How to Line a Softball Field
Lining a softball field can be an arduous task! Every measurement has to be precise, so the pressure is on to be perfect. Whether you’re an umpire, a coach, or a parent volunteer, this softball guide can help you get the job done correctly!
You can’t line the field with your bare hands, so here’s a list of the equipment you’ll need to line a softball field:
- Measuring tape
- String (a lot)
- A batter’s box template (made of simple PVS pipes or metal frame)
- A rake
- A field marking machine (to be used for chalk)
- Aerosol paint (white and orange) to re-paint the bases and foul lines in the outfield
- Chalk (to line the fields)
- A hammer
- A few nails
- A field drag
- A tractor to drag the field (or simple manpower)
- A hose
- A pitching mound (for youth softball)
- A double first base
- Gardening tools (to pull weeds if there are any in the field)
- Lawn mower (optional if the outfield grass is out of control)
- Collapsible fences (optional)
There is nothing better than playing on a manicured field. Below is the basic method of lining a softball field.
Prepping the Outfield
The beauty starts with the outfield grass. The first thing to take care of is making sure the outfield grass is cut short and free of any debris. If the grass is growing out of control, it’s your choice to mow it (if you have the option to), but know that your team will really appreciate it if it’s cut short.
Cleaning up the Infield
The second half of a picture-perfect field focuses on the infield dirt. The dirt needs to be free of any obtrusive weeds; if weeds have sprouted up between the bases, pull them out and clear them away. With the weeds gone, it’s time to drag the field. You can use a tractor to pull the drag, or ask a few volunteers to pull it. Starting at the pitcher’s mound and going in a circular pattern, drag the entire infield, from fence to fence. After you’ve dragged the field, watering it down will help limit the amount of dust that flies up and soften the dirt.
Put in the Bases
After the dirt is smooth and free of debris, you can put the bases in. For show, some teams like to re-paint the bases before each game with white aerosol paint. This will make your field look immaculate. Also, if the double base at first base is not half orange, you’ll need to paint it orange (you can also re-paint it if you’ve repainted the other bases). Most of the time, the plug or anchor for each base will already be permanently in the field. If you feel like the distance is off, go ahead and use a measuring tape to check (the distance between each base should be 60 feet).
The Foul Lines
After the bases are in, you are ready to line the field. It’s usually easiest to start with the foul lines:
- Secure a string in place at the tip of the plate. Have someone hold the string there, or nail it down if you’re on your own. The string should lie along the first-base side of the tip of home plate; extend the string all the way to the edge of the grass before nailing it down or having a helper hold it. This is your first base foul line.
- Start approximately five feet from home plate (without chalking it), chalk the first base foul line, laying the chalk right on top of the string. (You don’t chalk that first five feet because this is where the batter’s box is going!)
- Next, line the third base foul line, laying the string along the third-base side of the tip of the plate. Again, secure the string in place and extend it all the way down to the dirt. Then chalk your third base foul line following the same method you used when chalking the first base foul line.
The Batter’s Box
Next, you’ll need to create the batter’s box:
- Lay your batter’s box template over home plate.
- With the template in place, trace the inside of the batter’s box with a nail.
- If you have a one-sided template, make sure you line up the template with home plate correctly on each side before flipping it over and tracing the other side. (If you template does not have an extended piece to line up with home plate, check out iSport’s Softball Field Dimensions for the exact dimensions of the batter’s box.)
- When your trace is completed, take a look at how the batter’s box lines up with each foul line. The top right corner of the left side of the batter’s box should be perfectly line up with the first base foul line. Likewise, the top left corner of the right side of the batter’s box should line up perfectly with the third base foul line.
After putting your template aside, it’s time to chalk the lines! Start tracing the batter’s box with the chalk. The cleanest way to create the lines would be to go line by line, stopping and starting the chalk at each angle.
The Pitcher’s Circle
After the batter’s box and foul lines are in place, it’s time to draw the pitcher’s circle. Most community fields will have the pitching mound between 40 and 45 feet away from home plate, so you may need to use your own mound to get the correct distance. Again, have a partner hold the end of a measuring tape or nail it down to the tip of home plate. Measure out the correct distance from the plate to the mound — which will vary depending on the age of the players — and then nail down your mound. (For correct pitching distances, check out iSport’s Softball Field Dimensions guide.)
After your mound is in place, it’s time to draw the pitcher’s circle. Using your measuring tape or a piece of string, allow eight feet of slack — this will be your pitching circle’s radius. Tie a nail to the string at the eight-foot measurement. Then, pull the string taut and circle the mound (starting with one end in the center of the mound). As you circle the mound, trace the circular pattern into the dirt with the nail. You should have drawn a perfect circle. After your trace is in place, go over the circle with chalk.
The Coach’s Box
The next things to draw are the two coach’s boxes located on either side of both foul lines. The length of each box should be parallel to the base lines (in foul territory). The back of the first base coach’s box should be lined up with the baseline between first and second base, and the back of the third base coach’s box should be lined up with the baseline between second and third base.
Each box should be eight feet from the foul lines, three feet in width, and 15 feet long (extended back down toward home plate). You only need to draw one 15-foot line and the two end lines (three feet each). After you’ve traced these measurements with your nail and string (or measuring tape), go over the lines with chalk.
The On-deck Circle
The on-deck circle can be drawn between home plate and the dugout, but closer to the dugout. It should be drawn as a perfect circle with a 2.5-feet radius.
If your field is not equipped with fences, but you would like them added, you can use breakaway fences. Placing the fences anywhere between 220 and 250 feet from the plate is acceptable in fastpitch.
Time for the Coin Toss!
Feel free to make any alterations to this procedure — only you know the fastest and most efficient method of lining a field with your field crew. After your field looks picture-perfect, you’re ready for the coin toss. Giving your team a good-looking field will give them something to be proud about. It takes a lot of teamwork to get the field lined, but it is well worth it.