Can you explain women's softball pitching?

The local HS women’s softball team plays at a park down the street from our house. We often enjoy walking over with the dog and taking in a few innings.

One thing that confounds me is the pitching motion. There seem to be several variants, but the motions happen so quickly that I’m unable to tell exactly what is being done (not to mention why). Seems to be much more variability among softball pitching motion than there is with baseball pitching.

I’ve looked at some info on-line, and I think I understand the basic motion. But when I see it done, it impresses me that there is a lot of extraneous motion. Makes me wonder if that is done to distract the batter, or for other reasons. For example, one pitcher we saw last night had a long ponytail, and at the start of her motion, she did something with her head that flipped her ponytail over to the from of her. She and several other pitchers make a slapping sound - are they slapping their mitt against their thigh?

We walked to the JV game at the other field, and a pitcher was being very effective with what impressed me as a very simple motion. I could tell what she was doing, and she seemed to be pitching with speed and getting the batters to ground and fly out. So why the “theatrics”?

The theatrical aspect, as you say, is not so different from baseball pitchers. Watch videos of Hideo Nomo or Fernando Valenzuela or Paul Byrd. They all had a little extra motion to their windup that wasn’t functionally necessary. It’s a combination of what’s comfortable and what the pitcher might think is distracting or deceiving.

True, but some of it is done as a ritual and also to help with timing.

I pitched women’s D league softball for three years. For some reason, I developed a little bounce before my wind-up.

D league is slow pitch. It’s underhand, and the ball has the make a 15ft arc. It can be exhausting, because pitchers rarely strike people out-- it’s about making the ball easy to hit for a beginning league, and letting the fielders make the outs. If the fielders are having an off-night, or you are up against the league leaders, you pitch so many balls, you can barely stand up.

But anyway, the “mound,” or rubber, is a slightly raised area with a flat piece of polymer about 8" by 3’ on it, and it serves at the demarcation that marks a fair distance. Your toes must be behind the barrier.

So, before each pitch, I got on the rubber, and bounced to feel that my toes were as close to the fair spot as possible without going over. I needed to do that because if I wasn’t always exactly the same distance from the plate, it was harder to pitch fair balls, especially with the right arc. I also held the ball in front of my face as a way of sort of aiming it. I’d visualize the pitch before I threw it.

I suppose it looked funny to people, but if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t go strike, and I had a really good strike record for a D-leaguer who had never pitched before. I joined the league the summer after college. I hadn’t played in high school or anything. I played in the summers when I was 8, 9, 10, but didn’t pitch.

So all those things usually have some purpose-- they aren’t superstitions. The ponytail probably is just a by-product of making sure all the fielders are in place before pitching. You don’t want to throw the ball if your allergic left-fielder is dodging a bee, or your 3rd base player is wiping sweat off her glasses. Everyone needs to be ready, so you take a quick look around, the shortstop (in the best position to be hears) calls where the play is, and then you pitch.

If some pitchers make a slapping sound, it may be a signal to the catcher, if it’s a higher league. In D-league, catchers aren’t anything like major league catchers, and the only pitch is the straight 15’ arc with a little spin on the ball. But the pitcher-catcher team gets to be more of a strategic team the higher up you go.

What I’m watching is fastpitch.

I played 16" (REAL softball! ;)) for many years. Unlimited arc, some leagues had lims on numbers of steps off the rubber, and number of false motions.

And yes, tho I’m not a baseball fan, I’ve seen pitchers with unusual deliveries. Heck, Luis Tiant was big when I was young. But they always impressed me more as the exception. Whereas when I watch these young women, it seems that the pitchers with straightforward deliveries are the exception.

While I’m on the subject of women’s softball - why do so few of them wear baseball caps? One of the teams last night had the majority of players wearing caps, and it was the first time I think I had seen a player wearing a cap. The ones with long hair had it come through the hole in the back. Far more common are no hats, or visors. Heck, one freshman team yesterday even had sparkly hairbows - which impressed me as an odd choice for athletes…

Believe it or not, there is a thread on why women’s softball players don’t wear hats.

Back to the pitching motion, while baseball pitchers with wildly extravagant motions are atypical, almost no two windups are the same. I can only assume none of the pitchers you saw were doing anything too crazy like an Eddie Feigner behind the back or under the legs pitch. You gotta watch video of his softball pitches if you’re not familiar with him.

We always played evening or night games. If we’d played day games, hats might have been worth the expense, but it was enough to come up with the money for our shirts.

The lower leagues (C & D, both men and women) played weekday night games. The upper leagues, the more competitive ones, played during the day on the weekends, and they wore matching, baseball-style hats and baseball pants, batting gloves, batting helmets, cleats, etc.

We played in bluejeans, mainly, and ordinary running shoes.

Why do some batters wear a face mask? College baseball players don’t.

In past years, there were a number of injuries to pitchers. The mound is so close that a line drive gets back to them before they can raise their glove. I’ve seen teams where the entire infield is masked. I think it may be more prevalent at younger levels, where the players are developing skills. I assume a similar rationale suits the batters, especially given how wild some HS pitchers are.

Most of the games we see are in the late afternoon/early evening, where the lowering sun is definitely an issue.

Yesterday talked with a buddy whose granddaughter had been a pretty elite HS pitcher. The kind of guy who is pretty into sports, and was very interested in this kid’s effrots.

He said that if you watch closely, all pitchers will start their actual pitch from a “set position”, which he demonstrated as holding the ball in both hands in front of his stomach. From there, they go into a windmill and deliver.

According to this one guy, everything else is theatrics, including the glove slap of the leg. He said most pitchers are persuaded from a young age that such actions distract the batter, but that as most of the better pitchers age and progress into college, their motions simplify as they realize it is all about throwing strikes and hitting the corners.

I’ll have to see if I can spot that “set position.” Might need a high speed camera! :wink:

So they have protection?
First of all, I’ve seen some baseball players wear face protection while batting.
Also, the pitching rubber in Fast Pitch is 40 feet away (43 feet in college). In baseball it’s 60 feet, 6 inches. A college fast pitch pitcher can regularly throw in the low 60s.

In almost every form of fast pitch softball (NCAA, NAII, NFCS, ASA…) The pitcher has to come on the pitchers plate with both feet, and with their hands separated (ball in either hand) and pause long enough to take a sign (or simulate taking a sign) from the catcher. They then have to bring their hands together for 1 to 10 seconds usually in the wind up, and deliver the pitch in a forward step and their lead foot striding between the 24 width of the pitchers plate virtually extended towards home plate.

I’ve umpired women’s fast pitch for many years, and know all about the leg slap. I’ve never once heard that it’s to aid in distracting the batter. If anything batters would just use it as a technique to start timing when the pitch was going to be released.

Fast Pitch have basically the same pitches as overhand throwers do, with the addition of a rise ball. They have rise, curve, screw, drop, fast, knuckle.

Hmm. Never seen college baseball batters with a face mask. Maybe some wear them.

This video(pitching techniques), the lady claims she hits high 60s to 70 mph.

Her release point is about 38 ft to the plate. That gives the pitch roughly the same flight time as Aroldis Chapman or Nolan Ryan. If the underhand release near the body is harder to pick up than an overhand baseball pitch, the batter will have less time to recognize a pitch heading to the face. Even a few 100ths of a second difference is all it takes.

Thanks for the info. Then why do they do the leg slap?