No, we are not talking base ball because then I would have no clue, I’m talking the difference as it relates to candy. Some people are afraid to make certain candy because it requires a candy thermometer and terminology they are not accustomed to. Hopefully some of the questions you have will be answered and fears put to rest.
Soft –Ball Stage is when a sugar mixture reaches 235-240 degrees. At this temperature, sugar syrup dropped into cold water will form a soft, flexible ball. If you remove the ball from water, it will flatten like a pancake after a few moments in your hand. Candies like fondant, fudge or pralines are cooked to this stage.
Hard-Ball Stage refers to a specific temperature range when cooking sugar syrups and occurs when the temperature reaches 250-265 degrees. If you doubt your thermometer, this stage can be determined by dropping a spoonful of hot syrup into a bowl of very cold water. In the water, use your fingers to gather the cooled syrup into a ball. If hard-ball stage has been reached, the syrup will hold its ball shape and deform only slightly with very firm pressure. The ball will be quite sticky to the touch. Marshmallow, nougat or rock candy are some examples for this temperature.
If you go too far and your temperature reaches 300-310 degrees you will be at the Hard-Crack stage This is a temperature you would need for sea foam, toffee or nut brittle.
Here are some pictures of good candy thermometers. The type is just personal preference.