Team Diamond Sports

Inside the Numbers


Fast-Pitch Softball

According to research by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), participation in and fast-pitch softball is nearly back to where it was pre-COVID.  

• The SFIA reports that there are now 2.1 million fast-pitch softball participants in the U.S. —   1.5 million (70 percent) are female. A significant percentage of those – 69 percent, to be precise – are between the ages of six and 24.  

• Of those 2.1 million players, nearly 1.2 million of them are classified as core participants —those who play 26 or more days a year.  

• From a household income perspective, 37.9 percent of all female fast-pitch softball participants live in households with annual incomes of at least $100,000. And of the core fast-pitch softball participants, 40 percent live in homes where the annual household income is at least $100,000 a year.

• And when not playing their favorite sport, the five most popular recreational/sports activities that fast-pitch softball players are basketball, bowling, walking for fitness, walking/jogging on a treadmill and day hiking.

• Geographically, the four most popular regions for fast-pitch softball players are the South Atlantic (FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, MD, DE and WV – 17 percent of all players), Middle Atlantic (NY, NJ and PA – 15 percent), East North Central (OH, IN, IL, WI and MI – 16 percent) and the Pacific (CA, WA and OR – 13 percent).

• Almost three quarters (72 percent) of all fast-pitch softball players in the U.S. are white/Caucasian and 16 percent are Hispanic.

• According to Sandy Searcy of the NFHS, girls’ fast-pitch softball took a hit in 2020, as every team sport did, but the participation numbers should be trending in a positive direction in 2023.

“The NFHS was able to compile its High School Athletics Participation Survey for the 2021-22 school year – its first official report since 2018-19,” Searcy explains. “The survey demonstrated that high school sports are on the road back after schools in many states were unable to offer programs in normal fashion during portions of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.”

The 2021-22 participation survey indicated a slight drop in the number of fast-pitch softball programs and participants, but NFHS anticipates an increase in next year’s numbers (2022-23) as the 51st member state association, South Dakota, will be offering a state-sponsored softball tournament for the first time this year.

The big-picture participation numbers from the NFHS confirm that fast-pitch softball is firmly entrenched as a major sport at the high school level.

• There are 15,454 high school fast-pitch softball programs, which is fourth on the list of NFHS sports for girls.  

• There are 340,923 participants in girls’ high school fast-pitch softball, which is number five on the list for all NFHS sports for girls.


According to the SFIA’s research, there are 15.5 million baseball players in the U.S., making it the second most popular team sport in the U.S. behind only basketball and its 27.1 million players. Other numbers support this lofty position in the youth sports game.

At the high school level, the NFHS reports that in the 2021-22 school year baseball was the third most popular high school sport with 15,925 high schools sponsoring a team. (Boys’ basketball is the category leader with 18,428 schools.)

Dollars & Cents

The largest division of team sports equipment is the combined baseball/softball category (baseballs, softballs, fielding gloves, bats, protective gear and batting gloves) and the category grew 6.3 percent – from $686.2 million in 2021 to $729.4 million in 2022, according to the SFIA current Manufacturers Sales by Category Report.  This positive growth in the overall team sports equipment category was driven by a strong sales year for baseballs, softballs, bats and protective gear.

The SFIA report also reveals encouraging news about sales of caps and hats, which grew 30.4 percent since 2019 – from $536.9 million in 2019 to $700.2 million in 2022. During that same three-year span, wholesale sales of baseball uniforms jumped by 20.9 percent – from $426 million in 2019 to $515 million in 2022.

The study reveals that wholesale sales of baseball cleats are trending in the right direction.