Softball is huge in Canada. In fact, we have some of the best softball teams in the world, including a Women’s team that has conquered the world on several occasions. We may not be able to match the United States when it comes to baseball, but where softball is concerned we have beat them to the post many times over the years and are proudly one of the best softball nations in the world.
But how did this game get so big, which teams are the biggest and the best, how can you get cheap softball equipment and where should you go if you want to watch or play? These are the questions that we aim to answer in this Guide to Softball in Canada, while also showing you the difference between softball vs baseball and giving you a rundown of the rules of softball.
What is Softball?
The most simplistic way of describing softball is to say that it is a variant of baseball that is played with a softer and bigger ball, as well as a few other minor rule changes. It has been referred to as everything from “mush ball” to “kitten ball” and “indoor baseball” over the years and it is typically played wherever baseball is played, which means it is at its most popular in North America.
The game of softball was first played in 1887, adapted from baseball, which itself was adapted from sports first played in England many hundreds of years ago. Softball was played for several decades after its invention without really taking off, but when it made an appearance at the 1933 World’s Fair it received the boost that it had been waiting for and this was enough to propel the game in popularity.
Only in recent years, however, has softball really began to take on the form of a popular modern sport. The World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) was formed in 2013 as a reflection of its growing popularity and this organization helps to arrange tournaments around the world, spreading the popularity of the game in the process and looking forward to a future where softball is as big as baseball.
Softball in Canada
Softball in Canada is not quite as big as it is in the United Staes, at least not in terms of the total number of players that play the game. But there are still many hundreds of thousands of players of all ages who line up to play this game every week and on a per capita basis we are one of the biggest softball nations in the world.
We are also one of the very best thanks to the Canada Women’s National Softball team. They are a top-ranked team who have won several major tournaments, including gold medals at the Pan American Games in 1983 and 2015; a Canada Cup gold medal in 1996 and two several medals after that; and three bronze medals in the World Cup of Softball in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
The basic rules of softball are very easy to learn, especially if you are already accustomed to the rules of baseball.
- There are two teams, with nine players on each team and a field that includes four bases (three bases and a home plate).
- The teams each take their turns batting and fielding. The batting team’s turn ends when three of their batters have been run or caught out.
- When they have both taken one turn at batting and fielding then that signals the end of an inning.
- When in bat, the goal is to hit the ball and then run around the bases, before making it back to the home plate and scoring. When fielding, the goal is to run this person out, thus stopping them from scoring.
- There are a total of seven innings and the winning team is the one that has the highest score at the end of these innings.
There are also softball rules that govern how big the field should be. If you are playing the game properly in an amateur or semi-professional setup then these rules will need to be followed. However, doing so may not be practical for casual play, in which case the field can be as big or as small as you wish (whatever works and falls within reason), and the same applies to the teams.
The astute sports fans amongst you will note that most of the aforementioned rules also apply to baseball. So what makes softball different to baseball, how do these two sports compare?
Softball vs Baseball
The basic rules of softball and baseball are the same, at least at first glance. However, there are some notable differences in the way that these games are played.
One of the first differences you will notice is that the equipment tends to be bigger. This all begins with the ball, which is bigger and softer than a baseball. Because the ball is bigger, players often use catching mitts that are bigger too. And because it is not as hard, they tend to use thinner and lighter bats.
The way that these balls are thrown also differs a lot. In baseball the pitcher throws the ball overhand, thus generating a lot of speed, often up to 100mph. In softball, the pitcher throws the ball underhand. This makes the ball easier to hit for a softball player, and it is also an easier throwing style to control for an inexperienced player.
The elevation of the softball pitcher’s mound is also different as it is level with the batter, while in baseball it is higher.
The field is also different in both of these sports. In baseball the bases are 90 feet apart, while in softball they can be as little as 60 feet apart. The boundaries are also shorter, as you can’t hit a softball as far as a baseball (the speed at which it is thrown and the weight of the baseball mean it travels much further with greater ease).
The length of softball games vs baseball games also differ, as baseball games tend to be 9 innings, while softball, as mentioned above, run for just 7 innings.
Generally, softball is made to be more accessible to casual players, and it does this by making the ball easier to pitch and hit, while also reducing the size of the field, the distances that players need to run, and the total length of the game.
This is why softball tends to be the game of choice in the young and the old. But that’s not to say that softball exists merely as an “easier” alternative. It is a game in its own right, and one that many players and spectators prefer to baseball.
The following organizations are some of the biggest in Canada where softball is concerned, a great place to start if you want to play or watch the game of softball in this country.
Softball B.C. is the official home of the British Columbia Amateur Softball Association. They organize tournaments for many different age groups, with sections for boys, girls, juniors and seniors.
You can visit the official Softball B.C. website to learn about how to signup as a player or a coach, and you can also do your bit for the game and its young players by signing up as an umpire.
Membership is cheap, costing $30 a year if you want to become a voting member and $10 a year if you want to become a non-voting member. The team fees are also small, with an initial fee due followed by an annual fee.
Softball Alberta are committed to advancing the game of softball in the province of Alberta. They are a prominent force behind the advancement of this game in the region and you can visit the site to get involved yourself, whether as a coach, team, player or even as a fan.
There are free online tutorials on Softball Manitoba that shows you how to coach the game and help you to become a coach yourself. The game always needs coaching talent as the coaches are the ones who spot the rising stars, getting them excited to succeed and take those promising teams far.
You can also learn more about the game of softball in Manitoba by checking out this organization.
Pay a visit to the official Softball Saskatchewan website to purchase official merchandise relating to softball teams in the region and to learn how to get involved yourself.
There are membership forms for each signup and you can also learn about tournaments via the Softball Saskatchewan website, getting involved as a player, a coach or a parent.
You can get your kids involved with Softball Ontario from the age of 4 onwards and there are also programs for young adults, as well as coaching options and more. To learn about local competitions, tournaments, membership and more, just pay a visit to the Softball Ontario website.
Softball Around the World
Softball is growing at a rapid rate. So much so that it is even being picked up by ESPN. It used to be part of the Summer Olympics and featured for 10 years from 1998, only to be removed. But it will make a return in 2020 and will be bigger and more popular than ever.
There is also a world series of sorts for softball, where the best countries in the world play the game. The biggest teams are those from Canada, the United States and Japan, all countries in which baseball is popular. But teams like Taiwan, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico have also played the game at a high level before.
In the United States it is estimated that more than 40 million Americans play softball every single year, over 3 million of which play the game officially and are registered by the Amateur Softball Association of America to play for nearly a quarter of a million official teams. This is a staggering number of softball players, and one that is further boosted by softball teams and players right here in Canada.
Once you add players from countries like Japan and Taiwan, as well as a number of European countries, the figure comes very close to 100 million. For a sport that used to be seen as an alternative to baseball that was played by women and kids only, this is a staggering figure and it shows you just how far softball has come and just how big in could be.
Buy Softball Equipment Cheap
While softball balls are softer than baseballs, they are not actually soft. Still, you will need softball balls if you want to play this game properly and can’t simply swap them for baseballs. The same applies to bats and gloves, and if you shop via the location discussed below then you can save money on all of this softball equipment.
One of the best places to buy softball bats in Canada is SportChek. We partnered with this major sports store some time ago to give our readers massive deals on all equipment and apparel, so be sure to check out out SportCheck Deals page in order to pickup some of these massive discounts for yourself.
As with anything, you need to be prepared to pay a lot of money if you want the very best. The best softball bats can cost upwards of $300, which is a lot of money in anyone’s book. With our deals you can get those prices down to around $200, but even that could be out of budget, especially if you’e just looking for something to have a little fun with.
The good news is that there isn’t a huge difference between the $300 bats and the $50 ones. You’ll likely get more action and better results out of the expensive ones, but the cheaper ones will serve you just as well and won’t break the bank.
For an ideal mix of quality and affordability, we would recommend looking for a bat that costs around $100 prior to discounts. If you use coupons, offers and store discounts on top of this then you could walk away with a high quality bat for less than $50.
Softball gloves, like bats, can be expensive. You really don’t need to pay a lot of money for a fancy, branded, brightly-colored glove though. By all means pay upwards of $30 to ensure you get something that is well made, with quality stitching to ensure it lasts. But unless you have a lot of money to throw around or a lot of teammates to impress, we wouldn’t recommend paying the high prices charged by some of the more expensive softball gloves.
You can find a mixture of cheap and expensive softball gloves on SportsChek, with the details of our deal pages links above. You can also find some cheap and durable gloves on Amazon Canada and even eBay.
Softball cleats are the same as baseball cleats and serve the same purpose. In fact, in a pinch you could even use cleats designed for soccer and football. The only difference between cleats across different sports is the position of the spikes.
In soccer you don’t have a spike underneath the toes, because it would make it difficult to kick the ball around the field. Similarly with baseball cleats and softball cleats, the spikes are positioned to aid movements that only occur in baseball.
We would recommend looking for a good pair of softball cleats or baseball cleats if you, or your child, wants to get involved with this sport at a competitive level. If, however, you’re just messing around with friends or work colleagues and don’t have the money to invest in softball cleats, a pair of football cleats will do (and are preferable to soccer cleats in this instance).
Other Softball Gear
We would recommend gutting a helmet just as a precaution. This is pretty standard in games such as this as the ball can be thrown at a high speed and if it makes contact with the head then it can cause injury.
Of course, with softball the ball is not as heavy or as fastly pitched as with baseball or cricket. But the risks are still there, especially when young children are playing.
If you want the best equipment on a budget, try eBay. Each year there are thousand of parents who try to get their kids involved with softball, spending a fortune on all of the gear only for those kids to lose interest after a game or two. When this happens then all of that expensive gear goes straight on eBay, waiting for the next parent to come along and purchase it for their own kids.
If you shop on eBay for this used, nearly-new equipment then you can get top-end equipment for rock bottom prices.
How to Watch Softball in Canada
A lot of softball is still played at an amateur level, but you can catch it on ESPN and other prime sports channels, especially during the upcoming Olympics. You can also catch most other games on SportsCanada TV, which is the country’s biggest amateur sports broadcaster and covers a host of top sports that you won’t see elsewhere, from softball to wheelchair basketball
However you watch it, just make sure you do, because the more that people pay to watch or even just tune in every week, the faster this sport will grow. Because more viewers means more money which means more interest from the people who can make this sports grow.