Fastpitch Softball Rules
The Terminology, Field Layout and Positions

Understanding and knowing the basic fastpitch softball rules is pivotal in creating the commitment of your players, the trust of the parents, and being a successful coach. The rules vary from one league to another, one level to another, and even one tournament to another, but the foundational rules and jargon will remain constant.

A good starting point for your team is providing them an understanding of the terminology of the game. Once a common vocabulary is established, it will be much easier to explain the rules, as jargon is commonly used in fastpitch softball rules. In addition, basic terms should be understood, like pop up, ground out, walk, strike, bunt, and so forth. If you have a young team, assume nothing and start from the very beginning.

© Kim Jew Photography Studio
Attempting a play with back up in a softball game

The basic rules should be the next thing every player learns. Things like:

  • What are the name of the bases?

  • What constitutes an out?

  • The distance of the bases and proper direction to run?

  • What is the foul line or baseline?

  • How many innings in a game and how many outs per inning?

The field layout is also a good thing to know, particularly as it affects the pitching distance based on age or league level. In some recreation leagues, it is expected of the coach to also be able to chalk the field. Knowing this information will help make the process a bit easier. In addition, understanding the layout of the field may also determine how you play in certain offensive or defensive situations. This information puts you at a competitive advantage over teams that may not know it as well.

© Helmut Steinwender
Running the ball out at first in a fastpitch softball game

Believe it or not, positions and number of players on the field at a time may also vary depending on league rules and age group. What is the difference between the designated hitter versus designated player? Substitution rules will also be discussed. Is a player out of the game if she is hit for? Is a player out of the game if she is pinched run for? In addition, things like who is backing up on a particular play or who should cover a base are all things that need to be factored into your thinking. As an example, with a runner at first with less than two outs, if the batter is bunting, who covers third? Some coaches would expect the third baseman to cover third, but if the bunt is up the third baseline, who will get the bunt? If it is the third baseman, then who covers third to prevent the runner on first from taking third? On the other side of the field, if I know the third baseman is going to be covering third on a bunt, guess where I am having my batter bunt the ball. This is all part of the chess match that is fastpitch softball.

As you build your team, you must consider the type of players you have. How many players should be carried per team? Too many, and how do you get everyone playing time; too few and what happens if you suddenly have players sick or injured? What should you look for in a player? How do you determine who hits where in your line-up? Where do you put your "weakest" hitter? In baseball it is always seems to be in the ninth spot. Is that the same for softball? In the field, how do you deploy the different players you have? Where would the faster players play? Where do you need more skilled players? Is there any position that you can afford to play a weaker player? Again, difficult questions, but with an understanding of the basic fastpitch softball rules and how they impact how you deploy your players, a simple framework can be established.

© Kim Jew Photography Studio
Close play at third in this softball game.

To get a more in depth review of fastpitch softball rules, the best source is the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA). The ASA is generally recognized by most softball related organizations as the overall rule making and governing body. The ASA has placed the ASA Code online. You will also find the proposed rule changes for the coming season located on this same page. Most organizations will take the ASA fastpitch softball rules and tweak the rules to fit the situation. As an example, in most of the younger leagues, stealing is prohibited. As the girls get older, stealing (and lead off of the base) is permitted only after the ball crosses home plate, and then finally, stealing (and lead off of the base) is permitted upon release of the ball from the pitcher’s hand.

To see an example how of how ASA fastpitch rules gets propagated across all of fastpitch, a few years ago no batter had to where a face mask. After a few sad incidents where a batter was hit in the face with a ball, either as a result of a direct pitch or off of a bunt/foul ball, the ASA made the wearing of a facemask required. Today, most leagues and teams where the facemask at the younger through high school levels.

For additional information on the various topics of coaching, check out our Coach's Aids section. You will find books and DVDs that are broken down between overall coaching, pitching and catching, hitting and fielding.

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