Softball: Olympic Sport No Longer?
Fast pitch is different from the looping, relaxed pitch often used in recreational softball leagues. Fast pitch players must hit a ball traveling at about 70mph. This is slower than baseball, but certainly much faster than the meandering slow pitch game. However, since the pitcher’s mound and the home plate are much closer than in baseball, (40 feet versus 60 feet) the player must react to the pitch just as quickly.
The first softball, a spur of the moment creation in that long-ago first game, was a boxing glove tied into the shape of a ball. Today’s softball is 12” in diameter, significantly bigger than the standard base ball at 9”, and all white. Softball is actually a misnomer, as the ball used in the game is no softer than a baseball, just larger.
The playing diamond is much smaller than baseball’s, with only 60 feet between bases. Baseball diamonds have 90 feet between each base. This makes for a faster, more active game than baseball, a fact that many softball enthusiasts cite as one of the reasons they enjoy the game so much.
Softball games are also two innings shorter than baseball games. However, like baseball, softball seems to inspire devoted fans and players. Many truly love their softball and pursue the game with an almost fanatic passion.
In 1996, women’s fast pitch softball made its first appearance at the Atlanta Olympic Games. The United States team took the first gold medal in the sport, beating China in the gold medal game 3-1. An orthopedic surgeon from Florida, Dot Richardson, hit the first Olympic softball home run ever to win the game for the United States, an achievement she calls her most memorable.
After being an Olympic sport for the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic games, softball was recently dropped from the 2012 London Olympics by a tied vote of 52-52 with one member abstaining. Only a simple majority of 53 votes were needed to keep softball in the Olympics, and softball supporters are trying to get the vote reconsidered.
Unfortunately, the Olympic committee doesn’t seem very interested in recasting this important ballot. Although the softball federation will certainly have something to say about this, the situation doesn’t look hopeful for girls fostering an Olympic fast pitch softball dream.
Perhaps confusion on the part of the Olympic committee caused them to drop women’s fast-pitch softball from the London games. There has been speculation that the committee members thought that women’s softball was just a female version of baseball, and not popular enough to matter. Whatever their motivations, we hope that the committee will reconsider and reinstate women’s fast pitch softball.