Which is the better sport, softball or baseball, comes up quite often among fans? For me, it is a question similar to which is a better gender, male or female. A question you can not possibly answer. That question is why do girls play softball and not baseball nowadays.
The American Softball Association(ASA) has a roster of 83,000 fast pitch softball teams. At the same time, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League(AAGPBL) registered only 15 professional girls baseball teams.
Yet you will never hear about the adult female baseball teams in the same sentence as the MLB teams. Moreover, the female baseball teams aren’t even on the MLB roster instead they are part of the AAGPBL. Thus we can safely say that there is a major gap between the two sports and genders concurrently.
It’s easy to see why girls play softball instead of baseball with numbers like those. Even though girls and women in America all wish to play more professional baseball.
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A Quick Overview On The Female Baseball Scene:
Like any other area of life, girls have to go through a difficult phase and face negligence. It is also true that the AAGPBL has only 15 teams, but none get proper funding, and most go through much hassle for playing a sport that should be impartial to all.
On the other side of the world, Japan Women Baseball League(JWBL) has four national baseball teams holding a yearly championship. Also, over 20,000 women and girls play softball and baseball in japan at different levels.
For those in America as a girl, my dream of being a professional baseball player stays a dream, if I were a girl. Most aspiring girl baseball players go through much to advance their professional baseball player status. Instead of going through all sorts of obstacles going into softball for girls is so much smoother.
Now you see why girls do play softball more than baseball. However, this mindset is slowly changing with many professional girl baseball players’ hard work and world-breaking achievements.
Before I talk all about how female baseball players are changing the minds and hearts of others, we need some more context on softball.
How softball originated in the first place?
Bit of Softball history for you out there. Initially, men were the ones who should play the sport and not girls. Can you believe it! The sport came to be in Chicago in 1877 by a bunch of men. They were waiting for an American football game results, and while waiting, they got bored.
The original idea behind the game was to play indoor baseball. Some men tried to relieve their boredom; they tied a glove together and made it into a ball; simultaneously, they used a broomstick as a makeshift bat. I wonder why it was not kept that way?
As you can see the sport came to be for weird reasons. Initially, those who didn’t want to play baseball indoor played this instead. So comparing baseball and softball as different sports is meaningless, in my opinion. Also, men were the first to play softball, not girls.
Why do girls play softball instead of choosing baseball?
We are now getting into the crux of the issue. There have been many speculations on why girls are choosing to play softball over baseball. The most common reason is that women are frailer than men; thus, they play softball, which has a lower chance of causing injuries.
Before we decide anything, we need the opinion of the people that play softball, aren’t I right? Unfortunately, in the case of many women softball players, their reason for choosing it is that baseball wasn’t a viable option on the professional circuit.
Lack of fans for female baseball brings the downfall of baseball in America. In America, college or professional level baseball for females is rather bare. What I mean by bare is that college-level baseball for females lacks support.
Getting a scholarship in USA college is painful, to say the least; most; athletes are looking for a scholarship when they get to college age. Because without a scholarship, it would be impossible to continue to play. The case for female baseball players is even worse. At the same time girls playing softball in college with scholarships isn’t all that high.
Softball being a practical alternative
The choice of going into playing softball for most girls or female players isn’t a choice anymore. Most athletic scholarships are uncommon, and on top of that, college is becoming expensive. Thus females that want to continue playing in college have to switch softball to get a scholarship. Some however go into while thinking playing it using wooden bats and for girls youth batting gloves will be easier.
In other countries like Japan and Australia, things are not so dire. While these countries also don’t give out athletic scholarships that much, their college is nonetheless less expensive. This means that women in those countries are less likely to switch to softball.
As stated above, the two sports, softball and baseball, are intricately different. Therefore players that have played baseball since little league encounter many difficulties. Even after switching to softball, many female baseball players still have issues they need to address.
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL)
We have talked a lot about why do girls play softball but not baseball, but we haven’t talked much about their governing body.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, or AAGPBL, was the main body that oversaw female baseball in America. Its inception was in 1943, and its year of demise was in 1954.
It was founded by the then manager of Chicago Cubs and chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley. His reasoning for starting the league was due to the vast majority of young men being drafted into military service.
The earliest female baseball players were called the “Belles of the Ball Game,” and they were able to put on quite a show. In fact, in the 1948 season, they drew about a million fans to the stadium.
Between 1943 and 1954, the AAGPBL held 12 seasons.
In the beginning, the games were more like softball, where the ball was similar to softball, and it was pitched underhanded.
By the end, the games were almost like baseball, with the players pitching smaller balls overhanded.
Due to the overall popularity of baseball and poor advertising of AAGPBL, the league ended in 1954. But before it ended, the league did produce some worthwhile players, such as first baseman Dorothy Kamenshek, second baseman Sophie Kurys, and pitcher Jean Faut.
Here is how different softball and baseball are
As mentioned many times before, softball and baseball are pretty different in many facets. Both their playstyles and rulebook differ vastly. So comparing and saying that one is better than the other is nothing but pointless bragging.
Let’s get down and dirty on how girls play softball Before all else, one of the critical differences from softball to baseball is that baseball is larger in field size than a softball. Another easy-to-spot variation is the larger ball in softball.
Throwing a softball and throwing a baseball is as different as land and sea. The balls are thrown underhanded than the more traditional overhand pitching method seen in other sports. This change in pitching form leads to a whole new ball game as they say! Similarly the baseball and softball bats also have some differences. One of which is the length while the other being the barrel size which in softball’s case are larger. Finally, the difference between baseball and softball gloves is that softball gloves have a deeper pocket than baseball ones.
For a better understanding of the difference between the two sports, I have provided you with a video that should be of some help.
Players, primarily females, like Ragin Cajuns shortstop Jade Gortarex mentioned that she needed much help when she first started in softball. When she first started to play, her balls were going everywhere and she needed someone to actually show her how to hold the ball!
Girls Playing Baseball Rare: Why?
As you might have guessed, girls playing baseball professionally is not that common yet; why is that?
The short and long of it is that much sexism exists in the sport even in 2023. To play professional baseball and be in the national baseball hall, girls have to go through too much, to be honest.
There is still much discrimination in our national pastime, and not much has been done to change it. In recent years the MLB has taken action to change it. While the MLB is doing its best, changes are still far in the future. It has gotten to the point that NY Times, on Feb 18, 2021, made a report on the changes that need to be made.
History Being Slowly Changed
To make playing softball and baseball more accessible by girls and less singled out, MLB has promoted its Play Ball Initiative. Alongside this initiative, MLB has also started the Trailblazer Series, which is a tournament for girls who play baseball.
Yet, when we see a girl play baseball, others and I are skeptical at first. I am not ashamed to say that I was surprised to see women playing baseball professionally for the first time. After seeing the level of skill and determination on the field, my preconception shattered like glass.
Sadly the change of mind is not the same for many out there. There is much disapproval about girls playing baseball. To most men, baseball was a men-only sport even though women had played the sport since the 1940s.
During World War II, most professional baseball players were drafted. It was up to the women baseball players to help sate the need for baseball of the fans. But it seems people of today just have a short memory of facts like these.
Being Exceptional Does More Harm Than Good
In 2014, a young girl named Mo’ne Davis recorded the first win, pitch, and shutout as a girl in the Little League World Series. To most out there, it is so unbelievable that it is being held as an exception. While the achievement is noteworthy, making it out as an exception is doing quite a bit of damage.
That is to say that being something that is exceptional i.e. will happen once in a blue moon. Thus people will take it for granted.
If we continue to frame it as this novel story — like, A girl can play baseball? Who knew?! — then that’s how we’ll be treated, … They chose to cover [Davis] as an anomaly, … Without the history and the context, any girl who sees that feels like Mo’ne is the exception, and so she would also have to be the exception. But that’s just not the case.Malaika Underwood
The point I was trying to make is supported by what Malaika Underwood of the United States women’s national baseball team said above.
Title IX & Girls Playing Softball Seen As Sexism
All throughout this article, I have hinted at much evidence of softball being inferior. Or in some cases, girls playing softball are seen as somewhat sexist. There are multiple reasons as to why this is seen as true according to some but to me, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
However, I will now be more upfront about it and show you some of the facts taken from people that say or believe girls should play softball instead of baseball. Of course, none of these points should be serious or 100% accurate or reasons for why you should also think girls should play softball and not baseball.
All I will be doing is mention some statements from individuals I know and nothing more.
First of all, sexism has been prevalent since the early days of softball even though it came to be due to men wanting to play baseball indoors. However, playing baseball indoors became something feminine which brought forth a whole lot of misbeliefs.
Second of all, the softball ball’s structure was something larger and softer which made others start thinking that women were incapable of throwing a regular baseball. And then it snowballed until too many had the belief that women were just not strong enough to play baseball.
Finally, we have Title IX which in layman’s terms means that females aren’t able to get scholarships for collegiate baseball. This is because according to the Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 softball is the female equivalent to baseball, which means that if girls want to baseball in college they should just go for softball.
Why Do Girls Play Softball And Baseball, And What Are The Benefits To Be Had?
Enough of these depressing sexist talks; let’s turn our attention to some of the good girls and women can have from baseball.
According to the American Health Research research, regularly taking part in sports like baseball will help people reduce stress, diabetics, and blood pressure by as much as 5%.
Physically demanding sports like baseball and softball does a lot of good on the muscles and heart of players. As we most know by now, baseball is a summer month only sport. As such, the clear weather and sunlight will benefit the body a lot. The abundance of the sun will ensure the body gets the necessary vitamin D and other such nutrients.
Before I Leave The Pitcher’s Mound
Before I end my article and you leave, here is something to remember girls playing baseball is perfectly OK.
This is 2023; with the advance in sports medicine and sports science, the idea that girls are too frail to play baseball is complete hogwash. Anyone that thinks that is leaving in the past and needs to come back to the present. This is why many manufactures are now making many best baseball gloves that are playable in softball.
With outstanding veterans like Underwood and future stars like Davis in the making, the world of women playing baseball needs to be recognized and appreciated. Alongside that, making softball inferior to baseball needs to stop.
As Ava Benach, founder of D.C. Girls Baseball and an attorney said to Chica Tribune.
Girls should be able to play baseball as long as they want to. Don’t’ stop playing because there isn’t opportunity, but because they may be lose attention, or find other interests, the same reasons that some boys stop playing.As Ava Benach