Baseball and softball are like siblings: There are differences even in their similarities. The games are played on similar fields. The rules may differ, but they exist for the same situations. However, when it comes to the equipment the players in each game use, there are some fundamental differences.
The baseball bat is shorter and thicker than the softball bat. The reason is simple: they are designed to strike objects that are very different sizes. The typical baseball is 9 to 9.25 inches in circumference, and weighs 5 to 5.25 ounces. In comparison, the typical fastpitch softball is either 11 inches around (for youth softball) or 12 inches in circumference (for older players) and tips the scales at 6.25 ounces.
This size difference in the balls used in each sport also plays a huge role in the differences between baseball and softball gloves. A recreational adult softball player may elect to use his old high-school baseball glove, but when the competition is intense, a purpose-made softball glove is a necessity. Let’s take a closer look at what differentiates the gloves in each sport.
The typical baseball glove for older players runs from 11.25 inches for a middle infielder (measured from the top of the index finger to the center of the heel) to 13 inches for an outfielder. Softball gloves, on the other hand, run from 11.5 inches for infielders to 15 inches for adult outfielders.
The reason for this discrepancy is, again, the difference in ball sizes. The larger softball necessitates a bigger pocket in the glove. The gloves themselves differ little at first sight. The softball glove simply measures differently because of its deeper pocket. That deeper pocket gives the player room to receive the ball and to secure it.
The fastpitch softball glove will typically have a smaller hand opening than a baseball glove will have. Of course, this is mainly because fastpitch players are female, and they have smaller hands, on average, than do males. But, there is also a difference in the preferences of the players in each sport.
Softball players, whether youth or adult, typically prefer a tighter-fitting glove than do baseball players. Yet again, the size of the ball is the issue. The larger softball can be a bit unwieldy compared the smaller and lighter baseball. Conversely, baseball players usually prefer a bit of room in their gloves to aid in the transition from the glove hand to the throwing hand.
To aid in cinching their gloves tight, softball players commonly have hook-and-loop closures on their gloves’ backs. Baseball gloves normally do not have these closures, and are consequently less adaptable to different hand sizes.
Baseball and softball position players have similar needs, but baseball gloves show more variety than do softball gloves when it comes to the web. Regardless of position, though, the softball glove will always have a larger web than the baseball glove does. The pitchers still need closed webs in each sport in order to hide the ball, for example, but the softball pitcher must have a considerably larger web to hide the larger ball. The web in the softball glove will usually run deeper into the pocket than does a baseball glove web.
Here’s a great overview of the difference, using the Wilson A2000 as an example:
Baseball catcher’s mitts and their softball counterparts have bigger differences than the other positions do. Baseball catcher’s mitts run from 32 to 34.5 inches in circumference, while softball mitts run a little larger at 33 to 35 inches. And because the softball is so large, the fastpitch catcher’s mitt must have a suitably larger pocket. Also, the sidewall of the softball catcher’s mitt is usually much thinner than the baseball mitt. The baseball mitt can afford to be bigger than the softball mitt because of ball size, but it also offers more padding for the faster-moving hardball.
While there are definite overlaps between baseball and softball gloves, they are not interchangeable. A baseball glove would probably do a better job of securing a softball than vice versa, but it would get damaged in the process. A softball glove, on the other hand, would be the wrong tool for securing the smaller baseball. And the transfer to the throwing hand would become clumsy in either case.
It is best not to try to use a glove meant for one sport in the other field. Your game deserves a tool meant for the job at hand. Sure, if there is no real competition at stake, the differences between softball and baseball gloves become negligible. But, when championships are on the line, softball players should only use a purpose-built fastpitch softball glove.
Check out our recommendations for the best softball glove you can get today here.
Oh, and just for fun, here’s a video of some softball pitchers owning baseball players: