The origin of softball can be pegged to Thanksgiving Day in 1887, inside the Farragut Boat Club in Chicago, where a crowd awaited the results of the Harvard vs. Yale football game. When Yale was announced the winner, an enthusiastic Yale fan threw an old boxing glove at a Harvard fan, who responded by swinging at it with a broomstick.
A reporter named George Hancock saw this and suggested they play “indoor baseball,” using a trussed-up boxing glove as a ball with bases chalked on the boat club floor. Hancock brought that game outdoors the next spring, calling it “Indoor-Outdoor Baseball,” and the new sport started to spread. The name “softball” came into use in the 1920s.
Today, between fast-pitch and slow-pitch, softball in the U.S. boasts at least 8.2 million players, according to the most recent research by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, which is up about three percent from 2021. The sport is played by all ages, on fields that often can be adjusted in size to suit the participants. Here are some key locations for softball tournaments and events.
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Along the Mississippi River in southeastern Missouri, Cape Girardeau beckons to softball players with two facilities: The Southeast Softball Complex and the Shawnee Park Sports Complex.
The Southeast Complex has three lighted, regulation softball fields, batting cages and a large, air-conditioned press box for print and broadcast, as well as bleacher seating for 600 fans. It regularly hosts collegiate games for Southeast Missouri State. The Shawnee Park facility has six regulation fields (300-foot fences) with electronic scoreboards, three full concession stands, covered pavilions, and air-conditioned changing rooms and restrooms.
“The Shawnee Park Sports Complex hosts many Fastpitch America Softball Association events, National Softball Association events, and Premier Girls Fastpitch. Each event has averaged 30 to 40 teams with about 500 spectators,” says Joshua Robison of Visit Cape. “We continue to look to expand on the events we currently host, while also looking at bringing in new tournaments, such as Babe Ruth Softball and Pony Softball.”
Cape Girardeau has a wonderful downtown area with many restaurants, shops and entertainment venues, and the CVB works with event owners, offering the opportunity for funding as well as assisting with hotel room blocks, and providing information on other activities for teams while they’re in town.
When it comes to softball, the Fresno/Clovis area has a lot to offer, including at least five venues suitable for tournaments and events. But that’s not all.
“Fresno County’s great weather and well-maintained fields at our state-of-the-art facilities continue to drive youth and high school softball tournaments to our area,” says Hayley Salazar of the Fresno/Clovis CVB. “Our team at the CVB is seasoned in hosting large, three- to four-day tournaments. We’re ready to assist teams and fulfill their needs.”
The largest venue is the Buchanan High School Softball Complex, with eight fields including a stadium field and five lighted diamonds, covered dugouts, restrooms, concessions, bleacher seating, batting cages and covered parking. The Regional Sports Complex offers six fields with lights, restrooms, concessions and covered dugouts; and both Clovis East High School and Clovis North High School each have five fields (each with a stadium field), bleacher seating, restrooms and concessions. Clovis East has two lighted diamonds, while Clovis North is all lighted and has batting cages available.
There’s also the Margie Wright Softball Field at Fresno State University, which is a lighted stadium field with restrooms, concessions, stadium seating, batting cages, covered dugouts and Wi-Fi.
The area has hosted events such as USA Softball Western Regionals, with 80 teams, and NSA Softball with more than 60 teams. In 2024, the USSSA Fast Pitch Softball State Championships will come to Fresno.
Alachua County has regularly hosted multiple fast-pitch softball showcases with more than 100 teams, including the Premier Girls Fastpitch Show Me the Money Tournament and the Backwards K Tournament. This fall, the area will see the PGF Fall Classic, Ray Seymour Invitational and Perfect Game NIT.
One of the premier venues is the state-of-the-art Champions Park, which has 16 lighted fast-pitch softball fields with artificial turf infields/Bermuda grass outfields and permanent fencing at 220 feet. The Jonesville Baseball Park offers four diamonds, two with 300-foot foul lines with grass infields and two at 220 feet with clay infields.
The Hal Brady Sports Complex and Legacy Park has three lighted softball fields with skinned infields and 200-foot outfield fences, along with a lighted championship softball stadium with seating for 2,500 spectators, and the Easton-Newberry Sports Complex offers four lighted diamonds. The University of Florida Gator softball team plays its home games at the Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium, a natural-grass venue with a red clay infield and seating for 1,200 fans.
“The Gainesville Sports Commission offers support with equipment, volunteers, hospitality, marketing and event enhancements,” says Executive Director Joleen Cacciatore Miller. “Our staff is here to help make any event experience exceptional, with the combination of our community’s rich sports history and college-town charm.”
Lackawanna County has about 30 softball fields suitable for tournament use, including facilities with batting cages, bullpens, press boxes, restrooms, locker rooms, concessions and more. The CVB categorizes its sports venues into three tiers: Tier 1 are professional and university venues, Tier 2 are elite high school, community and private venues, and Tier 3 are practice venues. Among the Tier 1 venues for softball are Schautz Stadium, and facilities at Penn State Scranton, University of Scranton and Keystone College.
“Most of our softball tournaments range from 200 to 500 athletes, with up to 1,500 spectators,” says Alexa Peregrim of the Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau. “We help planners any way we can. We invite them in for a site tour, provide the resources to book hotel blocks, have them meet with the field managers and provide a page on our website to make it easier for teams to register for the event and hotels.” The Visitors Bureau can also help find volunteers and can promote the event locally.
Lackawanna County is a two-hour drive from New York City, Philadelphia and metro New Jersey, three hours from Baltimore and four from Washington, D.C. Off the field, “we have endless amounts of activities and events for families,” Peregrim says, “but they will also be able to enjoy themselves without breaking the bank.”
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
USA Softball, the sport’s national governing body, is headquartered in Oklahoma City, and the area has a long history of hosting some of the best competition. The USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex has played host to some of the most outstanding events in the U.S., including the World Cup of Softball, Olympic tour stops and various USA Softball National Championships, along with the NCAA Women’s College World Series, an event the facility has hosted for more than 30 years and is contracted to continue to do so through 2035.
The Hall of Fame Complex has four fields, including the largest softball stadium in the country, with 9,000 permanent seats. Adam Wisniewski, vice president of sports development for VisitOKC, says for the Women’s College World Series, they’ll add seating for 4,000 more spectators. That event, held in June, is typically eight days long, with more than 12,500 visitors for each session. Other signature events include the Big 12 Conference Softball Championships. “The University of Oklahoma in Norman is about 20 minutes away, and they’re the three-time reigning national champion,” Wisniewski says
For tournament and event owners, Visit OKC can help with financial incentives, volunteers and discounts to local restaurants and attractions. Off the field, there’s plenty for athletes and families to do, including Riversport OKC with all sorts of water sports. The First Americans Museum pays homage to the 39 Indigenous tribes that call Oklahoma home. Another popular attraction is the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and there’s also the historic downtown Bricktown district. One of the most visited sites, though, is the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, which is the site of the OKC bombing in 1995.
“Softball in Portland isn’t just a pastime; it’s a way of life,” says the city of Portland’s sports director, Jonathan Besinaiz. “The sense of community, teamwork and the joy of competition felt at our sports facilities makes our local softball scene truly special, and we’re honored to be a part of it.”
For tournaments and events, the 21-acre Municipal Park has five artificial turf diamonds and offers an exercise equipment area and a lighted walking/running track. The 38-acre Sports Complex has four artificial turf diamonds. Both facilities also have covered spectator seating, concessions, batting cages and covered picnic areas, as well as a splash pad and playground.
Recently, Portland hosted the Southern Collegiate Sports Summer World Series, bringing in nearly 1,000 players and more than 2,200 spectators for the three-day tournament. The weeklong FASA Southwest tournament brings in 900 players, and the March Madness Bash, a two-day event, attracts more than 1,300 athletes, with over 3,000 spectators.
The area, located on Corpus Christi Bay, has a lot for players, spectators and families to do, including kiteboarding, fishing, birdwatching and hiking. The Texas State Aquarium is nearby in Corpus Christi, and Portland also is near some of Texas’s most beautiful beaches.
Snohomish County, Washington
Key softball venues in Snohomish County include the five lighted fields at the Meadowdale Athletic Complex in Lynnwood. The facility offers movable pitching mounds, outfield fences and bases to accommodate games for juniors and adults. Field M5, sized for adults, also offers seating for 600 fans, a room for umpires and an area for merchandise vendors.
The four fields at the Phil Johnson Ballfields in Everett are for 10U to 18U and include four sets of bullpens, scoreboards, lights, restrooms, concessions, vendor merchandise area and seating for 400. There’s also an upper level available for umpires, and several restaurants are located within half a mile.
Kasch Park in Everett, for youth and adults, also has four fields (dirt infields, grass outfields), lights, restrooms, concessions, seating for up to 500 spectators and more. There’s also Sky River Park in Monroe for youth play, with dirt infields., seating for seating for 500 and an all-turf Miracle Field.
USSSA of Washington hosts adult softball tournaments at Meadowdale throughout the year. Coming up in 2024 is the USA Softball Class B Western Nationals for 14U, 16U and 18U, which will use fields at Phil Johnson Ballfields, Kasch Park and Meadowdale, with up to 80 teams from the western half of the U.S., including from Alaska, Hawaii and Texas.
“With great weather during the summer, Snohomish County is the perfect destination for softball tournaments,” says Snohomish County Sports Commission Executive Director Tammy Dunn.
The Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex in Yuma has six softball fields, with 325-foot fences and adjustable bases and seating for more than 3,000. The facility also offers event space, picnic areas, playground, shade ramadas, walking paths, practice fields and more. The Ray Kroc Sports Complex has three diamonds, two practice infields, seating for 5,000 fans, event space and a playground.
A number of tournaments are hosted in the area, including the Yuma Territorial Big Ball Bash, the AWC Great Western Shootout, the Dennis Donnelly Memorial Tournament and Border Madness.
“Yuma is a community that is excited about sport, tournaments and recreation,” says Visit Yuma Executive Director Marcus Carney. “We are proud of our beautiful Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex that hosted the NJCAA DI Women’s Softball Championships in 2021 and 2022 and that tournament will be returning in 2025. When a tournament director is considering locations, their tournament will see incredible success when they choose Yuma.” SDM