Softball

 

Fastpitch softball, a variant of baseball played with a larger ball on a smaller field, is an outdoor game played on a pitch called a diamond. Softball is a sport played exclusively by women at the 15th Asian Games.

A softball game consists of two teams that alternate batting and fielding. A team consists of nine players.

The fielding team pitches the ball and wears large leather gloves to assist in catching. The batting team take turns hitting the ball with a wooden or aluminium bat. Bases are laid out in a diamond pattern on the field: first, second, third and home plate.

From the centre of the diamond, a pitcher throws the softball underarm (at a "softer" pace than baseball) towards the batter, who is standing next to the home plate.

The object of the game for the batting team is to hit the ball in 'fair' ground and advance from base to base to score runs. The object of the game for the fielding team is to 'catch out' or run out the batter to give their team players a chance to bat.

At the end of seven innings (alternating between batting and fielding), the team with the highest number of runs wins the game.

Softball comes in three varieties: fast-pitch, slow-pitch and modified-pitch.

Slow-pitch is the most popular form of recreational softball, but fast-pitch is the internationally recognised version of the sport.

 History

In 1887 in Chicago, United States, Yale and Harvard alumni had gathered at the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago to hear the score of the annual football game.

When the score was announced, one person threw a boxing glove at another. The other person grabbed a stick and swung at it. This spur of the moment activity formed the basis for a new game - softball.

George Hancock, a reporter, then tied a boxing glove into the shape of a ball, and a broom handle was used as a bat. Hancock developed a ball and an undersized bat and the Farragut Club set rules for the game, which spread quickly.

In 1895, outdoor games separate from the Farragut Club rules, were also organised as exercise for fire-fighters. This game was known as kitten ball, pumpkin ball, or diamond ball.

The sport was played internationally and Toronto organised the first softball league outside the US in 1897. It then spread to European countries during World War Two, when US soldiers were stationed abroad.

By the mid-1990s, softball was played in more than 85 countries under the auspices of the International Softball Federation (ISF), the international governing body of the sport, founded in 1952.

The first ISF Women's World Championship was held in 1965 in Melbourne, Australia, and the first ISF Men's World Championship a year later in Mexico City, Mexico.

Softball hit its way to the Asian Games in 1990 at the 11th Asian Games in Beijing, China.

 Rules

In softball, nine fielding players take part: the left fielder, centre fielder, right fielder, the pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman and shortstop. In each innings, every team bats until three batters have been put out.

Teams take turns batting. The home team usually bats second. In the event of a tie or after seven innings, extra innings are usually played until the tie is broken.

The pitcher stands at the pitching plate and attempts to throw the ball past the batter to the catcher behind home plate. The throw, or pitch, must be made with an underarm motion: the ball must be released below the hip when the hand is no farther from the hip than the elbow.

The pitcher tries to throw the ball so that it passes through the strike zone. The batter gets three chances to hit the ball legally.

Once the ball is hit, the runner must try to advance to first base or beyond.

When a ball is pitched outside the strike zone and the batter does not attempt to hit it, a 'ball' is called. Even if the batter does not hit the ball, she will 'walk' to first base if four balls are called.

The batter is out when: three strikes are called (a strikeout); a ball hit by the batter is caught before touching the ground (a flyout); the base runner is touched by the ball or by a glove holding the ball while the base runner is away from a base (tagged); and when a fielder holding the ball touches a base which is the only base towards which the batter may run before the batter arrives there (a force out or forced play).

After hitting the ball, the batter will attempt to reach as many bases as possible. An advance to first base on the one hit is a single, to second base is a double, to third base is a triple, and to home plate is a home run.

A run is scored when a player has touched all four bases in order, proceeding counter-clockwise around them. They need not be touched on the same play; a batter may remain safely on a base while play proceeds and attempt to advance on a later play.

When a batter hits the ball over the outside fence, it is called 'home run' and all runners in bases at the time of the hit, as well as the batter, will run around the bases until the home plate and score a run each.

The team with the most runs after seven innings wins the game. If the game is tied, play usually continues until a decision is reached.

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