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While everyone knows and loves softball as baseball’s chill cousin who lets you get drunk while you play, Chicago and, to some extent, Portland have their own take on this classic sport. Specifically, 16-inch softball. If you’ve never played it, you’ve probably managed to avoid a lot of jammed fingers.
16-inch softball adheres to the same rules as 12-inch.
The difference is that the ball is larger, and squishier. The ball also gets softer as the game progresses. This makes it a lot harder to really crush one deep, but it thankfully makes it much easier to catch. Because if you’re playing with a 16-inch ball, you’re playing without a glove.
Hence the jammed fingers.
The reason for the 16 inch ball, historically, is that in Chicago neighborhoods, the larger circumference allowed for the ball to travel shorter distances, meaning you could play it on smaller, more cramped playgrounds. Catching it barehanded also made sense, as it allowed you to play without having to purchase a glove. Unlike 12-inch softball, a game of 16-inch softball needs only three things: a field, a bat, and a ball. It’s the ultimate “can you sub for my team, the game starts in ten minutes” sport. Anyone can play it, at any time, anywhere. And while the rules are identical to that of 12-inch softball, there are some unique strategies you can employ with the bigger ball.