Baseball is a game played by two teams competing for victory by taking turns at batting, or offense, and fielding, or defense, for nine innings, or rounds. The winner is decided by the number of runs, or points, scored by the end of the ninth inning. Each team consists of nine players (or ten when the game is played under the designated hitter rule), a manager, coaches, and substitute players. Substitute players can enter the game by taking the place of another player; however, once leaving the game, the substituted player cannot reenter. When batting, a player from the offensive team, the batter, tries to hit a ball pitched by a player from the defensive team, the pitcher. If the batter successfully hits the ball, he or she becomes a runner on base. The runner's objective is to run from first base to second, third, and all the way to home base to score a run. Another way to score a run is to hit the ball directly into a prescribed area called the home run zone located about a hundred meters across the baseball field; this entitles the batter to a free run around the bases. When fielding, the objective of the defensive team is to prevent players of the offensive team from reaching home base by getting the batters or runners “out.” When the defensive team gets three opposing players out, the teams switch roles and the defensive team becomes the offensive team.
Softball is a ball game played by nine players against nine. The game is played in a similar fashion to baseball. Each group of nine players enter the game either as the batting or fielding team, and the game starts when the umpire calls, “Play ball.” When three outs are recorded, the team that was batting in the first half of the inning switches to fielding for the second half. An inning ends when both teams have both batted and fielded. The game ends at the end of the seventh inning; however, if the score is tied at the end of the seventh inning, the game continues until a conclusion is reached. Additional innings from the eighth are called tie-breaker innings and are played under the tie-breaker rule, where innings begin with a runner on second base.
Two big differences from baseball are the pitching style and the size of the field. The pitch must be made with an underarm motion. As for the size of the field, the pitching plate and home plate are 13.11m apart, each base is 18.29m apart, and the distance from the apex of the home plate to the outfield fence is 67.06m (these dimensions in baseball are 18.44m, 27.431m, and 76.199m or more, respectively.) In this way, the specifications laid down give quite a compact field.
The smaller size of the field gives softball its most fascinating feature: the elaborateness and speed with which the game is played. From the underhand windmill motion, where pitchers rotate their throwing arms to deliver fast pitches, pitchers are capable of throwing not only fastballs but also a variety of breaking balls, such as riseballs, dropballs, curveballs, and changeups. The riseball breaks upwards just before entering the strike zone. This is a pitch that doesn't exist in baseball but is seen only in softball. In addition, because the pitching plate is placed about five meters closer to the home plate than in baseball, pitches reach speeds over 120 km/s. Experiencing standing at bat against these pitches would be like standing at bat against pitches thrown at 170 km/s in baseball. In this way, the high-skill battle of wits between the pitcher and batter and the thrilling speed at which the game is played are the attractions of softball.
The first baseball game ever played took place in 1846 in the United States of America, and the first professional baseball team was established in 1869. On 13 October 1986, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session held in Lausanne, Switzerland, decided to admit baseball to the Olympics as a medal sport from the 1992 Games of the XXV Olympiad in Barcelona. The modern Olympic Games were created in 1896 and, eight years later at the 1904 Games of the III Olympiad in St. Louis, baseball was featured as a demonstration sport for the first time. Over the next ninety years or so, baseball was played as a demonstration sport in eight Olympic Games until it was finally promoted to an official Olympic sport. However, baseball's glorious status as an Olympic sport was short-lived, only lasting for five more Olympic Games after the Barcelona 1992 Games. In 2005, the IOC Session decided to remove baseball from the Olympic programme and baseball lost its status from the London 2012 Games. The main reasons for the removal were as follows: 1. low global popularity, 2. absence of a similar women's sport, 3. low participation by top-ranked players, and 4. failure to promptly educate players on anti-doping. However, the Olympic Agenda 2020, proposed by IOC President Thomas Bach, enables the host country to propose the temporary inclusion of additional sporting events in the Olympic programme. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee capitalised on this opportunity to propose the inclusion of baseball, which will make an appearance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Though there are various theories about its origin, the most credible one is that softball began as “indoor baseball” when it was invented in the United States of America, particularly in Chicago, as an alternative way to play baseball and exercise indoors during the winter. Indoor baseball, or softball, was brought to Japan in 1921 by Buichi Ohtani, a professor at the then Tokyo Higher Normal School who was sent to study abroad by the Japanese Ministry of Education. Although only women's softball appears in the Olympics, there are also men's softball company teams, and softball played with a rubber ball is one of the popular lifelong sports enjoyed as a recreational activity. Softball became an Olympic sport in the Atlanta 1996 Games, and remained on the Olympic programme in the Sydney 2000 Games. the Athens 2004 Games and the Beijing 2008 Games. It was then removed from the London 2012 Games and also from the Rio 2016 Games. At the Tokyo 2020 Games, softball will be back for the first time in three editions of the Olympic Games.
* Courtesy of The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games
(as of September 2019)
Men Women Event Baseball Softball
(Updated on April 10, 2019)