There is no such thing as a standard softball and there are many things you need to consider before buying one. Softballs come in different sizes, compounds and colors. Several factors determine the type of softball used for a game, including the type of softball played and the age or gender of the players. Each softball league has its own set of rules, so consult your league’s rulebook before purchasing any softballs for game play.
COR and Compression
The Coefficient of Restitution, or COR, of a softball shows how much energy is lost when it is struck by a bat. A higher COR rating means that it loses less energy. This is tested by pitching a ball at 60 mph into a rigid steel wall. Balls approved for plays by the American Softball Association of America (ASA) have COR ratings from 0.40 to 0.47. The compression rating of a ball measures the stiffness of a softball. This is tested by determining the amount of pressure needed to displace a ball 1/4 inch when placed between two steel panes. The maximum compression allowed for ASA softballs is 375 pounds.
Softballs are measured by circumference. In ASA play, men’s and women’s fast-pitch softballs for ages 12 and up are 12 inches. Male and female players in the 10 and over category use an 11-inch softball. Twelve-inch softballs are also used in most male slow-pitch leagues along with men’s and women’s modified pitch leagues. Modified pitch softball has the same strike zone as fast-pitch but pitchers cannot fully wind up. Female slow-pitch softball is played with an 11-inch ball. Sixteen-inch softballs are used in games where the fielders do not have gloves. This version is particularly popular in the Chicago area.
The ASA allows white softballs to be used in all divisions of competition. In addition, yellow softballs are allowed for 11-inch and 12-inch female fast-pitch softball play. Most ASA-approved softballs have white seams. The exceptions are for 11-inch, 14-inch and 12-inch softballs for female play, which have red seams. College softballs are required to be yellow with red seams.
The cover of a softball is either made from leather or a synthetic material. NCAA softballs have cores that are made from the fiber of the kapok tree or are a mixture of polyurethanes or of cork and rubber. A college softball team is required to supply 12 new softballs for each home game to account for the wear of game play to the surface. Balls cannot be tampered with in any way during the game including scuffing or applying ointments to the surface.
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