The flight attendant’s sweet southern drawl came over the loud speaker as she cheer­fully announced, “A special welcome to our baseball team that’s with us today!”

Baseball team? I won­dered. I didn’t see a baseball team boarding the flight. Imme­di­ately my eyes scoured the plane in search for the alleged boys, but I only saw my Hillsdale softball team­mates and coaches.

Sud­denly, it was obvious that there were no base­ballers on board, but that the good-inten­tioned flight attendant had made the most obnoxious mistake. And this was only the beginning. Over the course of our spring training trip in Florida, we were incor­rectly titled as a baseball team time and time again.

While the game of softball and the game of baseball have sim­i­lar­ities such as diamond-shaped fields and the objective to run around said diamond-shaped field, they are dif­ferent sports.

In 1887 when George Hancock invented softball, or “indoor baseball” as it was named at the time, he probably never imagined how the game would evolve. Fast­pitch softball is a dis­tinctive sport that is widely played and should be widely rec­og­nized as a sep­arate game.

We owe our game’s exis­tence to baseball and enjoy the par­allels we share. So I don’t mean to dis­parage our brother sport. I just want people to stop treating us like baseball’s kid sister.

Nev­er­theless, the dif­fer­ences between the two are sig­nif­icant. Baseball fences range from 300 feet to 435 feet while softball fences max out at 250 feet. Softball infields are half the size of baseball infields: only 7,200 square feet. With 60-foot base paths and a 43-foot dis­tance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, all dimen­sions in softball are shorter than those in baseball, and this increases the speed of the game.

Major League baseball pitches can reach 100 miles per hour while softball pitches max out around 70 miles per hour. However, according to an ESPN Sports Science video titled “The Speed of Softball”, a pitched softball reaches the plate in only .35 seconds while a pitched baseball reaches the plate in .38 seconds. That means a softball hitter only has 25 mil­liseconds to decide whether or not to swing while baseball hitters have 55 mil­liseconds.

Speedy hand-eye coor­di­nation is also required as an infielder, as line drives can come off the bat at speeds reaching 100 miles per hour. With the smaller infield dimen­sions, this means the batted ball can reach the shortstop in only .61 seconds. From there, the shortstop must throw the ball to first base beating the runner who averages in a 3.2 second home-to-first time. These quick plays only get quicker when the batter has extra speed, the ball takes a bad hop on the dirt, or the runner is a slap-hitter.

Under these con­di­tions, it’s a good thing softball players throw like girls.

This leads me to a small detail that, to me, com­pletely exem­plifies the gap between the games. Softball players are females. We wear pony­tails, ribbons and various acces­sories. Although our uni­forms are not the most flat­tering, fem­inine figures can usually be detected under the dirty and over­sized jerseys.

Fast­pitch softball is a growing sport that busies the schedules of girls all over the world. According to the Amateur Softball Association’s website, the ASA reg­isters over 245,000 softball teams annually. That means over 3.5 million girls suit up to play in ASA tour­na­ments over the course of each year. In addition, the ASA reg­isters over 83,000 youth softball teams, meaning 1.2 million youths par­tic­ipate yearly. According to a study by ESPN, 17 percent of six to 17-year-old girls who play a com­pet­itive sport play softball.

In 2014, 371,891 of these softball young­sters fur­thered their careers and joined a high school team. From there, 30,874 girls went on to play col­le­giate softball at 1,679 col­leges across the country. Though the number of players dwindles as ages increase, there are still mil­lions of girls at all ages who par­tic­ipate in softball pro­grams every year.

For a softball player, the dream almost always ends at college grad­u­ation. There are only five pro­fes­sional softball teams in the National Pro Fast­pitch league and only one olympic USA team. This lack of pro­fes­sional play con­trasts with the pop­u­larity of the MLB that airs games on TV almost year-round.

Softball’s status will never touch that of America’s favorite pastime. But I still request one simple thing. I just ask that you learn to appre­ciate softball for its unique impor­tance, and please, get the name right.

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Jessie Fox is a junior from Chelsea, Michigan: a small town just outside of Ann Arbor. As a marketing/management and Spanish double major with a journalism minor she hopes to pursue a career in writing or PR. Jessie is an assistant sports editor and has written for the Collegian for the past two years. | twitter: @whatthefox_says