Baseball/Softball

Baseball/Softball

images of Baseball/Softball

Olympic Sports

Baseball/Softball

  • Baseball
  • Softball

Last contested at Beijing 2008, Baseball and its sister sport Softball have been reinstated to the Olympic programme and will form part of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Overview

In Baseball, two teams of nine players seek to score the most ‘runs’ by striking a ball and running round a sequence of bases to reach the ‘home plate’. The teams alternate between batting and fielding, each session of which is called an ‘inning’, switching roles when the fielding team gets three opposing players out.

The fielding team consists of a pitcher, catcher, four infielders and three outfielders. The pitcher throws the ball from a raised mound to the opposing batter standing on the home plate 18.4 metres away. The batter attempts to hit the pitches while the fielders try to get the batter out through various plays.

The team with the most runs after nine innings of alternate batting and fielding wins. If the teams are tied after nine innings, play continues into extra innings until one team has scored more than the other in an equal number of turns at bat.

Baseball was played as a ‘demonstration sport’ at a number of editions of the Games before being adopted as a medal sport at Barcelona 1992. The sport was contested until Beijing 2008, then removed from the programme.

Given the popularity of Baseball in Japan, an invitation by the International Olympic Committee for the host country to propose the temporary inclusion of additional events saw the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee propose both men's Baseball and women's Softball.

The competition will be run by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC)(Open in a new window), the world governing body established in 2013 by the merger of the International Softball Federation and the International Baseball Federation.

International Federation: World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC)(Open in a new window)

Event Programme

  • Baseball (Men)

ESSENCE OF THE SPORT

A battle between pitcher and batter

Baseball Players 1

The tussle between pitcher and batter is at the heart of Baseball. Top-level pitchers attempt to bedevil batters with blazing fastballs that are pinpoint in their accuracy and travelling at up to 160 kilometres per hour, along with many other variations that deploy subtle movement and changes of pace. Pitchers are often substituted for reasons of both fatigue and strategy.

For their part, batters must ascertain what kind of ball the pitcher is throwing, so they can gain a hit to put more runners on base and score a run by making it around the bases back to home plate. A ‘home run’, where the batter is able to circle the bases and reach home safely in one play, usually results from a strike that travels 100 metres or more and clears the outfield fence.

The fielders have the task of ensuring that the powerful hits sent their way by batters end as an out, with spectacular diving catches and powerful throws from deep in the outfield.

OUTLOOK FOR THE TOKYO 2020 GAMES

Hitting for victory

Baseball Players 2

At Tokyo 2020, teams representing six nations will provide a superb showcase for the sport.

Baseball is extremely popular in the Americas and Asia, and nations from these continents have dominated the medal table. Cuba has won gold at three of the five official stagings, with the USA triumphing at Sydney 2000 and South Korea at Beijing 2008.

Japan captured bronze medals at Barcelona 1992 and Athens 2004, while narrowly finishing second to Cuba in the Atlanta 1996 competition. As host nation, the Japanese team's place in the forthcoming Games is assured and fans will be hoping for a strong performance against the sport's global powerhouses.

TRIVIA

Question

Which Meiji-era (1868-1912) poet translated baseball vocabulary such as ‘pitcher’ and ‘batter’ into Japanese?

Answer

A: Shiki Masaoka, who was passionate to promote the sport after its introduction to Japan from the United States. Incidentally, he played the position of catcher. You can find a baseball field dedicated to Masaoka as well as a monument engraved with one of his haiku poems in Tokyo's Ueno Park. It was the educator Kanoe Chuma who gave the sport its Japanese name of yakyu.

A sport loved by people of all ages the world over rejoins the Olympic programme for the first time since the Beijing 2008 Games.

Overview

Softball is thought to have begun in the USA as an indoor version of Baseball, so the latter could continue to be played during the off-season. The rules of both sports are very similar in terms of gameplay, with two teams of nine players seeking to score the most ‘runs’ by striking a ball and running round a sequence of bases to reach home. The teams alternate between batting and fielding, each session of which is called an ‘inning’, switching roles when the fielding team gets three opposing players out.

The team with the most runs after nine innings of alternate batting and fielding wins. If the teams are tied after seven innings, the game goes into a tie-breaker with adapted rules to accelerate scoring and provide a quick finish.

Softball was introduced as an Olympic medal sport for women only at Atlanta 1996. The sport was contested until 2008, then removed from the programme.

An invitation by the International Olympic Committee for the host country to propose the temporary inclusion of additional events saw the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee propose both women's Softball and men's Baseball.

The competition will be run by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC)(Open in a new window), the world governing body established in 2013 by the merger of the International Softball Federation and the International Baseball Federation.

International Federation: World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC)(Open in a new window)

Event Programme

  • Softball (Women)

ESSENCE OF THE SPORT

Eyes on the ball

Softball Players 1

Softball differs from Baseball in using a smaller playing area, with a shorter distance between pitcher and batter. In addition, the ball is larger and less dense, and the bat no longer than 34 inches (86.4 centimetres) compared to 42 inches (106.7 cm).

Softball's other key difference is the requirement that pitches be thrown underhand with the ball released while the wrist is passing the side of the body. The windmill pitch, in which the arm traces a large circle to employ centrifugal force as a means of imparting speed to the ball, is the most popular pitching technique.

Top female players can achieve speeds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour. Due to the shorter distance between pitcher and batter, this is considered to rival a Baseball pitch of about 150 km/h in terms of perceived speed.

As with Baseball, the battle of wits between pitcher and batter is a feature of the game as the pitcher serves up different balls including the riseball, which uses backspin to give the impression of rising as it moves towards the batter, and the drop pitch, which sinks as it approaches the batter.

OUTLOOK FOR THE TOKYO 2020 GAMES

Making a pitch for medals

Softball Players 2

Due to Softball's deep roots and popularity as a recreational sport, the USA has a wellspring of players on which it can draw. The American team dominated Olympic Softball during its four stagings, winning gold at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

However, this 22-match winning run ended in the final at Beijing 2008, when Japan won 3-1 in what was considered one of the Games' biggest upsets – not least because Japan had previously lost to the USA in both the preliminary round and the medal round.

At Tokyo 2020, just six teams will compete, leaving little room for error in the quest for a medal. USA will be clear favourites but Japan will base its challenge on an impregnable defense and blazing-fast pitching. A thrilling competition will help Softball attract further attention and grow in popularity worldwide.

TRIVIA

Question

Why is first base in Softball twice the size of the other bases and divided into white and orange halves?

Answer

A:Because the distance between bases is shorter in Softball than Baseball, there are many close plays at first base. The double-base was created to avoid accidents caused by contact between the runner and the baseman. The base sits astride the first base line with the white base on the fair side and the orange base on the foul side.

Competition Venues

  • Yokohama Stadium
  • Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium

Olympic Sports

Paralympic Sports