About the National Softball Federation

The mission of the National Softball Federation is to develop rules, equipment standards and program content that promotes the growth of recreational softball play which represents 95% of the players in the USA.

The National Softball Federation will also address the desires of highly competitive and skilled softball players (5%) through the use of equipment, rules and program modifications.

The guiding principle of the National Softball Federation shall be to provide the best possible program (most generous tournament formats) at the lowest possible cost. Tournament hosts shall retain 85% of National Tournament entry fees to support their local charitable cause. Affiliated league directors, especially park and recreation directors, players and umpires will be involved in establishing rules and program content that focuses first and foremost on the recreational player with modifications for the highly skilled and competitive athlete.

Until such time that these rules are deemed complete, any omission shall be resolved by referring to the national rulebook.

As always, local leagues are permitted to modify these rules for local league, weekend tournament and state tournament play as long as safety is not compromised. Once North American Championship play begins these rules shall apply as written/modified.

Softball Historical Perspective

George Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, is credited with inventing the game of indoor softball at the Farragut Boat House in Chicago in 1887.  Lt. Lewis Rober, Captain of Fire Station 19 on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis Campus, is credited with inventing an outdoor version in 1895, called kitten ball.

In both instances the game was used as a recreational outlet for the players involved and meant to be a “miniature” less difficult version of baseball.  The first outdoor field was located behind fire station # 19 at University Avenue and Oak Street, now the Buffalo Wild Wings just across the street from the home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team.

“Miniature” is an understatement as the first diamond had 45’ base paths and a pitching distance of 35’.  It was not uncommon for 1,500 fans to show up for a Saturday afternoon game between The Kittens and The Rats.

Rober wrote the first rulebook which sold for 10 cents and sewed the first ball which sold for $1.25.  Bats were wood and no more than two inches in diameter, resembling a big broom stick.  At the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago, the first ball was actually a rolled up boxing glove and the bat was a broom handle.

So the game of softball had very humble beginnings and was “invented” as a less formal, less difficult to play version of baseball.  The ball was actually soft by design.

Over 100 years later the game that was invented as a form of recreation for the masses in many ways can no longer lay claim to that appeal.  Technology and competition among bat and ball manufactures have made the game much faster more difficult and often dangerous to play.  Balls are hard and bats flex like a trampoline to propel the ball faster and faster and further and further.  Pitchers wear face masks and shin pads to protect themselves on the mound.  Some senior leagues actually use batting practice screens to protect the pitcher.

As the game has become faster, more difficult and oftentimes dangerous to play, participation has dramatically declined.  How much is related to the less recreational nature of the game versus societal changes is tough to determine, but with more and more specialization in youth sports prospective participants who never played baseball or softball may have a difficult time picking up the less recreational game of softball as an adult.

Ninety—five per cent of the players in the USA play softball one night a week for recreation, and maybe a weekend or two.  Their goal is to have fun and go to work the next day with all their teeth and faculties intact.  The National Softball Federation recognizes this fact and working with park and recreation directors hopes to reinvent a game that is safer, and appeals more to the average recreational participant.  This means balls may be less lively and bats as well.  (This will also reduce the cost of equipment and cost to play the game.)  While 5% of the players are highly skilled and competitive their desires and the motives of equipment manufacturers should not negatively affect participation in the game.  There needs to be rule and equipment differences for the recreational (95%) versus elite participants (5%) – otherwise the steady decline in softball league and tournament participation that began in the 90’s, will inevitably continue.