Beginners Guide To Softball

Emma-Louise Allen is (or was in 2010!) about to start her second season playing softball. We thought it would be a great idea to for our beginners guide to softball to be written from the point of view of a beginner. This is Emma's guide to softball. 

Being a complete beginner at the start of the 2009 season, I was a good candidate to write this guide from a 'newbie' perspective.

Softball is a game played between 2 teams, each team made up of 5 men and 5 women. An additional 2 players per team can be used as 'designated hitters' when batting. The objective is to score more runs than the opposition by running around the diamond and getting home. One team will be batting and the other team will be fielding and after the batting team have got 3 outs, the teams switch. This goes on for usually 7 innings.
In April 2009 I turned up for practise in my trainers, was supplied with a glove from the club's kit bag, given a quick 'how to' and sent out to the field. There was no need to worry about a 'cliquey' sports club as everyone made me feel very welcome.

League games take place on a Tuesday for Phoenix (1st team) players and Thursday for Flames (2nd team) players. Tournaments are played on weekends throughout the season. Training is every Sunday on Gold Hill Common, 10-12 noon.

Training is very beneficial for your own personal development, and also to the development of the club as a whole. We are helped by our level one and two coaches who introduce specific techniques for better fielding and batting. This is accompanied by drills, to get you used to reacting and using them in your league games. A practise game is usually run at the end of every session where you can query anything you didn't understand, apply those new skills in an informal situation and get the chance to play against one another.

Below are a few more tips and tales.

Batter Up!

There was only one thing running through my mind during my first time in the batters box and that was 'I've got to hit the ball!'

In slow pitch softball, generally the ball will be pitched to you at 25-30mph, a speed that can be easily concentrated on and gives you plenty of time to watch how it's travelling. It's not like fast pitch softball and baseball when balls can be delivered at speeds of up to 100mph!

Learning to decipher what was a 'good' ball was tricky at the beginning, having never played the game before. The best advice I was given was to 'hit what feels comfortable' and this helped me out a lot until I had gained a bit more experience. A 'good' ball, would be described as a pitch with an arc between 6 and 12 feet from the ground that crosses over home plate and lands somewhere within the strike zone. Plucking up the courage to leave the 'bad' balls took some time as 3 'good' balls left means my friend, you will strike out!

Remember the count - four 'bad' balls and you can walk to 1st base, 3 'good' balls that you do not swing at or hit, you're out.

Once you have hit the ball into fair territory, you will become a base runner.

Base Running

This is an area where I found a lot of our new players made mistakes. Key points to remember are firstly, when advancing round the bases, you must touch each one otherwise the defensive team can tag you out. 
Secondly, first base consists of an orange and white base as you are allowed to run through the orange safety base. When doing so, always turn to your right as if you move left you could be considered as attempting to run to second base and be tagged out.
Thirdly, stay on your base until the next batter has hit the ball as you are not allowed to move too early.

There isn't anything soft about a softball!

A common myth is that a softball is soft. Not so, the ball weighs between 6-7 ounces, and is about 12 inches in diameter.

To field the ball, all players wear a softball glove on what initially seems like 'the wrong hand' but this just keeps your stronger arm free for throwing.

The glove is used to break the impact of catching the softball safely, and ensuring the ball is caught in the webbing of your glove as opposed to the palm does take some practise! In one action, you should try to do this and use your free hand to close the glove so the ball doesn't bounce back out. This will keep your fielding clean.

Outfield Antics

The outfield is the grassy area  behind the diamond, and usually has 4 team members fielding the area.

A golden rule I learned early on in the outfield is that you need to be aware of who is in the batters box. Generally for a male you would move further out from the diamond and with females move closer to it. Although not always the case, it's a great starting point because as you move through the innings you will get a feel for how the opposing team members bat. Always overcompensate so you can run in to the ball - it's a lot harder to run backwards!

Something to remember in the outfield is if you have caught a fly ball, although the batter is immediately out, the ball is still in play and the base runners can still advance. It is your job is to get the ball back to the infield as quickly as possible to stop this, using your cut off - this is shortstop if playing left field and the second baseman if playing right field.

My first catch meant I was so pleased with myself, I threw both hands in the air and proceeded to yell 'woo hoo!' much to my team mates frustration!

Infield

The purpose of the infield players is to get the base runners out. This can be done in several ways such as, tagging the player as they're running between bases by touching them or stepping onto the base they're running to if it's a forced play.

Your short stop will shout out the plays before the ball is pitched so you know where to direct the ball after fielding it i.e to 1st base and then 2nd or to make a play at home.

'My drinking team seem to have a softball problem'

Playing softball is good for a bit of soft exercise but it's also an extremely social game; the mixed adult teams provide a nice balance within the club resulting in plenty of banter. Our committee organise socials throughout the season and tournament weekends give the opportunity for a full two days of softball and an evening of partying.

Our teams like to retire to the Village Hall Pub after training and home games (or any other pub within the vicinity at an away game!) when we have endured the wins and the defeats. This is where the fun continues, over a cool drink voting for 'donkey' and 'MVP' players - guaranteed for a few laughs!

I'd love to be able to chose a part of softball that I consider as the most fun but really, I can't isolate one particular aspect as I enjoy it all and there have been many a time where I have laughed so hard, my sides hurt!

The top 3 'numpty' moments in Flames 2009

... team members shall remain nameless!

  1. Getting lost running to 2nd base!
  2. Two team members shouting 'mine' whilst trying to catch a fly ball, both missing the ball so consoled each other with a hug!
  3. Juggling not fielding the ball. We may even lose this guy to the circus!

Obviously, this sort of thing would never happen in our first team, Phoenix (not half!)

Softball is a game that combines everyone's talents, and as long as you're having fun, you're playing a good game.

Look forward to meeting you on the field, so let's PLAY BALL!

What Is Softball