Co-ed slowpitch softball is a recreational, social and enjoyable game that's easy to learn and play, even for people who are not “athletes” or don't have much experience of team sports – and the game offers particular opportunities for women. It's a lot like baseball in terms of the rules, but because the ball is pitched slowly to each batter (as the name implies), it's easy to hit the ball and succeed at the sport's central skill. The fact that men and women play together in the same team and on an equal level gives the sport a social buzz, and most softball games are followed by sessions at the local pub! But there is also a competitive side to the sport, with serious tournaments and national championships, and there is a Great Britain Co-ed Slowpitch National Team that has won ten straight European Championships. There are softball leagues and teams in major cities and towns throughout England and also in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. League play tends to be on weekday evenings after work during the summer, and there are weekend tournaments for those looking for a more competitive outing. During the winter, many leagues run indoor taster sessions, training sessions and tournaments. Most leagues run beginner sessions and offer coaching to help people learn to play and find a team, and many of the activities listed below are designed for that purpose. The Eastbourne Bombers will be playing Co-ed slowpitch softball.
Here is a more in-depth look at how softball works, and the differences between the two different styles of play. In both formats:
• The field of play is enclosed within a right angle, with four bases making a square in the inner portion of the field. Batters stand at the fourth base, called “home plate”, with a bat and attempt to hit a ball pitched to them by a pitcher.
• The defensive team consists of a pitcher, a catcher (equivalent to the wicket-keeper in cricket), four infielders and three or four outfielders (see below). A run is scored when a batter reaches home plate either through a home run or by safely proceeding around all the bases and back to home plate without being put out. • The batting (offensive) and fielding (defensive) sides change places after three batters are out. Outs are recorded when a defensive player catches a ball hit into the air or in various other ways.• An inning is completed when each team has had a turn at bat, and games consist of seven innings. The team that has scored more runs after the last inning has been completed wins the game.
Main variations between slowpitch and fastpitch
• Number of players: In fastpitch softball, a team consists of nine players. On defense, this is a pitcher, catcher, four infielders and three outfielders. In slowpitch softball, a team consists of 10 players, with one extra outfielder.
• Gender: Both sexes can and do play both formats. However, in general in the UK, fastpitch softball is played by separate female and male teams (and most often by female teams) and slowpitch softball is usually played as a mixed or “co-ed” sport in which males and females play together, usually with equal numbers of each on the field.
• Size of field: The furthest outfield fence dimension is usually 225 feet for women's fastpitch softball and 275-300 feet for adult co-ed slowpitch softball.
• Base distances: The distance between each of the four bases also differs slightly between the two formats. In fastpitch softball, the bases are 60 feet apart, but they are 65 feet apart in slowpitch softball.
• Pitching style: In both fastpitch and slowpitch softball, the ball is pitched with an underarm motion. However, (as the names imply), it is pitched with considerable speed in fastpitch softball (from a distance of 43 feet for women and 46 feet for men) and in a slow arc in slowpitch softball (from a distance of 50 feet). In slowpitch, the arc must reach a minimum height of 6 foot but not exceed 12 foot.
• Bunting and Base-Stealing: In fastpitch softball, bunting (where a batter taps the ball so it drops down just inside the field of play) and base-stealing (where a base-runner can attempt to advance to the next base without the batter hitting the ball) are part of the tactics and strategy of the game. Neither are allowed in slowpitch softball.