Softball was invented in Chicago in the 1880's. As earlier stated, the name "softball" came to be in 1926. Walter Hakanson of the YMCA actually coined the name at a meeting of the National Recreation Congress. The name and the game spread like wildfire across the United States. Around the same time, similar sports with different names and rules were also being played in Canada and the US. An organisation named the Joint Rules Committee on Softball came together in 1934 and standardized not just the name but the rules for the game.
The game of softball may be described as a modification to the game of baseball which subsequently led to the emergence of an individually recognized sport. Invented in Chicago around the year 1880, the game was once categorized as an indoor sport which boasted the monikers: mush ball, playground, softbunk ball, among others. It was eventually given the name softball in the year 1926, and has remained the same ever since. Only a few variations exist between baseball and softball, this being that it is played on a smaller field with a larger ball. One of the most important aspects of this truly phenomenal game rests in the type of bat being used. Here we will explore both the slow pitch and fast pitch bats.
There are actually two types of softball. The most common type is called slowpitch softball and the ball used here measures about 11 to 12 inches in circumference (depending on the league) with 10 players in accordance team. The second and least common type is called fastpitch softball because the pitch is fast, stealing and bunting is allowed and it comprises of nine players on the field at a time.
The field of play is quadrilateral in shape and contains running areas and a grass outfield. Four bases are clearly marked on the infield (first base, second base, third base, and home plate the bases are 45 to 65 feet apart and are arranged in a square format.
Close to the center of this square lies the pitcher's circle, and inside the circle is the "rubber", a small flat rectangular piece of rubber which measures one and a half feet in length.
The idea of the game is to score as many runs (points) as possible so as to beat the other team. This is done by hitting/batting the ball into play and then running around the bases, touching each one, one after the other. Softball is officiated by one or more impartial umpires. Time outs are called for when the ball is not in play or at the end of a play with a clear outcome.
The game can be played based on a time limit or number of innings. Normally the numbers of innings are seven and each of them is divided into a top half. In a top half, the visiting team hits the ball and tries to score points while the home team surrounds the field and try to record three time outs. In the bottom half, the teams' roles are switched.
1. Softball Bat
The bat is usually made of wood, carbon fibre or aluminium. Even though different sizes of bats exist, they are not to exceed 6cm in diameter, 86 com long and 1.2 kg in mass. The Amateur Softball Association ensures that bats are not made in such a way as to gain unfair advantage over the other team.
2. Softball Ball
Unlike the name, softball is hardly soft. The size of the ball usually depends on the type of softball game being played at that time although there are official standards to follow for official games. According to the classification of play, a 12-inch circumference ball is mainly used in slow pitch softball. Softball is usually wrapped in leather which is white or yellow in colour with two pieces having the shape of the number eight and then sewn together with a red-coloured thread. The core of the ball may be made out of kapok (a long fibre) or a combination of rubber and cork. Sometimes a polyurethane mixture is used.
3. Other Equipment
Other equipment used in the game of softball as stated above include gloves, uniforms and protective clothing. It is required that they be in their best condition to be able to serve their necessary functions.
BEST SLOWPITCH SOFTBALL BAT 2016 EDITION
Miken Psycho Supermax USSSA Slowpitch Softball Bat
Utilising a high-end carbon fibre to form the basis of this bat, the Miken Psycho Supermax has the best of both worlds – unbelievable lightness and unmatched power. It is built for high impact games and made to go through them unscathed. Comes in a variety of sizes for the perfect fit.
DeMarini 2016 the ONE Slowpitch Bat
Made of an SC4 Alloy, and crafted into 13” long barrel, the DeMarini ONE is the bat to have if you’re looking for remarkedly improved performance. The construction is impeccable and has a solid feel, lending extra power when hitting the ball for more distance. Aside from its benefit to your game, the bat comes in an amazing design and color to boot.
Miken Maxload USSSA 100 Composite Slow Pitch Bat
One of the few bats that claims to use materials similar to that in the aerospace industry, this Miken offering facilitates performance at the optimal level. You can expect to keep hitting power balls throughout your practices and games. The bat has ergonomic weight distribution that allows speedier movement. The bat comes with a 1 year manufacturer’s warranty for added assurance.
BEST FASTPITCH SOFTBALL BATS 2016 EDITION
Louisville Slugger Fastpitch Xeno
This is a great bat that is intuitive primed for those who need a lighter swing to help create more lithe swinging movements. The Xenon is extremely sleek and includes the patented S1iD technology along with an anti-vibration ring to reduce disruptions to movement. Great for increasing speed and agility in the game.
Easton 2016 FP15MK10 Mako CXN Zero
One of the lightest and thinnest bats that you can find, the extra length of the barrel helps create more opportunities for batting accuracy. The handle has the smallest diameters around, which makes it a great bat for young players. You’ll be amazed by the fast speeds you can achieve with this bat.
DeMarini 2016 Bustos WTDXBFP Fastpitch Softball Bat
A very resilient bat, the DeMarini Bustos creates the perfect balance between flexibility and managing recoil. The bat is composed of DX1 Alloy, which means that you’ll have performance that lasts and can withstand even the roughest of games. The bat has a handy rotation mark to notify players when to switch the bat position to even out wear and tear.
Popular Softball Bats Brands
Louisville Slugger - One of the oldest baseball companies to exist, the Louisville Slugger brand could be considered one of the most quintessentially American baseball equipment brands around. Some big-name players throughout the decades have been endorsing and using bats from Louisville slugger, and the company took this advantage when marketing to their consumers. This company has its only baseball equipment museum located in Louisville, Kentucky, that is open to the public and gives great insight on how the bats are manufacturered for a game that is so well-loved in America.
Easton - A very big presence in the baseball world for the past 30 years, Easton is one of the leaders in the industry bringing forth innovative technology and design to their line of baseball equipment and accessories. Their products are built for professional baseball athletes, and are engineered for high performance. Many of the products are designed by engineers who are athletes themselves, and every product type that Easton manufactures undergoes research and development and extensive testing before it is offered to their customers, bringing a level of quality assurance that few can match.
Miken - The highly raved Ultra bats by Miken were what placed this brand at the forefront of the industry. They are also one of the few companies that emphasize on adding advanced technology into their products to offer a greater experience to their customers. This can be seen in their inclusion of the latest high-tech materials such as aerospace-grade carbon fibre and manufacturing processes that ensure many of their bats have an easy to find sweet spot and are readily seasoned. There is a range of technologies available in different bat types, which are great for finding the right fit for each player.
DeMarini - Founded in 1989, DeMarini was one of the first to introduce cutting-edge technologies to the American baseball scene. The main success of this brand has been a focus on creating bats that could be used for both professional players and amateurs interchangeably. Their iconic product is the Double Wall bat, which provided a large sweet spot which gave the player greater batting capabilities, adding more distance and power. Their latest powerhouse offerings are the Doublewall F2 and the Singlewall Vexxum ranges, which have been a player favorite for almost a decade.
Worth Sports - Worth Sports has been upping its image as one of the trendier brands in baseball equipment. In fact, almost all their bats have a sleek and modern design, and appeals to both male and female players, so there is something for every player. Worth Sports is currently being endorsed by champions from the 2014 USSA Men’s Major World Series as well as the National Pro Fastpitch league. Their most popular product is the Worth 2Legit brand, which is made of carbon fiber, has a double barrel design, and is built for flexibility and balance. They also provide high-quality softball that comes in a wide range of designs and build, each one suited for differing levels of players.
How to Choose the Best Softball Bats
When choosing the softball bat that is right for you, you need to think of the most important aspects, such as the material, weight, length and the league you are in. Here are things to keep in mind:
When it comes to the material, it would be quite easy to choose between wood and non-wood, with the exception of those states that require its use. Typically, wood is reserved for professional games, practice and tournaments. But once you settle on a non-wood bat, choosing the best material can be overwhelming. Here are some details to help you out:
Aluminum bats tend to be less expensive than composite bats. However, they do not require break-in time, which means that they are at their prime right out of the box. They often last longer and even just dent when damaged, rather than crack, which means that you can still use them even when damaged. As long as they are not damaged to the extent where their barrel rings can no longer fit, they would still be considered legal.
As composite bats are made of layered material, like carbon fiber, they will be easy to control, particularly their weight distribution. As you can see, bat manufacturers make their bats balanced or end-loaded, depending on the style.
When you are still training and trying to level up your contact, then wooden bats are your best option. In most levels, it would be easier to transition from wood to metal, as opposed to the other way around, as wood bats are less forgiving and have a smaller sweet spot. For contact hitter practice, the best wood for you should allow greater speed through the zone. Remember that it is uncommon for players to try and advance to the next level by using wooden bats in their training, as these bats are known to help improve speed and strength.
A softball bat’s weight can change depending on your body type, which means that you should choose a weight that you will be comfortable swinging. Take note that bats that are too heavy will naturally cause your swing to drop, creating an upward angle. You will know if the bat weight is reasonable for you if you can hold the bat with one hand with your arm extended to your side for about half a minute.
When measuring bat length, start from the knob to the barrel, placing the knob at the center of your chest and extending the barrel out towards your fingertips. If you can touch the bat end with your fingertips, then it would be an appropriate choice. But if the bat extends beyond your fingertips, it may be too long for you. In the same aspect, it would be too short if it only reaches your wrist.
It is important to make sure that your bat meets the rules of your league or tournament. Put in mind that recent rule changes in most leagues has been made for safety and more competitiveness, so new standards have also been issued to new bats that are to be used by players. Generally, leagues require certification stamps, so be sure to check listings for required specs.
With these tips, you will now know exactly what type of softball bat you will need to get swinging.