Olympic Preview: Softball
First Olympic Appearance: 1996
by John Gettings and Mark Zurlo
Did You Know?
United States second baseman Dot Richardson, who hit the game-winning home run in the gold medal final against China in 1996, is an orthopedic surgeon.
Olympic softball is played in fast-pitch style, as opposed to the high-arcing slow-pitch game you often see played recreationally. At the Olympics, only women participate in this sport.
Pitchers can throw fastballs that reach speeds between 65–74 mph. And considering the distance between home plate and the pitcher's mound is a third less than baseball, softball batters have generally the same split second baseball players have to make a decision.
Here are some other interesting differences and similarities between Olympic softball and baseball.
|Length of game||7 innings||9 innings|
|Distance between bases||60 ft.||90 ft.|
|Distance from pitcher's mound-home plate||40 ft.||60 ft.|
|Color of ball stitches||white||red|
Along with baseball, the Beijing Games will likely feature the final Olympic softball competition. Dropped beginning with the 2012 Games due to lack of international interest and the dominance of the U.S. team, the 2008 competition will feature eight teams in a two-round competition, the first being a round-robin tournament, and the second being the single elimination semi-finals and championship game. Competing for the gold will be China, the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Taiwan, and Venezuela. Competition will be held at Fengtai Softball Field, which also played host to the 1992 Women's Softball World Cup Championships.