Baseball vs. softball: sharing the spotlight

Baseball's sister sport deserves more of the love

The hottest debate among ballplayers, male and female, around the world: Is baseball or softball the better sport?

While it’s easy to get wrapped up into this conversation, it boils down that the answer could be different for everyone. America’s pastime has always been baseball, however, and softball players often feel overshadowed by it and its commercial success. Still, there are plenty of reasons why softball deserves more love.

I am no baseball-basher. I’m an avid fan of both sports. I started my playing career with Little League baseball and ended it 12 years later with softball. Keeping up with the Arizona Diamondbacks and with ASU Sun Devil softball is a treat, but softball deserves to share more of the spotlight, and here’s why.

Let’s break this down. At their roots, the two games are very similar. If you understand the rules of one, you’ll quickly understand the rules of the other because there are only a few nuances. The main differences lie in the field size and the pitching, which have profound effects on the how the game is played.

If you try being a spectator of both sports, the thing that will stand out the most is the pace of the game. Softball is a far quicker game. With the bases paths only measuring 60 feet as compared to 90 feet in baseball, softball players must react more quickly to make routine plays.

Maren Angus, former Sun Devil and the publisher of Behind the Plate Softball, has covered both MLB baseball and softball all over the world. She, too, said that she is a fan of both sports, but ultimately, softball is her favorite. 

“It’s so fast paced,” Angus said. “When you go to a softball game, you know you’re going to see a lot of action, and it’s quick. You know that instead of sitting there for four or five hours watching a baseball game, in that amount of time, you could see two softball games. It’s way faster, and I think that’s exciting.”

Not only is softball a faster game, but hitting is harder. 

Angus said if you get technical with the sports, the swings are not so different. She said that teams like South Carolina brought in a baseball hitting guru as their hitting coach. True, the mechanics of a sweet swing are the same. However, what is so different is the amount of time you have to decide whether to take that swing.

But major league baseball pitchers throw harder than Division I and professional softball players, right? Yes, they do throw harder, but that doesn’t matter. On a regulation softball field, the distance from the rubber to home plate is 43 feet. In baseball, it’s 60 feet. So, it has been found that a 70 mph fastball on a softball field gives you about 55 percent less time to decide than a 100 mph fastball on a baseball field. 

Even though the game of softball outdoes baseball, it so often lacks the recognition it deserves. At ASU, you’ll find that the softball program has been the one that deserves the spotlight over a nothing-special baseball program.

Sure, ASU baseball has a rich history of being a tough competitor. It has had 22 appearances and five championships in the College World Series since its birth in 1959, but in recent years, the program has fallen flat. Coach Tracy Smith has been at the helm since 2014. The program has not made it to the World Series in his time, but what’s worse is that the last two seasons has been dismal, both ending in records of 23-32. 

ASU softball, on the other hand, is on the come up once more. Under the direction of Coach Trisha Ford, Sun Devil softball is on the road to restoring their former glory. The program has made it to the Women’s College World Series 12 times since its entry into the NCAA in 1982, and it has won it twice. It lost some of its momentum after Coach Clint Myers left the program, but just this past season, the team made it back to the series, and they are expected to be back and ready for another go come next season.

Softball is where it’s at, and yet it’s so hard to compete with the commercial success of baseball. However, there is hope yet. 

“With softball coming back in the 2020 Olympics, I think we’ll see more people tuning in to watch, and I think we’ll have more players wanting to play at a higher level,” Angus said.

With that return, the sport will receive another huge spotlight, hopefully reminding or shedding light to ballgame-lovers how thrilling the game is and that it deserves the same amount of love, or perhaps a little more, as baseball.

 Reach the columnist at or follow @AndiBlodgett on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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