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Title:
Batting practice device and method
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A device for practicing and improving a hitter's swing. The device is for use with a ball and bat and includes a support arm and a suspension member having a first end coupled with the support arm and a second end releasably coupled with the ball such that when the ball is coupled with the suspension member, force transmitted to the ball from the bat disengages the ball from the suspension member such that the ball displaces from the batting device.


Inventors:
Smull, Joseph Charles (Orefield, PA, US)
Villani, Thomas J. (Bethlehem, PA, US)
Application Number:
10/883061
Publication Date:
01/06/2005
Filing Date:
06/30/2004
Assignee:
SMULL JOSEPH CHARLES
VILLANI THOMAS J.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00; A63B43/00; (IPC1-7): A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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20080015042Golfer's sway detectorJanuary, 2008Glass
20080153614Green complex for a golf facilityJune, 2008Marshall
20050096145Golf swing aidMay, 2005Barretto
20090093324CROQUET MODIFYING GAMEApril, 2009Payer
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Timothy, Lubecki (4023 Primrose Drive, Allentown, PA, 18104, US)
Claims:
1. A batting practice device for use with a ball and bat comprising: a support arm; and at least one suspension member having a first end coupled with said support arm and a second end releasably coupled with the ball such that when the ball is coupled with said suspension member, force transmitted to the ball from the bat disengages the ball from said suspension member such that the ball displaces from the batting device.

2. The batting practice device according to claim 1 further comprising a base connectable with said support arm configured to retain said support arm at a predetermined vertical position above said base.

3. The batting practice device according to claim 2 wherein said support arm is adjustably connectable with said base allowing for rotation.

4. The batting practice device according to claim 1 wherein said suspension member is a predetermined length from said first and second ends.

5. The batting practice device according to claim 4 wherein said suspension member second end is coupled to a connector releasably coupling the ball.

6. The batting practice device according to claim 5 wherein said connector comprises a hook pile and a loop pile.

7. The batting practice device according to claim 5 wherein said connector comprises a magnet and steel.

8. The batting practice device according to claim 5 wherein said connector comprises a plug and a socket.

9. The batting practice device according to claim 5 wherein said connector comprises a friction/suction cup.

10. The batting practice device according to claim 5 wherein said connector comprises a lasso.

11. The batting practice device according to claim 1 wherein said suspension member is a variable length from said first and second ends.

12. The batting practice device according to claim 11 wherein said suspension member second end is coupled to a connector releasably coupling the ball.

13. The batting practice device according to claim 12 wherein said connector comprises a hook pile and a loop pile.

14. The batting practice device according to claim 12 wherein said connector comprises a magnet and steel.

15. The batting practice device according to claim 12 wherein said connector comprises a plug and a socket.

16. The batting practice device according to claim 12 wherein said connector comprises a friction/suction cup.

17. The batting practice device according to claim 12 wherein said connector comprises a lasso.

18. The batting practice device according to claim 1 wherein said suspension member comprises an elongated bar having a first end movably coupled to said support arm and a second end coupled to a connector.

19. A batting practice device for use with a ball and bat comprising: a base; a support arm connectable with said base configured to remain at a predetermined vertical position above said base; and at least one suspension member having a first end coupled with the support arm and a second end releasably coupled with the ball such that when the ball is coupled with said suspension member, force transmitted to the ball from the bat disengages the ball from the suspension member such that the ball displaces from the batting device.

20. A batting instructional device configured for customization by a hitter for controlling a line of sight from the hitter's eyes to a ball during a swing of a bat, the device comprising: a mat having a surface; a hitter alignment reference indicated on said mat surface; a plurality of ball reference areas indicated on said mat; a support arm; and at least one suspension member having a first end coupled with said support arm and a second end releasably coupled with the ball, whereby the ball is positioned vertically above one of said ball reference areas such that when the ball is coupled with said suspension member, force transmitted to the ball from the bat disengages the ball from said suspension member such that the ball displaces from the batting device.

21. The batting instructional device according to claim 20 wherein said plurality of ball reference areas comprise: foul ball areas; a preferred hit area; an early hit area; and a late hit area.

22. A method for practicing swinging a bat and contacting a ball comprising: providing a ball; providing a bat; and releasably suspending said ball.

23. The method according to claim 22 further comprising: providing a hitting area reference mat having a plurality of areas; placing said mat on a surface; and suspending said ball over one of said areas of said hitting area reference mat.

24. The method of claim 23, further comprising adjusting said suspended ball height a predetermined distance above said mat.

Description:

REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/484,039, filed on Jul. 1, 2003, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

The invention relates generally to the field of sporting equipment. More specifically, embodiments of the invention relate to devices and methods used to practice batting techniques in ball sports such as baseball, softball and cricket.

Static devices used to practice batting techniques have been known, the most common being the batting tee. A batting tee typically comprises a vertical body coupled to a base for support. A ball is placed on the upper end of the body, such that a user or hitter swings a bat into contact with the supported ball, transferring force from the bat to the ball sufficient to displace the ball from the tee along a trajectory determined by where the bat contacted the ball.

One drawback with a batting tee is that it is difficult to contact the lower half of a supported ball. In the game of baseball, the ideal swing brings the bat through so the ball trajectory is between 15 and 30 degrees upward. To achieve this trajectory, a hitter must contact a pitched ball at or below its equator. However, when training with a batting tee, users develop an undesirable flat or downward swing that requires retraining when engaging pitched balls.

Swinging and hitting the middle or bottom half of the ball creates backspin which provides loft and carries the ball. This is opposed to hitting down on the top half of the ball which creates ground balls.

Since practice makes permanent, it would therefore be desirable to provide a batting practice device that allows a user to make proper contact with a ball.

SUMMARY

Although there are various batting practice devices, such devices are not completely satisfactory. The inventors have discovered that it would be desirable to have a static batting practice device and method for baseball, softball or cricket players that promotes proper swing dynamics to maximize ball flight.

One aspect of the present invention provides a device for practicing and improving a hitter's swing. The device according to this aspect of the invention is for use with a ball and bat and includes a support arm and a suspension member having a first end coupled with the support arm and a second end releasably coupled with the ball such that when the ball is coupled with the suspension member, force transmitted to the ball from the bat disengages the ball from the suspension member such that the ball displaces from the batting device.

Another aspect of the invention provides a method for improving a hitter's swing. The method includes providing a ball, providing a bat, providing a hitting area reference mat having a plurality of desired areas and suspending the ball over one of the areas of the hitting area reference mat for the hitter to swing at.

Other objects and advantages of the devices and methods will become apparent to those skilled in the art after reading the detailed description of the preferred embodiment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of an exemplary batting device in accordance with the present invention, shown with a T-member support arm.

FIG. 2 is another view of the device of FIG. 1, showing the support arm adjusted to an elevational position lower than the position shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a side elevational view of the device of FIG. 1, showing a ball undergoing displacement from the device.

FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of an exemplary batting device shown with an L-member support arm shown in a right-handed batting arrangement.

FIG. 5 is another view of the device of FIG. 4 shown in a left-handed batting arrangement.

FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of the device of FIG. 4, showing a ball undergoing displacement from the device.

FIG. 7 is a front elevational view of the device of FIG. 4, shown with a two-piece adapter, a two-piece support arm and base.

FIG. 8 is a broken away view of a suspension member and a ball, showing an exemplary hook and loop connector.

FIG. 9 is a broken away view of a suspension member and a ball, showing an exemplary magnetic connector.

FIG. 10 is a broken away view of a suspension member and a ball, showing an exemplary plug and socket connector.

FIG. 11 is a broken away view of a suspension member and a ball, showing an exemplary friction/suction connector.

FIG. 12 is a view of a suspension member and ball, showing an exemplary lasso connector.

FIG. 13a is a broken away side view of an exemplary adjustable support arm with an integrated suspension member.

FIG. 13b is a broken away side view of an exemplary adjustable support arm with an integrated reel mounted suspension member.

FIG. 14 is a top plan view of the device shown in first (solid lines) and second (phantom lines) angular positions.

FIG. 15 is an exemplary hitting area batting practice mat positioned for a right-handed hitter.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Embodiments of the invention will be described with reference to the accompanying drawing figures wherein like numbers represent like elements throughout. The invention is taught using the traditional game of baseball as the sporting application. However, the invention is not limited by this example and can be applied to other sporting applications such as softball, cricket, and others that employ hitters and strikers. Further, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of “including,” “comprising,” or “having” and variations thereof herein is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items. The terms “mounted,” “connected,” and “coupled” are used broadly and encompass both direct and indirect mounting, connecting, and coupling. Further, “connected” and “coupled” are not restricted to physical or mechanical connections or couplings.

Shown in FIGS. 1-14 are embodiments of a batting practice device 10 for use with a ball 1 and a bat 2. The batting device 10 comprises a support arm 12 and a suspension member 14 having a first end 14a coupled with the support arm 12 and a second end 14b releasably coupled to a ball 1. When a ball 1 is coupled with the suspension member 14, impact force {right arrow over (F)} transmitted to the ball 1 (i.e., from a bat 2) releases the ball 1 from the suspension member 14, such that the ball 1 displaces from the batting device 10 along a trajectory as shown in FIGS. 3 and 6. The batting device 10 can accommodate a plurality of suspension members 14 spaced apart horizontally along the support arm 12 for suspending a plurality of balls 1. However, the batting device 10 can include only a single suspension member 14 if desired.

The support arm 12 is removably connectable with a base 16, such that the base 16 supports both the support arm 12 and the suspension member 14 above a surrounding ground surface S. The base 16 has a central bore 16a and a generally vertical centerline or axis 17 extending through the bore 16a, the support arm 12 being adjustably connected with the base 16 to allow the height of the support arm 12 to vary. Such adjustment of the support arm 12 with respect to the base 16 enables the ball(s) 1 to be positioned at various vertical heights Hn above the ground surface S, as discussed in further detail below. As shown in FIG. 14, the support arm 12 can rotate about the vertical axis 17 to enable the ball(s) 1 to be positioned at various horizontal distances Dn with respect to a user of the batting device 10 (i.e., a hitter), as described below. The base 16 can be a standard, commercially available batting tee 4, as described below, but can alternatively be a base 18 specifically manufactured for the batting device 10 ( FIG. 7). The batting device 10 can additionally comprise an adjustable adapter 19 coupled with the support arm 12 configured to adjustably connect the device 10 with the base 16. The support arm 12 can extend and retract, and integrate the suspension member(s) 14 within the arm 12 (FIGS. 13a and b), allowing for a greater range of adjustability in conjunction with the aforementioned adjustments. Having discussed the basic elements of the invention, the structural details of each of these and other components of the batting practice device 10 are described in further detail below.

Referring to FIGS. 1-7 and 14, the base 16 includes a vertically-extending post 23 providing the central bore 16a and a base block 25 configured to support the post 23 in an upright position such that the axis 17 is perpendicular to the ground surface S. As mentioned above, the base 16 can be a standard, commercially available batting tee 4, but can also be a specially manufactured base 18 made for use with the batting device 10, as shown in FIG. 7. However, the base 16 can include any appropriate structure capable of retaining the support arm 12. For example, a vertical post (not shown) sized in matching correspondence with the inner or outer diameters of the adapter 19 or support arm 12. As a further alternative, the support arm 12 can be configured to mount or couple with other types of separate support structures such as, for example, a pole or fence post (none shown).

The support arm 12 includes a generally rigid, elongated body 20 having a generally horizontal centerline 21 extending generally perpendicularly with respect to the base axis 17 and mounting surface 22. The mounting surface 22 is provided for coupling the one or more suspension members 14 to the support arm 12. The support arm 12 includes at least one attachment device 24, typically one for each suspension member 14, disposed on the mounting surface 22 and spaced apart generally along the centerline 21. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-3, each attachment device 24 is a hook or snap hook 26 having a base portion 26a attached to the mounting surface 22 by appropriate means (e.g., threaded fasteners, adhesives, etc.) and a curved portion 26b extending downwardly from the base portion 26a and configured to securely receive at least one suspension member 14. Alternatively, the attachment device 24 can be a rotating collar 27 disposed about the support arm mounting surface 22 enabling the suspension member(s) 14 to pivot or rotate about the centerline 21, as discussed below. In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 13a and b, the suspension member 14 is routed within the support arm 12 and uses a friction means 85 or reel 91 to adjustably secure the suspension member 14 at a variable length ln, as discussed below. The attachment device(s) 24 can be any other appropriate device for receiving the suspension member(s) 14 with the support arm 12, e.g., a threaded fastener, a clamp, a pivotable joint, notch, reel, etc. Furthermore, the support arm 12 may be constructed without any attachment device, such that the upper end of each suspension member 14 is directly attached to the support arm 12 or support arm 12 mounting surface 22 by appropriate means, e.g., a through-hole, knot, tying, cementing, bonding, welding, etc.

The elongated body 20 of the support arm 12 includes a first, generally vertically-extending portion 28 connectable with the base 16 and a second, generally horizontally-extending portion 30 providing the mounting surface 22. The elongated body 20 is formed as either a T-member 32 (FIGS. 1-3 and 14), an L-member 34 (FIGS. 4-7), or adjustable member 35 (FIGS. 13a and b), the primary difference between the support body members 32, 34, 35 being that the second portion of the L-member 34 extends generally horizontally in one radial direction from the base vertical axis 17 and the T-member 32 extends in two radial directions from the axis 17. More than two radial directions require additional elongated bodies 20 of a support arm 12. As such, a batting device 10 with an L-member support arm 34 has the advantage of a lesser overall size or width, but can only be set up either for a right-handed or left-handed hitter during use, and must be adjusted between a right-hand arrangement (FIGS. 4 and 7) and a left-hand arrangement (FIG. 5) configuration by rotating the support member 12 with respect to the base 16 or by rotating the base 16 (and thus the entire device 10). The batting device 10 with a T-member support arm 32 can be set up for simultaneous use by both right-handed and left-handed hitters, but has a significantly greater overall size or width.

The L-member 34 is formed as a single tube or bar with the first and second body portions 28, 30 being integrally formed, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. However, the L-member support arm 34 may be formed of two or more separate tubes or bars, each providing one of the two body portions 28 and 30, attached or joined together by appropriate means, such as adhesives, welding, riveting, threaded fasteners, etc., as shown in FIG. 7. The T-member 32 is preferably formed of two separate, generally straight members, preferably two bars or tubes, attached by an appropriate adhesive (e.g., rubber cement, glue, etc.) or other appropriate fastening means (e.g., riveting, T-coupling, threaded fasteners, etc.), but may be formed as a single member having the two portions 28, 30 integrally formed together (not shown).

Although the support arm 12 is formed as described above, it is within the scope of the present invention to construct the support arm 12 in any other appropriate manner. For example, the elongated body 20 can include a portion bendable or foldable with respect to the base vertical axis 17, or a portion rotatable about the arm centerline 21, so as to enable the batting device 10 to absorb impact energy when the suspension members 14 are generally rigid, as discussed below. Further, for example, the support arm 12 may be formed having a generally straight body 20, 35 as opposed to an L or T shape for batting devices 10 adapted to mount to fence posts, poles, walls, etc. The scope of the present invention embraces these and all other alternative constructions of the support arm that enables the batting device to function generally as described herein.

Referring to FIGS. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7, the adapter 19 includes a generally vertically-extending, elongated body 38 having a first end 38a coupled with the support arm 12 and a second end 38b coupled with the base 16. The adapter body 38 is a tube 40 having an outer diameter 42 in matching correspondence with the inner diameter 16a of the base 25. As such, the adapter tube 40 can extend or retract with respect to the base 16 in order to vary the vertical position of the ball(s) 1 to a plurality of heights H1, H2 (FIG. 1), H3, H4 (FIG. 2), etc., with respect to the ground surface S, by sliding the adapter 19 within the base bore 16a. Further, the adapter 19 includes an adjustable stop 44, configured as an annular collar disposed about the tube 40 which is contactable with the upper end 16b of the base 16 to retain the adapter 19 at a specific vertical position. Furthermore, the adapter 19 can rotate about the vertical axis 17, to allow for the positioning of balls 1 at various horizontal distances Dn (e.g., D1, D2, D3, or D4) with respect to the user, as shown in FIG. 14.

Although the adapter 19 is formed as a single tube 40, the adapter 19 can be formed from two or more tubes or tube portions. For example, FIG. 7 shows an adapter 19 that includes a first, upper tube portion 46 coupled with the support arm 12 and a second, lower tube portion 48 coupled with the base 16. The lower end 46a of the first tube portion 46 extends into the upper end 48a of the second tube portion 48, so as to be fixedly or slidably disposed within a second tube central bore 48b, and the lower end 48b of the second tube portion 48 is disposeable with the base bore 16a. As a further alternative, the adapter 19 may be fixedly or non-movably coupled with the base 16 and the support member 12 may be movably coupled with the adapter 19 to enable adjustment of the ball vertical position(s), as indicated in FIG. 7. As yet another alternative, the support arm 12 may be formed so as to direct connect with the base 16, either adjustably (movably) or fixedly, such that the batting device 10 would be constructed without any adapter, as shown in FIG. 2.

Referring again to FIGS. 1-7, the batting device 10 includes a plurality of suspension members 14, each having a fixed or adjustable length l1, l2, l3, etc. (see FIGS. 1 and 4), and which may all be formed or adjusted to the same length (e.g., l1). Each suspension member 14 is either formed or adjusted to a different length “ln” (e.g., l1, l2, l3, etc.) so as to position the ball(s) at different vertical heights Hn, each height representing the location of a ball 1 when thrown by a different pitch.

Each suspension member 14 includes an elongated body 50 and a means for coupling 52 with at least one ball 1. Each elongated body 50 has a first end 50a coupled with the support arm 12, preferably to one of the attachment devices 24, and a second, opposing end 14b having one or more ball connectors 54 attached or mounted thereto. Each elongated body 50 is formed from a substantially flexible element 56, such as a string, rope, monofilament, ribbon, tape, wire or cable, with the first or upper end 50a coupled to the support arm 12 using one of the attachment devices 26. By forming each suspension member(s) 14 as a substantially flexible element 56, the suspension member 14 is able to displace relative to the support arm 12 after a ball 1 is struck and released from the device 10, as shown in FIG. 3. Such displacement of the suspension member(s) 14 is desirable to dissipate at least a portion of the energy transferred to batting device 10 during detachment of the ball 1 from an associated ball connector 54, as this energy may eventually cause failure (i.e., breakage) of one or more components of the device 10.

Alternatively, the elongated body 50 of each suspension member 14 may be formed as a substantially inflexible rod, bar, or tube 58 having an upper end 58a rotatably or pivotally attached to the support arm 12 by means of a movable attachment device 24, as shown in FIGS. 4-7. Such a movable attachment device 24 is preferably formed as a circular ring or collar 60 rotatably mounted to the support arm 12, or, for example, a pivotal joint (e.g., a ball and socket joint) (not shown) coupling the elongated body 50 with the support arm 12, or as any other appropriate movable connective element. As yet another alternative, the elongated body 50 of each suspension member 14 may be formed as a bendable rod or bar (not shown) having an upper end fixedly attached to the support arm 12 and a lower end displaceable with respect to the upper end. As a further alternative, each suspension member 14 may be generally fixed with respect to the support arm 12, such that either the suspension members 14 are substantially immovable when each ball 1 is detached, or the support member 12 or a portion thereof may be configured to displace, as discussed above, so that the suspension member 14 and the support arm/arm portion both displace as a single unit to absorb the impact energy (neither alternative shown). Furthermore, the batting device 10 may be constructed without any suspension members or other similar components, with the support arm 12 being configured to directly mount the one or more balls 1 thereto by any appropriate connective means (structure not shown).

Other embodiments of the support arm 12 integrate the suspension member(s) 14 as shown in FIGS. 13a and b. In FIG. 13a, the support arm 12 houses a flexible member 14 such as a cord, tape or other, that passes through an aperture or slot 81 in a front end 83 or bottom 89 of the support 12 and is routed internally. The flexible member 14 exits from the support arm 12 though an aperture 85, on a side 87 or rear 90 of the support 12, having a restraining means such as a friction slot having a V-shape or other configuration. The height Hn of a suspended ball 1 can be adjusted by varying the length ln of the suspension member 14 entering (coupling with) the support arm 12 by releasing the suspension member 14 from the restraining means 85, adjusting the suspension member 14 to position the ball 1 at a predetermined height Hn by pulling or slackening the suspension member 14, and securing it using the restraining means 85. The flexible member 14 can have a scale in inches or centimeters applied onto it for reference. More than one flexible member 14 can be accommodated in a support arm 12.

The support arm 12 can also be adjusted in the horizontal axis. A T-coupling 97 having an inner diameter in matching correspondence with the support arm 12 outer diameter allows for movement in a horizontal direction. The adapter 19 or vertical body portion 28 outer diameter is in matching correspondence with the inner diameter of the base of the T-coupling 97 which rests upon the top of the adapter 19 or vertical body portion 28. The support arm 12 can have a scale in inches or centimeters applied onto it using the t-coupling 97 as a stationary reference as it is adjusted in a horizontal direction 88. This further increases the range of adjustment of how the device 10 can accommodate a hitter.

Shown in FIG. 13b is a further variant of an integrated support arm 12 using a reel 91 coupled via a shaft 93 to a knob 95 to adjust the length of the flexible member 14 (T-member 32 or L-member 34) exiting 81 the support arm 12. A reel 91 can be located within the support arm 12 at the front end 83 with its associated knob 95 totally exposed, or further within the support arm 12 (behind the front end 83) with its knob 95 partially exposed for ease of adjustment (not shown). The length ln, and thereby height Hn of a suspended ball 1 can be varied by turning its respective adjustment knob clockwise or anti-clockwise. More than one flexible member 14/reel 91 combination can be accommodated in a support arm 12.

Referring now to FIGS. 8-12, each ball connector 54 is configured to releasably or detachably couple at least one ball 1 with a suspension member 14. Preferably, the connectors 54 can be either a hook 62 or loop 63 fastener where the ball(s) 1 each include either a loop 63 or hook pile 64, such that each ball connector 54 is one part of a fastener of the type commonly known as VELCRO®, as shown in FIG. 8. The hook or loop pile connectors 54 each include a support plate 55 attached to the lower end of the suspension member 14 and onto which the fastener pile 63 or 64 is attached (e.g., adhesively bonded). Alternatively, the connectors 54 can each be a magnet 66 magnetically engageable with a metal plate 7 attached on or disposed within the ball 1 (FIG. 9), a projection or plug 68 receivable within a socket 8 on the ball 1 (FIG. 10), a socket configured to receive a projection/plug on a ball 1 (the converse, not shown), or any other appropriate means for detachably or releasably connecting a ball 1 with a suspension member 14. Alternatively, the connectors 54 can each be a deformable friction or suction cup 69 removably attachable to the outer surface la of a ball 1, such that the ball 1 would not require a complementary connective element, as discussed below. The connectors 54 can be lasso 70 secured to a suspension member 14 second end 14b as shown in FIG. 12 that relies on friction to hold and release a ball 1. The lasso 70 can be a plurality of sizes for different ball 1 diameters, or alternatively, can be adjustable by using an elastic material or a hook and loop closure. All connector(s) 54 are each configured to release the ball 1 from the suspension member 14 when a sufficient impact force {right arrow over (F)} is transmitted to the ball 1 from the bat 2, as indicated in FIGS. 3 and 6.

As is apparent from the description above, the batting practice device 10 is preferably used with one or more balls 1 that each have a complementary connective device or connector (e.g., elements 62, 63, 7, 8 or 9 described above) that is configured to engage with a connector 54 of one of the suspension members 14 so as to retain the ball 1 detachably or releasably coupled with the batting device 10. In other words, with a connector 54 configured as a hook pile 62, the ball 1 is provided with a loop pile 63 (and vice-versa), with a connector 54 formed as a plug 68, the ball 1 is provided with a socket 8, etc. However, the batting device 10 may be configured to be used with standard commercially available balls 1, such as providing ball connectors 54 formed as friction or suction cups 69, lasso 70, or any other connective device capable of releasably coupling a standard ball 1 with a suspension member 14. Further, the batting device 10 is preferably used with balls 1 that are either a baseball, softball or cricket ball, but may be formed as any other appropriate type of ball or may be even be provided with one or more balls 1 specifically constructed for use with the batting device 10.

Preferably, the support arm 12 and the adapter 19 are each cut from commercially available polymeric tubes, the suspension members 14 from commercially available fabric string, the hook attachment devices 26 are hooks, and the ball connectors 54 are hook and loop fasteners. While the preferred embodiment uses cylindrical tubes, the tubes can have any geometrical cross section such as elliptical, square, round, or other configurations. However, it is within the scope of the present invention to form any or all of the components of the batting device 10 of any other appropriate material and/or by any other appropriate manufacturing technique, such as for example, forming the support arm 12 and adapters 19 of a metal or metal alloy, constructing the suspension member(s) 14 as a cut length of a polymeric material, providing the attachment devices formed as metallic collars, etc. Additionally, a scale in inches or centimeters can be applied to the vertical 28, 19 and horizontal tubes 12, and flexible members 14 to aid in set-up after transport and allow for quick repositioning during use.

Prior to use, the batting device 10 is coupled with the base 16 (e.g., tee 4) by inserting the adapter second end 38b is inserted into the base central bore 16a and slidably displacing the adapter 19 with respect to the base 16 so as to position the support arm 12, and thereby also the suspension member second end(s) 14b, at a desired vertical height Hn (e.g., H1, H2, H3, H4) with respect to the ground surface S. Alternatively, the length ln (e.g., l1) of one or more suspension members 14 may be adjusted to adjust the vertical heights Hn. Further, the support arm 12 is preferably adjusted to a desired angular position An (e.g., A1, A2) about the base vertical axis 17 so as to locate each ball(s) 1 at desired horizontal distance (e.g., D1, D2, D3, D4, etc.) from the user, as shown in FIG. 14. At this point, one or more balls 1 are preferably then coupled with a separate one of the suspension members 14, although the balls 1 may be coupled with the suspension members 14 prior to adjusting the adapter 19 with respect to the base 12 and/or the suspension members 14 with respect to the support arm 12.

The invention can be used alone for a variety of ball sports, or, a user or hitter can use the invention in conjunction with the hitting area practice mat 101 shown in FIG. 15. The mat 101 shown is configured for a right-handed hitter for baseball, however, other mats 101 can represent other ball sports such as softball or cricket. The mat can be made of a rigid or semi-rigid material such as rubber or plastic, or an artificial turf material. The area reference markings are screened onto the surface or embedded within the material. The reverse side of the mat 101 can be configured for the opposite-handed hitter (the sweet spot area 113 is reversed for left-handed hitters), or if transparent, the mat 101 can be flipped-over to achieve the same purpose. The mat 101 defines ball reference areas showing the possible locations where pitched balls that represent strikes will pass and a scale home plate 103 for proper hitter alignment and address. By way of background, the strike zone is an imaginary rectangular box that typically runs the width of home plate and from the hitter's chest to his knees. The areas include foul ball preceding 105 and receding 107 areas, early 109 and late 111 hit areas, and a preferred hitting area 113 to hit a pitch more consistently on the sweet spot of the bat 2.

To use the mat 101, a hitter assumes their normal batting address or stance 115 using the home plate 103 as reference. Since the support arm 12 of the device 10 can be hand-held, a hitting instructor can precisely place a ball 1 in any area of a respective hitter's strike zone by holding the support arm 12 and adjusting the height Hn of the ball over a mat 101 area 105, 107, 109, 111, 113 using the length ln of a suspension member and his own arm position.

Using the device 10 in conjunction with a base 16 as a free-standing unit, for a right-handed hitter, the base 16 of the device 10 is preferably placed opposite the hitter at position 1 (position 2 for left-handed hitters with the mat 101 flipped-over). However, the base 16 can be placed anywhere and on the same side and behind the hitter. The support arm 12 is positioned approximately four feet above the surface for youth and approximately six feet for adults, but can be positioned at any height within the range of adjustment.

With the base 16 located at positions 1 or 2 and using the aforementioned vertical and horizontal adjustments, the support arm 12 can track the area 113 where optimum ball contact is made by a respective hitter. Positions 1 or 2 can also accommodate the early 109 and late 111 areas, and foul ball 105, 107 areas. Depending upon the embodiment of the support arm 12, the suspension member(s) 14 is adjusted to position the ball 1 at a height Hn above an area where the hitter would like to practice. The hitter can locate a ball 1 in any area 105, 107, 109, 111, 113 of his strike zone, swinging and contacting the ball 1 with maximum leverage in the correct impact plane.

When the balls 1 are located as desired, one or more users may place themselves proximal to the batting device 10 and then swing a bat 2 into contact with one of the balls 1, as indicated in FIGS. 3 and 5. The impact of the bat 2 with one of the balls 1 causes the ball 1 to detach from the ball connectors 54, and thus the associated suspension member 14, enabling the ball 1 to displace or fly from the batting device 10. As the suspension member(s) 14 connect with the upper portion or half of each ball 1, the user is able to make proper contact of the bat 2 with the lower half or portion of the ball 1. Further, by permitting the balls 1 to detach from the suspension member(s) 14, the balls 1 are able to freely displace in a flight path determined by the point of contact from the bat 2, which enables the user to see the effect of their batting effort, in other words, whether the contact between bat 2 and ball 1 causes the ball 1 to fly, for example, as a line drive, a pop-up, or a potential home run. Therefore, the batting device 10 of the present invention enables the user to develop proper batting technique that maximizes the distance and height to which balls 1 are hit during a baseball or softball game or a cricket match.

Although the invention herein has been described with reference to particular embodiments, it is to be understood that these embodiments are merely illustrative of the principles and applications of the present invention. It is therefore to be understood that numerous modifications may be made to the illustrative embodiments and that other arrangements may be devised without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.





 
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