A lot of rookie players in the Manchester Softball League come from the Indoor sessions run by BSUK. Although this is very much appreciated for the growth of the sport, the proper rules of the outdoor game is a lot ‘stricter’ than the indoor version and some players can find it daunting at first. This guide is hopefully going to help alleviate that.
There are a number of rules that are different in summer outdoor softball and these are as follows.
Outs, Strikes and Balls
The batter doesn’t just get to the back of the lineup if they are caught out on a base or a catch, they are classed as out and 3 outs means side away whereby either the teams swap or progress to the next inning.
The batter has the possibility of hitting the ball or leaving it to judge the pitch. If the pitch is fair and the batter doesn’t hit it (or swings and misses) then it is a strike. 3 strikes make an out. If the ball is not fair and the batter doesn’t swing, it is a ball and 4 balls mean a walk. When the batter is on 2 strikes and 3 balls, it is classed as a full count and puts the batter and pitcher under intense pressure.
Conduct and Umpiring
Although there is banter indoor and the umpires are mostly players from other teams who are acting as blues after training, the Manchester softball league employs trained umpires for each game, most BASU qualified. The main rule with umpires in softball is that this is not football, you should not shout out if you think a decision is correct, you should not cajole and heckle the blue. The captain of the team should realistically be the only one to question the umpire and they should be questioning the rules on a decision and not the actual decision, i.e. a captain could enquire as to the rule on the maximum height of a pitch if balls are being called by the umpire but they cannot argue as to high a particular pitch was. the umpires decision is pretty much final and argueing with a blue is not really going to endear you to them. An umpire has the ability to eject a player from the field (including the sidelines) and also to forfeit a game for a team so be nice to them. Its stricter with the umpires outdoors.
The batting lineup must be MFMF with guests at the bottom of the order. The batting lineup is very strict and players should be in the same order each inning when called. If a player is substituted then they take the position in the batting order of the player who was subbed off.
There are two more outfield positions in outdoor softball as follows (thanks to Tigers for image):
Rostering, Transfers and Guesting
When you roster to a club at the start of the year, that is the club you play for, you can not pick and mix each week like we did with Rippers and Kippers, unfortunately you can only be rostered to one club (like a footballer is signed). There is the option to transfer to another club if you want but there are rules in place to stop people playing for multiple teams throughout the season, these are:
- The player must notify the League Secretary (Harry Somers)
- If a second transfer is needed then the player must sit out for a week before they can play for the new team
- No transfers are allowed for the last four weeks of the season
As Rippers, we don’t really suffer from the problem of not enough players but if there are not enough then you can bring in guests (up to two per game only) and the guests can only play as pitcher, catcher, right field or first base and must be at the bottom of the batting order.
Substitutes and position swap
Players on the field can swap position at any time without it being classed as a substitution. Ie an outfield player can immediately swap with a pitcher at any point during the game. This is very handy when working out positions and relief pitchers.
A substitute can be brought on at any time, even in the middle of an innings but the player subbed off can only be brought back on for that same player. i.e. I sub myself off and bring Dave on to pitch and he has a nightmare – I can bring him back off but I can be the only one to rereplace him; not another sub.
Gender counts more in softball outside (unless otherwise stated such as LGBT tournament). In indoor softball, gender only really comes into play with the batting lineup at the start where it has to be MFMF etc but in outdoor softball, gender is more prevalent in regards to the rules.
There are two sizes of balls (just to make it that little bit harder for pitchers), one is a ball the same size as used in indoor (but harder) which is pitched at males and the other is a slightly smaller (but still harder) ball which is pitched to women.
If a walk is awarded from four balls then the player can take a base. For women, this is one base (first) and for men, this is 2nd base. If a man has been walked, they can go immediately to second and the captain can then choose to immediately walk the next batter (female) to first.
As above, gender is very important in the field as there needs to be a balance of men and women. Most teams play 5 men and 5 women but you can opt to play 6 men and 6 women with the extra two players being DH (designated hitter). There are four people in the outfield with 2 being men and 2 being women. This leaves 6 in the infield of which your pitcher are catcher should be opposite sex.
A scoresheet example is given above (they vary slightly but you get the idea). Teams differ slightly in how they score but we do the following:
- When a player scores, the position of where they got to is drawn on the sheet
- When they are advanced by another player, this is drawn on the sheet too – in this example, Jay gets to 2b and Dave gets to 3rd.
We can see here that the 2B for Dave remains as that is where he got to with his hit.
- When a player takes a walk, this is put down as BB (balls to base)
As can be seen here, Bruce took a walk (2 bases as he is male) and that pushed Jay onto 3 and Dave therefore home. The number of the run is written inside the box (number 1 is the first run) to make it easier to count the total.
- If a player gets a home run (like Dave did in the second innings here in this example then HR is written and the count is taken.
There are other important factors in outdoor scoring (such as fielders choice) but these are not important until you start scoring in the games, you will pick this up throughout the season.
Rippers use gamechanger to score which gives us valuable batting analysis throughout the season to tailor our training accordingly.
Base coaches are an important part of the game in outdoor softball. As the ball can travel a lot further, it is sometimes not beneficial to the runner to be turning round to watch the fielders and see whereabouts the ball is. Because of this there are two base coaches, these are members of your team who effectively tell you when to run.
- Base coach on 1st – If you are a runner on first base then the 1st base coach will tell you when to run, this is so you don’t have to watch the ball and can just concentrate on getting to second. i.e. if a ball is hit up into the air for a pop fly, the base coach may make you wait to see if its caught and if not, tell you when to go.
- Base coach on 3rd – this base coach controls bases 2 and 3 in much the same way, telling you when to go and when not to or giving you advice on the number of outs and if you should go immediately regardless.
More info about paperwork (and everything else) is given in the captains handbook (available in a few weeks) but after each game you must submit a scoresheet (winning team only) and a roster of players who played. It is also customary to buy the captain a pint.
Bats (and banned bats)
The MSL has a list of banned bats but I believe if your bat is ASA approved, you’re okay.