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Don't forget, when purchasing softballs, men's and women's balls are different sizes and weights. The women's ball is lighter and flies further. Check with your league if you are unsure. Then check out this official web site for certified equipment:

Fast Pitch Vs. Slow-
What You Need to Know

When most people hear the word softball, they think of the company team, high arcing pitches, and nights under the lights, ending in beer. While softball has been a popular adult recreational sport and is estimated that some 40-50 million people will take part in at least one softball game this summer, softball is a serious sport for young girls and women.

First some history.
Softball was originally invented as an indoor game to be played during the winter months in the north in the late 1800's. In 1895, the first women's team was formed in Chicago, at the same time the sport was reinvented, taken outdoors and called "kitten ball". The game was similar to baseball, but played on smaller fields with balls that did not travel as far.  It changed names several teams, and underwent just as many rule changes. Rules were standardized in 1926 and the name changed to Softball. Men and women demonstrated the sport at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933, drawing large crowds. Also in 1933 the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) was founded to standardize the rules and govern the sport; it is still the governing body for softball in the United States.

Softball grew primarily because baseball had became popular to watch. Softball was a way for men to continue playing a form of  baseball. It followed most of baseball rules, but with a "softer" ball, a player did not need to fear being hit by a pitch. The ball was easier to hit, but did not travel as far or as hard, therefore easier to field, too. Leagues sprung up everywhere.

Then women got into the act. For most women, they had no baseball opportunities. Softball closely imitated baseball, or as close as most women would get. So softball, with the bigger ball that is easier to hit, and not bone breaking in its delivery, was deemed an acceptable sport for girls. But playing this slower game wasn't enough for some women. They wanted more action. And fast pitch was born. Elite fast pitch competitions became popular with the first Women's World Championship in 1965. Women's fast pitch softball was selected to debut as an Olympic event at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA, in 1996.

It used to be that most girls didn't get a taste of fast pitch until high school. And those good enough went on to play it in college. But in the recent past, fast pitch leagues and clubs for girls have proliferated. Now a young girl can join a fast pitch team at a young age. So if you, or your daughter are thinking of trying out fast pitch, here is what you need to know about comparing the two.

Fast pitch IS closer to baseball. The pitch, although still delivered in an underhand delivery, comes much faster. Slow pitch is pitched slower, with a higher arc. Fast pitch is delivered, usually in a windmill type wind-up for more power, and the pitch comes in at a  much smaller arc. The mound is usually closer in fast pitch, too, making the reaction time to seeing the pitch much shorter. Because the pitch comes faster, it is much harder to get a hit. Strike outs are hardly heard of in slow pitch, and much more prevalent in fast pitch. Fast pitch also has many more double plays, as it is hard to hit a good solid hit out of the outfield.

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One of the biggest differences between fast and slow is that in fast pitch, you can lead off and steal bases, and  players in fast pitch can score on passed balls. Slow pitch runners must stay on their base until the ball is hit. This makes the game closer in strategy to baseball. In slow pitch, there is absolutely no stealing, and you are not allowed to leave the bag until the ball is hit by the batter, making for a slower game. With stealing allowed in fast pitch, speed is just as important as power. A smaller player with speed can effectively make it to second base by legging out a bunt, then stealing second, instead of hitting for the fences and getting a double with one swing.

In fast pitch, as mentioned, bunting is allowed. In fact, most of the hits you will see in fast pitch is drag bunts and slap singles. That is, a fast running player will drag the bat, make contact with the ball and push it just far enough away from the catcher but not far enough for the pitcher to get to it quickly, as the batter runs safely to first. Because the ball is coming faster in fast pitch, a good hit is a line drive over the infield's head, but drops before reaching the outfielders. Then the fun begins, with managers using baseball like strategies to steal bases, pitchers trying to pick off runners and umpires watching for balks. In slow pitch, most hitters try to make contact with the ball as hard as they can and run as far as they can before the action must stop.

Two more similar baseball rules that fast pitch follows and slow pitch does not have, is the designated hitter and the pinch runner. In fast pitch, a player who is a weak hitter can have someone bat for her. In slow pitch, if you field, you hit. Fast pitch can further utilize baseball strategies by substituting a slower running player with a faster one, although some slow pitch leagues will let you do that, as well.

Some other fundamental differences between the two are that there are seven innings in a typical slow pitch softball game, but nine in fast pitch, same as baseball. Another differences is there are nine players on defense in a fast pitch game, again the same as baseball, but ten in a slow pitch game. The extra fielder usually plays in the outfield, as it is easier to hit the ball out of the infield, or they can be a "rover" between second and shortstop. Some slow pitch leagues even let an 11th batter hit but does not have to be in the field.

Gear is also a little bit different. In slow pitch, they usually give the catcher a mask, maybe a chest protector. In fast pitch, the catcher is decked out in full catcher's gear, mask, chest protector, shin guards, big glove, the obvious reason that the ball is being pitched a lot faster. Cleats for both are the same, molded plastic, except at the college level, fast pitch uses metal spikes. Gloves and bats are usually the same, although some fast pitch players like the "bottle" bats, that is bats with wider sweet spots. Slow pitch uses bats with smaller sweet spots. Because speed is so important in the fast pitch game, some fast pitch players try to keep their uniform and protective pads to a minimum. Players in both sports will wear sliding pads on their hips or on their knees. Some fast pitch players choose a knee pad that just barely covers their knees so they can run faster.

Slow pitch is a fun, recreational and social, outlet. But if you like faster action in your game, and some say the fast pitch game is even faster than baseball, then check out fast pitch. I hope you, or your daughter, enjoy either one.