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Baseball and softball are similar games, as they entail hitting a ball and getting runners to advance around the bases. But the people who play these games are different from one another. While boys play baseball, girls often play softball.
While there are cases where girls can play in little league baseball games with boys, you rarely see them do anything in baseball. Girls tend to stick with softball, and there are many reasons for this point.
These reasons for this preference come mainly from history, although the way how softball is played could also be a factor. But while the two sports are similar, their differences are part of why girls play softball more often.
The First Thing To Note
An essential consideration to see before understanding why girls play softball is that it wasn’t designed as a women-specific sport. Softball was always intended to be open for men and women alike.
Softball was built for smaller indoor spaces. The game was designed to work on a small field with a ball that doesn’t travel as fast. The concept of softball being created specifically for women is a myth.
Title IX Was a Factor
One aspect of why girls play softball more entails how they are often lead towards softball because of a perceived lack of opportunities for women to play baseball. The passage of Title IX in 1972 is one point to see.
Title IX states that men’s and women’s college sports teams should receive equal funding. Title IX also says that for male-only sports, there can be an equivalent for women and vice versa. In this situation, softball is the female-only sport that qualifies.
This point has made softball associated more with women. There’s no option for women to play baseball at a collegiate level. Therefore, high schools and other secondary schools won’t offer baseball programs for girls. They only provide softball teams for them to join.
Women have still been involved in baseball, with some amateur female-only teams popping up. There’s even a professional women’s baseball league in Japan. But they’re more likely to appear in softball.
The Field Is Smaller
A softball field is smaller than a traditional baseball field, making it easier for women to play around. The bases on a softball field are sixty feet apart, which is thirty feet less than a baseball diamond. The fences on a softball field are about fifty feet closer to home plate on average.
The small field comes from how softball was originally developed as an indoor version of baseball. It was created to allow people to play baseball indoors during the winter season.
Women often play softball over baseball because they find it easier for them to navigate the field. Since it is a smaller space, it is easier for them to play the ball without struggling to get to specific places on the field.
The Size of the Ball Is a Factor
Softball uses a 12-inch ball instead of a 9-inch one, like what you’d see in baseball. Some softball games can use 16-inch balls, but those are used in recreational games in most cases.
The more massive size of the softball was developed to create a body that won’t travel as far, making it more useful for the smaller softball field size. The design is more accessible for women to handle, as it doesn’t require them to travel too far to reach a batted ball.
The concept of women being unable to throw a baseball very fast is debatable. But many women flock to softball because the ball is easier to pitch. A softball is thrown through a fast underhand motion that supports control over the ball.
Was Sexism a Factor?
While sexism isn’t an influence on why girls play softball today, it was a problem in the early twentieth century. Softball started as an indoor sport that many men enjoyed playing. But there were beliefs that softball was making men feminine.
Men were spending more time indoors playing softball in the early twentieth century. People believed back then that women should be indoors, although women started to become equal to men as the decade progressed.
Men were encouraged to play baseball instead of softball, and they often encouraged women to play softball because they thought the larger softballs were easier for them to handle. They also thought women could injure themselves when throwing fast pitches.
The concept of sexism isn’t a factor today, but it was a real issue for many in the sport’s early days. Women have been shown to be capable of competing well in various sports, but they have been led to play softball more than baseball because of some perceived concerns.
No Other League
There had been some professional softball leagues for both men and women in the mid-twentieth century. But men’s leagues died out in favor of baseball, while the women’s leagues hung around for a little longer before eventually folding.
Women stuck with softball because they didn’t have any significant baseball leagues for play. While there was a prominent American women’s baseball league in the 1940s, it became less popular when American male players returned from the war in the 1950s.
The infrastructure for professional baseball for women isn’t as robust as what the men hold. Therefore, women will play softball instead because they know there’s a good structure for development in that sport.
Can Women Play Baseball Still?
Women can play baseball if they wish, although it’s often hard to find anything outside of an amateur or recreational group for play. But the attitudes towards softball and its organization make it where women will be more likely to play it.
The game of softball is considered more suitable for a woman’s physical abilities. Women today often prefer to play softball for how it is easier for them to handle. But troubling attitudes from the past still play a role in why women don’t play baseball like men.
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