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The Fastpitch Bulletin, Volume 19, Number 7, March 6, 2019

03/06/2019, 10:00pm CST
By Bob Tomlinson

A fastpitch pitcher is never on the mound - she's in the circle!

Hello Fans and Friends of Fastpitch softball.

They say it’s baseball but with a bigger ball.

Actually there are a lot of major differences and some key differences that are very subtle that many fans and coaches fail to understand them.

It’s true, softballs are large than baseball. Those white balls with red seams are 9” in circumference while softballs can be 11”, 12”, 14” and even16” in diameter. Those 14” and 16” balls are not used in the sport of fastpitch, at least not in actual games. Some pitchers use 14” and 16” balls for training purposes and for warmup purposes. The great men’s pitcher born and raised in New Zealand was always seen warming up in pre-game workouts with a 16” ball. He has very long fingers and could make that “punkin” really rise. He could make a 12’ ball really rise as well. Many great hitters succumbed to Peter Meredith rise balls.

Another similarity is that both baseball and softball use a home plate that is 1” wide and three bases that are supposed to be 15” wide and two to five inches thick. The difference is that in baseball those bases are 90’ apart while in fastpitch softball they are just 60’ apart. Both sports use a pitcher’s plate, often called a “rubber.” In baseball the pitcher’s plate is 60’6” from the back point of home plate. In high school girls’ fastpitch softball the pitcher’s plate is 43’ from the back tip of home plate.

In baseball the pitcher’s plate is embedded in a mound of dirt that is about 14” above the surface of home plate.

In fastpitch softball there is no mound! That’s right there is no mound!

Some of you are probably thinking “We know that?”

My question is – “Why do so many people who say they are fastpitch people continually say things like: “She was really tough on the mound today,” or “On the mound is (insert pitcher’s name here,” or ask “Who will be on the mound today.”

There is not a mound in fastpitch softball! It’s is a fact! There is no a mound!

I’d like to think that people announcing fastpitch games, college softball TV announcers and analysts would not tell the listeners that a pitcher is on the mound. Simply say, “She’s in the circle.” One of the greatest fastpitch softball play-by-play announcers was a fella that announced all the Aurora Major Men’s game at S-A Field in Aurora back in the day. He never used the word mound. He once told me he couldn’t understand how anybody could hire a person who would tell the listeners that the pitcher who was standing on a level playing field was pitching off a mound.

There is a 16” diameter circle around the pitcher’s plate on a fastpitch diamond but that circle really and truly has nothing to do with the actual pitching of the softball. The circle is there to keep bru-ha-has from occurring. If the pitcher has the ball in her possession and she has both feet inside the circle any runners who are off base must immediately go back to the base they just left or go try to make it to the next base. So really it’s not a pitcher’s circle per se – it’s actually a base runner’s circle.

I have played on and coached on diamonds where the pitcher’s  plate was a few inches higher than home plate and even on a couple where home plate was higher (and still is higher at one of those fields)than home plate. It’s tough to pitch when your non-pivot lands higher than the pitcher’s plate. It really does throw things off. Rise balls do not work very well when throwing up hill.

In baseball runners can lead off bases and pitchers can throw to those bases in an attempt to pick off the runner. In softball runners can’t leave the base until the ball is released by the pitcher. However the rules does not require the runner to wait until he/she sees the ball leave the pitcher’s hand. The rule requires the runner to remain in contact with the base until the ball is released by the pitcher. It’s about being “on time.”

In baseball if a batter strikes out and on a ball in the dirt or dropped by the catcher and “gives himself up” he is called out immediately. In fastpitch softball a batter who has struck out is not out until put out at first base or when he/she leaves the field of play. That means if the ball is dropped or missed by the catcher and the fastpitch batter heads toward the dugout and suddenly hears absolutely everyone cheering for her yell “run, go, get going” etc. she can run to first and must be tagged out or the ball must be in possession of somebody on the defensive team while touching first base before the batter-runner touches that base. Yet, last year, in a couple of varsity games I saw umpires call girls out for giving themselves up then insist that their call is the correct one.

There are many techniques that are quite different between the two sports. It behooves fastpitch coaches to understand those subtle differences. Fastpitch softball is not baseball

Today Poynette’s third sacker’s dad spent the entire day removing the snow on the varsity softball diamond. Tomorrow he will finish the job with some help from one of our freshman pitcher’s dads who will bring a 6 yard end loader to lift the piles that are in front of the fence over the fence. Those guys like to watch their daughters play fastpitch. They are really pro-active when it comes to “pitching in” and doing what they can to help our program. Our program is not the only one where such things happen. It’s happening all over the state.I got a note from one head coach today that said that last year he and his assistant coach spent an entire day guiding there snowblowers around their field to make it playable. He also told me that he was not back to the same level of fitness for two weeks. He said they were both tuckered out for two weeks but their teams played.

Ah yes, fastpitch softball outdoors in Wisconsin in the second week of March and beyond.

That’s it for tonight!
Have a great day on Thursday. If you are counting down the day to the first day of practice you know that the number is 4 days and if you were not counting the days – you now know it’s four.

Keep it Rising!
Bob

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