What Is the Difference Between Softball and Baseball?

Baseball field

Unless you have played either softball or baseball, you may struggle to understand what the difference is. Overall, there isn’t actually much difference as the fundamental essentials of the games are the same.

However, softball is a variant of baseball that was first introduced as an indoor version of the sport but has since developed as an outdoor baseball style game that is played by adults (the majority female) and children.

For the latter, it is used as a safe and effective way of introducing baseball and the basic skills and attributes required. Despite the close relationship between baseball and softball, there are some important differences.


Although looking almost identical, bats used in baseball tend to be longer, have a greater diameter and are heavier than those used in softball. In softball and amateur baseball, players may use bats made out of wood, metal or various composites but in professional baseball, only wooden bats may be used.


Baseballs are white with red stitching and have a circumference of 9 inches. Softballs are much larger with a circumference of 12 inches, are yellow and are much softer (hence the name!). Younger softball players may play with a ball that is slightly smaller with a circumference of 10 inches that is easier for small hands to handle.


Pitching is one of the most obvious differences between baseball and softball. Firstly, the pitching distance differs. This is not surprising when considering softball is played on a smaller field. In baseball, the ball is pitched from an elevated mound that is 60-feet away from the plate. In softball, the ball is pitched from a flat pitching circle that is no more than 43 feet away from the plate.

The actual physical act of pitching is the most noticeable difference. In softball, the ball has to be thrown underhand. In baseball, the pitch is almost always done overhand or sidearm. We say ‘almost always’ because there is nothing in the rules stopping a baseball pitcher throwing underhand. It is almost unheard of though because pitching overarm or sidearm enables the pitcher to throw with a lot more power and speed.

The Field of Play

One of the most obvious differences between baseball and softball is the field of play. Although the exact sizes can differ somewhat depending upon the player’s ages, softball fields are smaller than those used for baseball. This can be seen in the distances between the bases. Although they are laid out in the exact same format, the bases in softball are 60 feet apart whereas baseball bases are 90 feet apart. The distance from the home plate to the outfield fence differs too with softball fields usually being no more than 250 yards whilst baseball fields are usually over 300 feet.

Professional Salaries

Both baseball and softball can be played professionally but there is a big difference in the salaries on offer. Major League Baseball is played by men and the salary for the average player is $4 million per year. Professional softball is known as National Pro Fastpitch and is played by women. The average salaries are much less than Major League Baseball and players generally earn $5000 - $6000 per year.