choose a bat. Softball bats are not all equal, and must be chosen to match each player’s unique size and strength. When you look for a bat, you must look at three primary factors: the length, the weight, and the style.
    • To find a bat that is the right length, stand up straight and hold a bat over the knob at the top. If you can hold your arm straight down (without stretching) and the bat touches the ground easily, then it is the right length for you. If you have to bend your elbow or reach, it is too long or too short.
    • To find a bat that is the right weight, look at the drop. The drop is the term referring to the numerical difference between the height (in inches) and weight (in ounces). The drop will range anywhere from -8 to -12. Lighter bats (near -12), are good for weak or slow batters. Heavier bats (near -8), are best for strong batters. You can also place the bat in your writing hand and hold it out straight. If the bat is completely straight in the air, and you have no problem holding it, then it is the right weight for you.
    • There are two main types of softball bats available, aluminum or composite. Both are great for beginners or pros, but aluminum is typically used the most. These are also available in single or double walled. Single walled are cheaper but slightly less effective than double walled bats. Composite bats will have the ball go farther, but they can crack easily in cold weather[2]
  3. Image titled Play Softball Step 7
    Purchase a batting helmet. Playing softball, especially fast pitch, can be very dangerous if you don’t take the correct safety precautions. Most leagues require all batters to use a caged batting helmet, but even if they don’t it is best to always wear one when you are up to bat.
  4. Image titled Play Softball Step 8
    Get a pair of cleats. Cleats are used in most sports, and are good for giving you better grip while running between bases or on the field. For softball, purchase cleats with a plastic or rubber bottom. Metal cleats are often outlawed in softball leagues, as they pose a danger to players who slide or fall on them. Make sure they fit you well.
  5. Image titled Play Softball Step 9
    Look for additional optional gear. These include batting gloves, which aid in removing the sting of batting and giving better grip, and specialized clothing and uniforms. If you are a catcher, you will also have to purchase the required catching gear including a chest plate and shin guards.

Part 3
Learning to Bat

  1. Image titled Play Softball Step 10
    Ready your stance. When you’re up to bat, it is not enough to just stand at the plate. There are a few very important batting stance tips to keep in mind every time you go up to hit.
    • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and even. Don’t stagger your feet so one is further back or forward than the other.
    • Bend your knees and lean forward on your feet into the “ready position.” Your back should not be going straight up and down, but should have a slight forward tilt.
    • Put your weight on your back foot. When you swing, you will push off using your back leg to give you power.
    • Back the appropriate distance from the plate. To know how far you should be, stick your bat straight out in front of you perpendicular to your body, as if you were in full-swing. Back up or move closer to the plate so that the barrel of the bat is centered over the plate.
  2. Image titled Play Softball Step 11
    Hold the bat in the right position. When you pick up the bat, you should be holding the rubber grip near the end. Your hands should never rest against the base of the bat or touch the metal at the top, but should rest somewhere between the two.
    • Line up your knuckles on the handle of the bat, and make sure your hands are touching together.
    • When you hold the bat up, it should never be pointed directly up, down, or horizontal in the air. instead, hold it at a slight angle upwards past your shoulder.
    • Make sure you are holding the bat far enough back, with your hands parallel to your ear.
  3. Image titled Play Softball Step 12
    Prepare to swing. make sure you are still in the right position, with the bat held properly above and behind you and your knees bent.
  4. Image titled Play Softball Step 13
    Swing to hit the ball. When you swing, keep your bat level and avoid reaching for the ball. Always wait for a good pitch, as swinging at a ball can either give you a strike if you miss or a bad hit if you make contact.
    • When you swing, remember to do so “shoulder to shoulder.” This means that your chin starts out directly above or resting on your dominant shoulder, and you swing all the way around so that it ends on your opposite shoulder.
    • Swing hard with a strong follow-through. When you hit the ball, don’t drop the bat as soon as you make contact, as you will lose half of your power. Use all your strength and swing the bat all the way around your body.
    • Move your feet. Some batters prefer to take a small step with their front foot, but the back foot should always stay on the ground. Instead of stepping forward with the back foot, use the “squish the bug” technique. This is when you pivot on the ball of your back foot as if you were squishing a bug with it.
    • Rotate your body with the swing. Good batters avoid stiffness by moving their torso slightly in time with their arms and feet. This will help to add power to your swing.
    • Keep your eye on the ball. Never look up into the field or at other players when you are swinging. Instead, always keep your eye on the ball to guarantee contact.
    • Once you hit the ball, don’t throw the bat. Instead, drop it as softly as possibly outside the baseline so that nobody trips over it.
  5. Image titled Play Softball Step 14
    Move towards first base after your swing. Your goal is always to make it on base, so take every opportunity you can to expedite the process of getting there.
    • As soon as you finish your swing, regardless of whether it is a foul ball or fair, always take a few quick, shuffling steps towards first.
    • Don’t stand around to watch and see where your ball went. Always run as hard as you can to first base; if you are out or it was a foul, the first base coach will tell you and direct you to where you should be.

Part 4
Learning to Throw

  1. Image titled Play Softball Step 15
    Stretch your arms before throwing. Injuring your arm is easy to do if you don’t warm-up the muscles first.
  2. Image titled Play Softball Step 16
    Practice up close first. Although often it is easy to get overly ambitious and want to start throwing at 100 feet (30.5 m) away from your target, this is definitely not what you want to do. Throwing too far away to start can increase the likelihood of you injuring yourself and nearly guarantee poor throws.
    • Start throwing at ten feet from your target. Although this may seem very close, as your arm gets used to throwing you will slowly back away.
    • To start out very basic, practice this by kneeling and holding your throwing elbow in place. This will force you to practice the correct motion your wrist should be making in all throws. After doing this for a while, you can progress to standing.
    • After every twenty or so throws, you can begin to take steps further away from your target. Never back away further than what you are comfortable with to start, and avoid backing away too far.
  3. Image titled Play Softball Step 17
    Get in the correct throwing stance. You want to start your throw with your throwing shoulder facing away from your target. You will likely be standing perpendicular to your line of throw when you start.
    • Your feet should be shoulder width apart, and not staggered.
    • To start a throw, you will probably want to hold the ball inside your mitt near your chest. Keep a grip on the ball while it is sitting in the glove though.
  4. Image titled Play Softball Step 18
    Grip the ball correctly. The best way to hold the ball is with your fingertips laying over one set of the seams.
  5. Image titled Play Softball Step 19
    Wind up your arm to throw. You will drop your arm down and back, and then bring it up and around past your head to throw.
    • Avoid drawing your elbow straight back as if you were pulling a slingshot or bow and arrow. This will limit the power of your throw, and make it harder to give a lot of distance to it.
    • Don’t worry about dropping your throwing arm all the way down your side before bring it back and around. You wind up your arm to aid in using the torque of your body to make the toss.
  6. Image titled Play Softball Step 20
    Aim for your target. If you are playing catch, your target should always be your partner’s chest. This goes for mid-game as well.
  7. Image titled Play Softball Step 21
    Make the throw. Bring your throwing arm down and back, and then around past the top of your head. Release the ball when your arm is fully extended in front of you, perpendicular to your body.
    • You should have a heavy follow-through on each throw you make. Your throwing hand should end up down the middle of your body at the end of each throw after you have released the ball. This will help prevent a sidearm from forming, and injuries to your shoulder or elbow.
    • Turn your shoulders and head towards your target at every throw. Be sure to maintain eye contact with your target to help direct the muscles in your body to throw towards it. Looking away will redirect the course of the ball from your target.
    • Take a small step with your front foot, and pivot with your back foot similar to when you are up to bat.
    • Use your gloved-hand to point at your target and then drop your arm to your side at each throw, if desired. Your mitt should always be at your side by the end of a throw.
  8. Image titled Play Softball Step 22
    Don’t worry about speed to start. The most important part of throwing is accuracy, not speed or strength. When you are first starting, always focus on simply getting the ball to your target rather than doing it the fastest.

Part 5
Learning to Catch

  1. Image titled Play Softball Step 23
    Hold the mitt properly. When you are playing catch, it is important that your mitt be held in front of you near your chest.
    • Never hold your mitt so that you can see the inside of your wrist and the tip is facing down. If you catch a ball in it in this position, it could roll up and hit you in the face.
    • Avoid holding your mitt directly vertical, because if you don’t have a good grip on the ball it will simply fall out of your glove after you’ve caught it.
    • Hold the mitt wide open so that there is space for the ball to land. If your mitt is even partially closed, the ball will hit the end and fall to the ground instead of landing inside.
  2. Image titled Play Softball Step 24
    Get in the ready position. If you are playing catch, the best position to be in is the “ready position,” with your knees slightly bent and your torso leaning slightly forward on the balls of your feet. This allows you to shuffle in any direction to catch a ball that doesn’t make a straight path.
    • Never rest your elbows on your knees in the ready position, as that blocks your legs from moving when the ball is hit or thrown.
    • Keeping your feet too close together will make you more susceptible to tripping and having a slow start to catch a ball in the distance.
    • Always be watching the ball. Softballs, contrary to what the name suggests, are very hard and painful if they hit you. Be sure you are always holding your mitt at the ready to catch a stray ball in your direction.
  3. Image titled Play Softball Step 25
    Catch a ball playing catch. The best way to practice catching is to simply play catch. Practice throwing a ball back and forth, while being in the ready position and holding your mitt the correct way.
    • To start, have balls thrown towards your chest. This is the most basic catching practice and will help you to warm up.
    • Squeeze the ball in your mitt every time you make a catch to keep it from rolling or falling out of your glove.
    • Have your partner throw balls softly to start before making strong throws. This will help you get used to the contact and grip necessary to catch the ball.
  4. Image titled Play Softball Step 26
    Learn to catch grounders. Grounders are any ball that is hit or thrown that rolls across the ground to you. Because they aren’t in the air, a different method is needed to catch them.
    • Get in the ready position, but instead of holding your glove to your chest, hold it to the ground. The tip should touch the dirt or grass to prevent the ball from rolling under it.
    • Be ready to shuffle to either side, as rocks and oddly shaped clods of grass can cause the ball to make a last-second change in direction.
    • Although your glove should be open towards the ball with the tip at the ground, don’t hold your mitt so that the ball could roll and hit you in the face. Keep it at a slight angle to prevent this.
    • Always stand up after catching a grounder to make a throw. Don’t try to make a throw from your position near the ground.
  5. Image titled Play Softball Step 27
    Learn how to catch pop-flies. A pop-fly is a ball that is hit high in the air and must be caught coming from above. These can be dangerous if you don’t know how to catch them, because they can fall and injure you very easily.
    • Hold your mitt near your face instead of your chest. However, avoid holding your glove high in the air as that gives you less control of it.
    • Stay in the ready position and shuffle from side to side to catch the ball. Never run backwards; instead, turn sideways and shuffle towards it’s projected landing spot.
    • Never reach for the ball, instead position yourself underneath it so that you catch it directly in front of you. Reaching for it will increase the likelihood of the ball bouncing off the tip of your glove or of you dropping it soon after catching it.
    • Block out the sun with your glove before making a catch to help you to see where the ball will fall.
    • Bring the ball back to your chest before taking it to make a throw. This will help you to realign your body into the correct throwing position.

Article Info

Categories: Softball