The Playing Field
The softball playing field has the same outlines as those used in baseball, except
the distance between the base paths for Olympic fast pitch softball is 60 feet
rather than 90. This gives softball players much less distance than baseball
players to work in, and they must react far more quickly. The distance from
the pitcher to home plate is 40 feet (46 feet for the men’s game). Outfield
fences have minimum and maximum distances of 200 and 250 feet for women, 225
and 250 feet for men. There is no pitcher’s mound or elevation. Instead,
the pitcher works from a pitching rubber, or pitcher’s plate, within
a circle with a radius of 8 feet. The distance from the rubber to home plate
is 40 feet in women’s fast pitch softball.
Nine players comprise a fast pitch softball team: pitcher, catcher, first,
second, and third basemen, shortstop, and left, center, and right fielders.
(There are ten players on a slow pitch team, with the tenth covering the
area behind second and third bases and the left and center outfields.) A
regulation softball game is seven innings long and is scored the same as
baseball—runners move around the bases from first base to home plate.
Every time a runner crosses home plate, that’s one run for her team.
Olympic rules require that the ball be thrown by the pitcher underhand, but
with windmill-style delivery. Before the pitcher delivers the pitch, both
feet must be on the ground and inside the length of the pitcher’s plate.
For men, the pivot foot must contact the pitcher’s plate and the non-pivot
foot can be on or behind the plate. For women, both feet must be in contact
with the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher takes a signal from the catcher,
holds the ball in both hands—but not for longer than ten seconds—and
must make certain that the catcher is in position. As soon as one hand is
taken off the ball, the pitch begins. Pitchers are not allowed to change
their minds once the pitch begins. Fast pitch softball games usually feature
strong pitchers, and as a result are often low-scoring pitching duels.
The International Joint Rules Committee of the International Softball Federation
(ISF) sets the standards for softballs internationally. In fast pitch Olympic
competitions, softballs must be white and of a flat-seam style, with at least
88 white stitches. Official bats are constructed from one piece of hardwood,
with the grain of the wood running parallel. Bats made from metal, plastic,
an aluminum alloy, or other man-made material are acceptable as well. All
bats, whether wood or metal, require a safety grip (10 to 15 inches long)
and carry an “Official Softball” label.
and Fast Facts
General Sports Links
Olympians will compete in dozens of sports this summer. Even though Gateway
to the Summer Games can't feature them all, you can learn about each and
every one by visiting the sites listed below.