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Take me out to the ballgame

If you’ve never watched women’s collegiate softball, you really owe it to yourself to watch a few games and now is the perfect time.  The super-regionals are finishing this weekend and the Women’s College World Series will start on Thursday.  The WCWS will showcase the eight best teams in Division 1. 

Women’s softball is a significantly different game than baseball --- much more so than basketball or tennis where the only differences between the men’s and women’s versions are solely gender related.   In softball you have different equipment and field dimensions.   The ball is three inches larger in circumference than a baseball, while the field is only about two-thirds the size as that in baseball.  The distance between the bases is 60 feet rather than 90.  The shortened fences and base paths mean it is  a power and speed game.
Correspondingly, there are two types of hitters --- slappers and swingers.  The slappers actually run toward the pitcher as she releases the ball and use a half swing to direct it away from an infielder.  Many times they simply slap down because if the ball bounces high enough they’ll be able to get to first before the infielder can catch and throw it to first.  While you might see something like this occasionally in baseball, it’s a staple in softball.

The swingers are the ladies who swing for the fences.  Although the fences are 200 (left), 220 (center), and 200 (right), the size of the softball means it doesn’t travel as fast or as far as a baseball.  Still, it seems to me that there are more home runs in the women’s game than in the men’s.  In fact, it seems like the ladies’ game has more offense than baseball.  Alabama’s softball team after 62 games is batting .318 with a .559 slugging percentage.  They have 93 home runs and have scored 433 runs.  I couldn’t find any cumulative statistics on Alabama’s baseball team so I’ll use LSU’s.  Through 59 games they are batting .295 with a .411 slugging percentage.  They have 37 home runs and 372 runs.  I think these differences are representative and show that softball is a more offensively oriented than baseball.

Which brings us to another key point:  watchability.  Softball moves at a faster pace, has more offense, and is a seven rather than nine inning game.  All of this makes it easier to watch game than baseball --- which can be played at a languishingly slow pace.  The other difference is the demeanor of the players in the dugout.  In baseball the most animated thing you’ll see is the guys turning their caps in whatever the designated “rally” position is.  In softball, the ladies are doing cheers, chants, rhythmic clapping, hand motions, and generally just having a good time.  The guys look like they’re playing to determine the fate of the universe.  The ladies are playing to win, but they’re going to have fun on the way. 

I think they have the right idea.    
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