Title:
Apparatus for providing aural indications of the flight of a ball when the ball disposed on the T-ball stand is hit by a batter
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A weighted base fixedly supports a stanchion. The stanchion supports a slide fixed vertically at any desired height in the stanchion by a locking member movable into a track in the slide. An aural unit disposed on the slide has an externally disposed switch which is operable to prepare the aural unit for operation. A tube extending upwardly form the aural unit has a cup for holding a ball. A string extending from the ball to an annular opening in the aural unit engages a resiliently disposed conductive chain in the opening. Conductors are disposed at annularly spaced positions in the opening. When the ball or the cup is hit, the conductive chain engages one of the conductors dependent upon the direction of the ball's flight. This causes the aural unit to indicate the ball's flight dependent upon the positioning of the activated conductor in the opening.



Inventors:
Marra, Michael (Chanhassen, MN, US)
Hohl, Burnell G. (New Canaan, CT, US)
Application Number:
10/759943
Publication Date:
10/28/2004
Filing Date:
01/16/2004
Assignee:
MARRA MICHAEL
HOHL G BURNELL
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00; (IPC1-7): A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
COBURN, CORBETT B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FULWIDER PATTON LLP (HOWARD HUGHES CENTER 6100 CENTER DRIVE, SUITE 1200, LOS ANGELES, CA, 90045, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. In combination for providing indications of the flight of a ball hit by a batter in a T-ball apparatus, a structure for holding the ball at a position upwardly displaced from a support surface, an aural unit disposed in the holding structure, the aural unit including an opening and a plurality of first electrical conductors spaced around the periphery of the opening, a second electrical conductor extending through the opening in normally space relationship to the first electrical conductor, a string attached at opposite ends to the ball and the second electrical conductor to provide for the disposition of the second electrical conductor against an individual one of the first electrical conductors in accordance with the direction of the flight of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter, and a message provider responsive to the disposition of the second electrical conductor against the individual one of the first electrical conductors for broadcasting a message indicating the flight path and flight characteristics of the ball in accordance with the individual one of the first electrical conductors disposed against the second electrical conductor.

2. In a combination as set forth in claim 1 wherein the second electrical conductor is disposed in the aural unit in a constrainable relationship and wherein the second electrical conductor becomes constrained with the ball is hit by the batter.

3. In a combination as set forth in claim 1 wherein the structure is adjustable in height in accordance with the height of the batter and the hitting stroke of the batter.

4. In a combination as set forth in claim 3 wherein the structure for holding the ball includes a cup at the top of the structure for holding the ball.

5. In a combination as set forth in claim 2 wherein the arrangement is adjustable in height in accordance with the height of the batter and the hitting stroke of the batter and wherein the structure includes a cup at the top of the structure for holding the ball.

6. In combination for providing an indication of the flight of a ball hit by a child batter in a T-ball apparatus. a structure for holding ball the ball at a height comfortable to the batter, an aural unit disposed in the structure for broadcasting the flight characteristics of the ball when hit by the batter, the aural unit including an opening and a plurality of first electrical conductors disposed in a spaced relationship to one another around the periphery of the opening and including a second electrical conductor normally spaced in the opening from the first electrical conductors, the ball being operatively coupled to the second electrical conductor to provide for an engagement between the second electrical conductor and an individual one of the first electrical conductors in accordance with the direction and characteristics of the flight of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter, and a message provider for broadcasting a plurality of messages each associated with an individual one of the first electrical conductors and each providing a message indicating the direction and flight path of the ball hit by the batter.

7. In a combination as set forth in claim 6 wherein the second electrical conductor is disposed in a constrainable relationship in the aural unit to become constrained when the ball is hit by the batter and wherein a member having characteristics of extending in any direction is attached at opposite ends to the ball and the second electrical conductor to provide for the movement of the ball in any direction when the ball is hit by the child batter.

8. In a combination as set forth in claim 6 wherein a switch is operative to provide for a selective broadcast of each of the messages from the message provider in the English language or in a foreign language.

9. In a combination as set forth in claim 6 wherein the structure includes a stanchion and a slide movable upwardly and downwardly in the stanchion and wherein the stanchion includes a locking member operative to provide for a movement of the slide in the stanchion and to provide for locking the slide in the stanchion at any desired height of the slide in the stanchion.

10. In a combination as set forth in claim 6 wherein a cup is provided at the upper end of the structure for holding the ball in a position to be hit by the child batter.

11. In a combination as set forth in claim 7 wherein a switch is operative to provide for a selective broadcast of each of the messages from the message provider in the English language or in a foreign language and wherein the structure includes a stanchion and a slide movable upwardly and downwardly in the stanchion and wherein the stanchion includes a locking member operative to provide for a movement of the slide in the stanchion and to provide for locking the slide in the stanchion at any desired height of the slide in the stanchion and wherein a cup is provided at the upper end of the structure for holding the ball in a position to be hit by the batter.

12. In combination for indicating the flight of a ball hit by a batter on a T-ball apparatus, a base member, a stanchion removably supported on the base member and extending upwardly form the base member, a slide disposed in the stanchion and slidable upwardly and downwardly in the stanchion, a locking member disposed on the stanchion and operable between first and second operative relationships and operable in the first relationship to provide for an adjustable positioning upwardly and downwardly of the slide in the stanchion and operable in the second relationship to fixedly position the slide in the stanchion, an aural unit disposed on the slide and constructed to provide aural messages pertaining to the flight of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter, a tube extending upwardly form the aural unit and having a cup at its upper end for holding the ball, and a switch disposed on the aural unit and having first and second operative relationships and operable in the first relationship to provide for broadcasts from the aural unit of the flight characteristics of the ball in a practice mode when the ball is hit by the batter and operable in the second relationship to provide for aural messages from the aural unit of the flight characteristics of the ball in a game mode when the ball is hit by the batter.

13. In a combination as set forth in claim 12, including a string extending at one end from the aural unit and holding the ball at the other end for activating the aural unit for the delivery of a message by the aural unit when the ball on the cup is hit by the batter.

14. In a combination as set forth in claim 12 wherein the base member is provided with a cap removable to provide for insertion of a fluid or sand into the base member to fix the disposition of the base member on a support surface.

15. In a combination as set forth in claim 12 wherein the base member has a first detent and the stanchion has a second detent removably disposed in the first detent

16. In a combination as set forth in claim 12 wherein a chain extends on a resilient basis from an opening in the aural unit and wherein the string is attached to the chain at one end and to the ball at the other end to provide for an extension of the chain from the opening in the aural unit upon a propulsion of the ball from the cup when the ball is hit by a batter.

17. In a combination as set forth in claim 12 wherein an opening is provided in the aural unit and a plurality of first electrical conductors are disposed in the opening in a spaced relationship to one another and wherein a second electrical conductor is operatively coupled to the ball to be directed by the ball to engage an individual one of the first electrical conductors in accordance with the flight path and characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter.

18. In a combination as set forth in claim 12 wherein the aural unit has a plurality of messages and wherein an individual one of the messages is selected to be broadcast in accordance with the direction and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter.

19. In a combination as set forth in claim 17 wherein the aural unit has a plurality of messages and wherein each of the messages is associated with an individual one of the first electrical conductors and wherein each of the messages is activated to be broadcast dependent upon the direction and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter.

20. In a combination as set forth in the claim 19 wherein a string extends at one end from the aural unit and holds the ball at the other end for impinging on the switch upon the hitting of the ball on the cup to activate the aural unit for the delivery of a message by the aural unit and wherein the base member is provided with a cap removable to provide for the insertion of a fluid or sand into the base member to fix the disposition of the base member on a support surface and wherein the base member has a first detent and wherein the stanchion has a second detent removably disposed in the first detent and wherein the second electrical conductor extends on a resilient basis from the opening in the aural unit and wherein the string is attached to the second electrical conductor at one end and to the ball at the other end to provide for an extension of the chain from the opening in the aural unit upon a propulsion of the ball form the cup when the ball is struck by a batter.

21. In a combination as set forth in claim 18 wherein a string extends at one end from the aural unit and holds the ball at the other end for impinging on the switch to activate the aural unit for the delivery of a message by the aural unit when the ball is hit by the batter and wherein. the base member is provided with a cap removable to provide for the insertion of a fluid or sand into the base member to fix the disposition of the base member on a support surface and wherein an electrically conductive chain extends on a resilient basis from an opening in the aural unit and wherein the string is attached to the chain at one end and to the ball at the other end to provide for an extension of the chain from the opening in the aural unit upon a propulsion of the ball from the cup when the ball is struck by a batter and wherein an opening is provided in the aural unit and a plurality of electrical conductors are disposed in the opening in a spaced relationship to one another and wherein the electrically conductive chain is operatively coupled to the ball to be directed by the ball to an individual one of the electrical conductors in accordance with the flight path and characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter and wherein the aural unit has a plurality of messages and wherein each of the messages is associated with an individual one of the electrical conductors and wherein each of the messages is activated to be broadcast dependent upon the direction and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter.

22. In a combination for indicating the flight of a ball hit by a batter on a T-ball apparatus, a base member, a stanchion removably coupled to the base member and extending upwardly form the base member upon coupling to the base member, an aural unit removably disposed in the stanchion and provided with electrical circuitry constructed to provide aural indications, the aural unit having an opening and including a plurality of message providers, an electrically conductive chain disposed in the opening in the aural unit, a tube extending upwardly from the aural unit and having a cup at its upper end for receiving the ball, a string attached at one end to the ball and at the other end to the electrically conductive chain in the aural unit, and means including an arrangement of electrical conductors in the opening of the aural unit for providing an activation of an individual one of the electrical conductors by the electrically conductive chain accordance with the flight direction and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter, each of the electrical conductors being associated with an individual one of the message providers to activate the individual one of the message providers when the electrical conductor is activated..

23. In a combination as set forth in claim 22 wherein each of the electrical conductors is disposed in the opening to become activated by the electrically conductive chain when the flight direction and flight characteristics of the ball are different from the flight direction and flight characteristics activating the other ones of the electrical conductors.

24. In a combination as set forth in claim 23 wherein each of the electrical conductors is disposed in the opening in an annularly spaced relationship to the other ones of the electrical conductors and wherein each of the message providers is constructed to provide an aural message indicating the flight direction and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter.

25. In a combination as set forth in claim 22 wherein a slide is operatively coupled to the stanchion for movement upwardly and downwardly relative to the stanchion and wherein a locking member is disposed on the stanchion and is operatively coupled to the slide to fixedly position the slide relative to the stanchion in any desired position of the stanchion and wherein the aural unit is disposed on the slide.

26. In a combination as set forth in claim 24 wherein a slide is operatively coupled to the stanchion for movement upwardly and downwardly relative to the stanchion and wherein a locking member is disposed on the stanchion and is operatively coupled to the slide to fixedly position the slide relative to the stanchion in any desired position of the stanchion and wherein the aural unit is disposed on the slide.

27. In a combination as set forth in claim 25 wherein an electrical circuit is provided including a switch, the individual one of the electrical conductors, the electrically conductive chain and the individual one of the message providers associated with the individual one of the electrical conductors and wherein the switch is closed to activate the individual one of the electrical conductors when the ball is hit by the batter and the electrical conductor is engaged by the electrically conductive chain.

28. In a combination as set forth in claim 26 wherein an electrical circuit is provided including a switch, the individual one of the electrical conductors, the electrically conductive chain and the individual one of the message providers associated with the individual one of the electrical conductors and wherein the switch is closed to activate the individual one of the electrical conductors when the ball is hit by the batter and the electrical conductor is engaged by the electrically conductive chain.

29. In combination for providing indications of the flight of a ball hit by a batter in a T-ball apparatus, a structure for holding the ball, an aural unit included in the structure, an opening in the aural unit, a plurality of first electrical conductors disposed in an annularly spaced relationship in the opening, a second electrical conductor disposed in the opening in a normally spaced relationship to the first electrical conductors, and a string attached at one end to the ball and at the other end to the second electrical conductor to move the second electrical conductor into an engagement with an individual one of the first electrical conductors in accordance with the flight path and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball on the structure is hit by the batter.

30. In a combination as set forth in claim 29 wherein the first electrical conductors are disposed in quadrants and wherein the first electrical conductors in the upper and lower quadrants on one side respectively indicate fly balls and ground balls to one side of a playing field and the first electrical conductors in the upper and lower quadrants on the other side respectively indicate fly balls and ground balls on the other side of the playing field.

31. In a combination as set forth in claim 27 wherein a switch becomes closed when the ball is hit by the batter and the switch is included in a circuit with the first electrical conductors and the second electrical conductor and a source of electrical energy to establish a closed circuit for activating the individual one of the first electrical conductors engaged by the second electrical conductor when the ball is hit by the batter.

32. In a combination as set forth in claim 27 wherein a plurality of message providers are provided and wherein each of the message providers is associated with an individual one of the first electrical conductors to become activated when the individual one of the first electrical conductors is engaged by the second electrical conductor.

33. In a combination as set forth in claim 28 wherein a switch becomes closed when the ball is hit by the batter and the switch is included in a circuit with the first electrical conductors and the second electrical conductor and a source of electrical energy to establish a closed circuit for activating the individual one of the first electrical conductors engaged by the second electrical conductor when the ball is hit by the batter and wherein a plurality of message providers are provided and wherein each of the message providers is associated with an individual one of the first electrical conductors to become activated when the individual one of the first electrical conductors is engaged by the second electrical conductor.

Description:

[0001] This is a non-provisional corresponding to provisional application No. 60/442,151 filed in the USPTO on or about Jan. 23, 2003.

[0002] This invention relates to T-ball apparatus. More particularly, this invention relates to a T-all apparatus which broadcasts the flight path and flight characteristics of a ball which is disposed on the T-ball apparatus and which is hit by a batter. The batter may be a young child.

BACKGROUND OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Baseball has been designated for years in the United States as the national pastime. Actually, baseball constitutes the national pastime in a number of countries in the world, including Japan and several countries in Central America. The fundamentals of baseball are in two (2) categories-hitting and catching. Hitting is perhaps more difficult than catching.

[0004] Leagues have been organized to foster skills in hitting and catching. For example, leagues of teams have been organized in localities all over the United State for youngsters in the age group of approximately six (6) to eight (8) to develop their skills in hitting and catching. These leagues develop the player's skills in hitting by providing a T-ball apparatus in which a ball is disposed on a support and in which the player hits the ball while the ball is on the support.

[0005] The problem with T-ball leagues is that the players practice only once or twice a week. It would be desirable to provide the young players with increased opportunities to practice hitting. Furthermore, it would be desirable to provide the young players with opportunities to practice on their own. In providing the young players with the opportunity to practice, it would be desirable that the young players be able to hit the ball on the T without thereafter having to retrieve the ball at some distance from the T. It would be further desirable that the young players receive aural encouragement every time that the young players hit the ball. It would be further desirable for the batter to hear the flight path characteristics of every ball that the batter hits.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

[0006] This invention provides a T-ball apparatus which fulfills all of the criteria specified above. A weighted base fixedly supports a stanchion. The stanchion supports a slide fixed vertically at any desired height in the stanchion by a locking member movable into a track in the slide. An aural unit disposed on the slide has an externally disposed switch which is operable to prepare the aural unit for operation. A tube extending upwardly from the aural unit has a cup for holding a ball. A string extending from the ball to an annular opening in the aural unit engages a resiliently disposed conductive chain. Conductors are disposed at annularly spaced positions in the opening. When the ball or the cup is hit, the conductive chain engages one of the conductors dependent upon the direction of the ball's flight. This causes the aural unit to broadcast the ball's flight dependent upon the positioning of the activated conductor in the opening.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] In the drawings:

[0008] FIG. 1 is a schematic perspective view of a batter positioned to hit a ball on a T-ball mechanism constituting a preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0009] FIG. 2 is an enlarged fragmentary elevational view of an aural unit in the T-ball mechanism for broadcasting the flight path and flight characteristics of a ball hit by the batter when the ball is disposed on the T-ball mechanism;

[0010] FIG. 3 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view in elevation of members included in the T-ball mechanism for adjusting the height of the T-ball mechanism to adjust the distance of the ball from the ground in accordance with the height of the batter and the batting stroke of the batter;

[0011] FIG. 4 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view in elevation of a base and a stanchion removably coupled to the base and extending upwardly from the base;

[0012] FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of the components inside the aural unit shown in FIG. 2;

[0013] FIG. 6 is a diagram schematically showing the circuitry for providing the broadcasting of the flight path and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit by the batter;

[0014] FIG. 7 is a schematic circuit diagram schematically showing the operation of the aural unit in orally describing the flight path and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball on the T-ball mechanism is hit by the batter;

[0015] FIG. 8 is a schematic circuit diagram schematically illustrating the operation of the aural unit in broadcasting the flight path of the ball in the English language or another language;

[0016] FIG. 9 is a schematic circuit diagram schematically illustrating the prevention of any oral indication by the aural unit when the ball is disposed on the T-ball mechanism; and

[0017] FIG. 10 is a circuit diagram schematically illustrating electrical circuitry for orally indicating the flight path and flight characteristics of the ball when the ball is hit from the T-ball mechanism by the batter.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

[0018] A preferred embodiment of the T-ball apparatus is generally indicated at 10 in FIG. 1. The apparatus 10 includes a hollow base 12 (FIG. 4) having a removable plug 14 (FIG. 1) on its upper surface. When the plug 14 is removed from the base 12, the base can be filled with a suitable material such as water or sand to provide a firm support for the apparatus 10 on a support surface. The base includes a female detent 15 (FIG. 4) which supports a male detent 16 in a hollow stanchion 20.

[0019] The stanchion 20 extends upwardly from the base 12. The stanchion 20 has a locking member 22 (FIG. 3) which is pivotable between first and second positions. In the first position of the locking member 22, a slide 24 (FIG. 3) having a track 26 is able to slide freely in a vertical direction in the stanchion 20. In a second position, the locking member 22 moves a resilient patch 28 on the stanchion 20 against the slide 24 to retain the slide at a fixed position vertically relative to the stanchion. In this way, the height of the apparatus 10 can be adjusted to accommodate the height and batting characteristics of the batter.

[0020] An aural unit (FIGS. 1, 2 and 5) generally indicated at 30 is disposed on the slide 24 at the upper end of the slide. The aural unit 30 includes a speaker 32 (FIG. 5) inside the unit and a manually operable switch 34 on the exterior of the unit. The aural unit 30 also includes an annular opening 36 (FIGS. 1, 2 and 6). An electrically conductive chain 38 extends through the opening 30. The chain 38 may be connected to a positive terminal of an energy source such as battery (or batteries) 40 having its negative terminal connected to a reference potential such as ground. The chain is constrained by a spring 39a and 39b.

[0021] Terminals 42a, 42b . . . 42n (FIGS. 6 and 7) are disposed at annularly spaced positions around the periphery of the annular opening 36. Each of the terminals 42a, 42b . . . 42n is connected to an individual one of a plurality of recordings 43a . . . 43n when the chain 38 contacts the terminal. The recording 43a . . . 43n are included at different positions in a tape but are shown separately for purpose of facilitating an understanding of the invention.

[0022] A contact 44 (FIG. 5) is provided in the aural unit 30. It forms a switch with an electrically conductive arm 45 pivotable on a pin 46. This switch is connected across the tape providing the messages 43a . . . 43n and is schematically illustrated at 46a in FIG. 9. The arm 45 is normally disposed in engagement with the contact 44 to form the switch 46 shorting the tape so that messages from the tape cannot be broadcast. The switch 46 is also illustratively shown as being disposed across the messages 43a and 43f in FIG. 6.

[0023] The arm 45 is pivotable by the chain 38 when the chain is activated. When pivoted by the chain 38, the arm 45 engages a contact 47 to close a switch defined by the arm and the contact. This completes a circuit (FIG. 9) which includes the chain 38, the battery 40, an individual one of the terminals 42a . . . 42n and an individual one of the messages 43a . . . 43n associated with the terminal.

[0024] A hollow tubing 48 (FIG. 1) extends upwardly from the top of the aural unit 30. The tubing 48 has a cup 49 at its upper end for retaining a ball 50. The ball 50 may be a soft hollow ball which will not produce any harm even if it should strike a player. A string 51 is attached at one end to the ball and at the other end to the chain 38.

[0025] Each of the messages 43a . . . 43n is individual. Each of the messages 43a . . . 43n becomes activated when the chain 38 is activated to engage the associated one of the terminals 42a . . . 42n. For example, the message 43a becomes activated when the ball travels upwardly and to the right. The message may accordingly indicate that the batter has hit a fly ball to right field. In like manner, the message 43f may become activated when the chain 38 contacts the terminal 42f. The message 43f may accordingly indicate that the batter has hit a ground ball to right field.

[0026] As will be seen, the upper quadrants of the terminals 42a . . . 42n indicate a fly ball and the lower quadrants of the terminals 42a . . . 42n indicate a ground ball. The right quadrants of the terminals 42a . . . 42n indicate balls hit toward right field and the left quadrants of the terminals indicate balls hit toward left field. All of the messages 48a . . . 48n are intended to offer encouragement to the batter.

[0027] The manually operable switch 34 on the aural unit 32 has two (2) positions. In one position, the switch 34 provides for a message 52 indicating a practice mode. For example, the message 52 may constitute an announcement by a broadcaster of the words “Batter Up.” Every time that the batter hits the ball 48 in this mode, the broadcaster may indicate the flight path and flight characteristics of the ball and, after a pause, may pronounce the words “Batter Up”. In the other position, the switch 34 provides for a message 54 indicating a game mode. In this mode, the message may constitute a musical introduction as with fan fares and then an announcement of a team designation followed by a pronouncement of the words “Batter Up.”

[0028] The discussion above has proceeded on the basis that all of the messages are in the English language. All of the messages may be in a second language such as the Spanish language. This may be provided by a switch 56 (FIG. 8) which may be on the back side of the T-ball apparatus. In one position of the switch 56, the aural pronouncements may be in the English language. In the other position of the switch 56, the messages may be in the Spanish language.

[0029] Although this invention has been disclosed and illustrated with reference to particular preferred embodiments, the principles involved are susceptible for use in numerous other

[0030] embodiments which will be apparent to persons of ordinary skill in the art. The invention is, therefore, to be limited only as indicated by the scope of the appended claims.