A completely different ball game

BY JOVANA SIMIC | APRIL 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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Pitch. Swing. Hit.

Three elements both baseball and softball have in common.

Yet while softball is a women’s sport at the collegiate level in the United States, men are overtaking the sport at the University of Iowa in the intramural ranks.

But how easy is it for male students to make the transition from baseball to softball? Not as easy as one might think.

Many factors contribute to the difference between the two sports — from the styles of pitching to the size of the field.

Swinging a softball bat can be also be a tough challenge for men switching from hardball to the slow-pitch softball. Slapsgiving Softball Club captain and UI senior Andrew Oswalt said it may even be the biggest obstacle to overcome during the transition.

“The swinging style is different because you are swinging at an angle,” he said. “In baseball, you swing at a level, and you want to make contact. In softball, the ball is coming at an arc, and that is hard for some people.”

Pitching is another element that requires some adjustment. While the softball game requires pitchers to throw underhanded, Chris Arp, a third-year pharmacy student and captain of Team Miralax, said waiting for the ball to cross home plate is an entirely different experience.

The same holds true at the collegiate level where the average speed of a baseball pitch is 88 miles per hour, whereas softball hurlers throw 65, according to ESPN.

In terms of size, the softball field is also a new experience for former baseball players getting into intramural softball. In addition to the larger, heavier ball, the closer playing area creates challenges for batters seeking quality hits.

“When you hit a ball in softball, it doesn’t travel as far as it does in baseball,” Oswalt said.
Arp said, “With the field in softball, it’s a lot of hard work to get a hit through the gap.”

However for some, having a smaller field is an advantage. Son’s of Pitches captain and UI freshman Jon Bihl said that in softball, the reduced dimensions allow teams to position players in the field to help cover more ground while in offense.

All three team captains said most of their teammates haven’t played softball before. But Bihl, a co-rec softball team member, said playing with women will give his team an overall advantage.

“They will give us good hits because they are used to that style of hitting,” he said.

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