The Secret Language of Youth Softball

19 phrases only softball players truly understand

Sue Pierce

| 4 min read

There can be a lot of noise at a softball game. Coaches use code words to give directions to players. Excited players yell crazy cheers from the dugout. Seasoned parents offer “advice” from the stands. 

Some of it makes sense — but some of the words and phrases are a total mystery. Here’s a quick guide to some of the softball slang you hear on the diamond. 

CHOKE UP. Not an emotional reaction! To “choke up” means to move your hands higher up on the bat. Adjusting the grip gives a player more bat control.

TAG UP.When there’s a pop up or fly ball, you have to get back to the base before it’s caught— or they can throw you out,” explains Paige Murphy, a high school player from San Anselmo, California, who has played travel ball for over five years. Once the ball is caught, a base runner can start running.  

MEATBALL. Who doesn’t love a meatball — a.k.a. a perfect, slow pitch? “As a hitter, you want that meatball because it’s the best pitch you’ve ever seen,” says Koely Kempisty, softball coordinator on Major League Baseball’s baseball and softball development team—and a former collegiate and international player.

HEATER. A fast pitch. Kempisty adds, “It’s a hard pitch that comes right down the middle.”

ON DECK. A player “on deck” is the next player up to bat. The deck is the dirt in front of the dugout. “That’s where you can get your timing down,” says Murphy. 

IN THE HOLE. A weird softball punishment? Nope. If a player is “in the hole,” they’re the next player on deck. “You should be paying attention when you’re in the hole because you can learn from the two at-bats before you,” says Murphy.  

GOING! When a player is stealing a base. “Defense screams ‘going!’ because a runner is advancing to the next base,” say Kempisty. This gives the catcher the heads-up to try to get the runner out.  

CANNON. A strong arm. Self explanatory.

RAINBOW. A high, arcing throw—usually seen among beginners. 

GOOD EYE. A favorite of loud parents and cheering players, this phrase is heard when a batter lets a bad pitch go by. In other words, the batter didn’t swing at a pitch that’s out of the strike zone.

DINGER. “I’ve always thought of a dinger as a really good hit,” says Kempisty, of what it means in softball. In baseball, a dinger is, specifically, a home run. 

ROPE IT. If a player ropes the ball, they hit it hard

SLAPPER. A speedy, left-handed batter who runs and hits the ball at the same time. 

PICKLE. When a runner gets stuck between two defensive players while trying to advance to the next base. The fielders throw the ball back and forth to get the runner out. You’re basically just hoping that they make a bad throw so you can advance,” adds Murphy.  

CAUGHT SLEEPING. A player whose head is not in the game. For instance, says Kempisty, “when the runner’s not paying attention and they get tagged out.”

CAUGHT LOOKING. When a batter strikes out without swinging. They’re looking at the strike cross the plate.

SMALL BALL. Keeping the ball within the diamond with more situational plays, like bunts. It’s the opposite of long ball, common in baseball, which is all about hitting home runs. 

STINGER. A hit that causes the bat to vibrate and sting the batter’s hands. “It happens when you come around too late for an inside pitch and hit the ball low on the bat, toward the handle,” explains Kempisty. 

ICE CREAM CONE. Catching the ball at the very tip of the glove—with the ball sticking out like a scoop of ice cream. It’s not a correct way to catch, says Murphy. “If someone catches it like that, we laugh.”

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