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Dear Dr. Slaphappy: Why do they call it a softball? I got hit by one today that left a big bruise.
-Sara McPhail, Palm Desert, Calif.

Ouch! I feel your pain. Ice that "owie" pronto, and next time hope a glove is a better body guard. You're right, softballs are about as hard as baseballs, but the difference is softballs are heavier and larger. They are 12 inches around and weigh between six and seven ounces. However, I've seen even bigger ones used in some slow pitch gamespeople called 'em moonballs. What's inside softballs? A center of tightly packed silky fiber is surrounded by cotton winding and rubber cement, then covered with hand-stitched horsehide. So it's not exactly catching cushions or playing with pillows.

Dear Dr. Slaphappy: My coach said to keep an eye on my crow-hopping. Is that good or bad?
-Tammy Tollner, Columbus, Ohio

Your coach is not a bird-brain. Some people imitate animals. I wonder if animals imitate us? However, if you're a crow-hopping softball pitcher, you're taking a little step, drag or hop off the rubber before re-planting your foot and releasing the ball. It may be your secret, it may give your throw more speed, but that's an illegal pitch. Players with windmill wind-ups are more likely to have this movement than slingshot tossers. Now, if you're a baseball outfielder, crow hopping can help get more "oomph" behind your throws. Be like the bird and your throws will really fly!

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