After a 13-year hiatus, softball has returned to the Olympic podium, with one frustrating difference: its games are played on baseball fields instead of softball.
Fans and players alike expressed disappointment through social media this week. One of the main differences is that a softball field is smaller than a baseball field, usually with an inner court made entirely of soil. Baseball diamonds are made from a mix of dirt and grass or artificial turf.
However, others are less bothered by it.
“I don’t care what the field looks like, we’re happy it’s back and we’ve been waiting a long time,” Danielle O’Toole Trejo, who plays for the Mexico national team and is also a player with the Athletes Unlimited Pro league in usa, wrote on Twitter. “Our game will NOT change. We are GOOD enough to adapt.”
In both the 2004 Athens Games and the 2008 Beijing Games, the host cities built softball fields as part of their Olympic infrastructure.
Still, Jennie Finch, a former American pitcher and Olympic gold and silver medalist, said playing on baseball fields is normal, adding that she has played on baseball fields many times throughout her career.
The moment is big for softball: It first became an Olympic sport in 1996 and appeared in every summer games through 2008, after which it was dropped.
It has a growing global footprint and in the US it is a competitive collegiate sport without a premier league home. Last August, softball was the first sport in Athletes Unlimited, but even that season only lasted six weeks.
“Our sport needs this,” Finch said in an interview this week. “It’s critical for our sport worldwide to compete in the Olympics and have our presence and the platform to show how great a game is.”