When it comes to softballs, players have a variety of choices in performance, style, covering and size.The most important distinction between softballs is the compression rating, which is the force in pounds it would take to squeeze the ball a quarter of an inch. Each type of softball is also available in a range of COR values. "COR" stands for the coefficient of restitution, which measures the degree of bounce when a ball hits a hard surface. Balls with higher COR values have more bounce. Once you understand the differences between softballs, you can use the information to improve your game.
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High-compression softballs are 12-inch premium balls that professional players use. They have the maximum level of compression at a 530-pound rating. High-compression balls are hard and have the capacity to travel farther than other softballs. They have a polyurethane or cork core and a long-lasting synthetic leather covering. Bats that flex slightly on contact are the best to use with this type of ball. Wood or thin-walled aluminum bats can be damaged if they're used to hit high-compression balls.
Players usually use mid-compression balls for slow-pitch softball, but teams also use them for training and practice for fast-pitch softball. The compression rating is between 375 to 530 pounds, and the diameter of mid-compression balls is at least 11 inches. Mid-compression softballs have some flexibility and perform well with most types of bats.
Low-compression softballs are the softest, with a compression rating of no more than 375 pounds. They are available in both 11- and 12-inch sizes. Balls with low compression ratings and high COR values have a "mushy" feel. Youth leagues often use low-compression balls for younger players because they are safer than balls with higher compression ratings. Bats that do not flex are the best to use when hitting low-compression balls.
16-Inch Chicago Style Softball
The largest type of softball is the 16-inch Chicago style softball. This type of softball is also soft because players usually do not use gloves. Chicago softball developed in the 1930s as an affordable alternative to baseball. Since the ball did not travel as far when hit, players could set up games in small playgrounds and neighborhood fields. This version of softball is still popular today in the Chicago area.