Title:
Pitching machine accessory
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A pitching machine accessory for modifying an existing pitching machine. The existing pitching machine having a pitching apparatus mounted on a sleeve rotatably attached to a shaft and the shaft is connected to a stand. The accessory includes a base rigidly attached to the shaft, a turning means mounted on the base and a gear assembly attached to the turning means. The gear assembly is also attached to the sleeve, whereby the turning means causes the gear assembly to move the sleeve laterally in relation to the stand.



Inventors:
Wolf, John David (Spofford, NH, US)
Application Number:
10/935373
Publication Date:
07/21/2005
Filing Date:
09/07/2004
Assignee:
WOLF JOHN D.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00; A63B69/40; (IPC1-7): A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
RICCI, JOHN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DEVINE, MILLIMET & BRANCH, P.A. (111 AMHERST STREET, MANCHESTER, NH, 03101, US)
Claims:
1. A pitching machine accessory for modifying an existing pitching machine, said existing pitching machine having a pitching apparatus mounted on a sleeve rotatably attached to a shaft, said shaft connected to a stand, said accessory comprising: a base rigidly attached to said shaft; a motor mounted on said base; and a gear assembly attached to said motor, said gear assembly further attached to said sleeve, whereby said motor causes said gear assembly to move said sleeve laterally in relation to said stand.

2. The accessory claimed in claim 1 wherein said gear assembly further comprising: an offset cam attached to said motor; a spring attached to said base; and an arm attached to said spring and to said pitching apparatus and operatively connected to said offset cam, whereby said motor rotates said cam, said rotation causing said arm to move tangentially to said cam's axis of rotation, causing said pitching apparatus to rotate.

3. The accessory claimed in claim 2 wherein said offset cam is removably attached to said motor, whereby said offset cam can be replaced with different sized offset cams.

4. The accessory claimed in claim 3 wherein said arm is attached to said sleeve.

5. The accessory claimed in claim 4 further comprising a mounting collar attached to said base wherein said mounting collar removably attaches said pitching accessory to said shaft.

6. The accessory of claimed in claim 1 wherein the gear assembly further comprising: an offset cam attached to said motor; a spring attached to said base; an arm attached to said spring and to said pitching apparatus; and an idler wheel attached to said arm and pressed against said offset cam by a constant force exerted by said spring whereby said motor causes the offset cam to rotate, said rotation causing said arm to move tangentially to said cam's axis of rotation, causing the pitching apparatus to rotate.

7. The accessory of claim 6 wherein said offset cam is removably attached to said motor, whereby the offset cam can be replaced with different sized offset cams.

8. The accessory claimed in claim 7 wherein said arm is attached to said sleeve.

9. The accessory claimed in claim 8 further comprising a mounting collar attached to said base wherein said mounting collar removably attaches said pitching accessory to said shaft.

10. A method of modifying an existing pitching machine, said method comprising the steps of: removing a bolt attaching a pitching apparatus to a stand; and attaching an accessory to said stand and said pitching apparatus.

11. The method claimed in claim 10 wherein said accessory comprising: a base rigidly attached to said shaft; a motor mounted on said base; and a gear assembly attached to said motor, said gear assembly further attached to said sleeve, whereby said motor causes said gear assembly to move said sleeve laterally in relation to said stand.

12. The accessory of claimed in claim 11 wherein said gear assembly further comprising: an offset cam attached to said motor; a spring attached to said base; and an arm attached to said spring and to said pitching apparatus and in substantial relation to said offset cam, whereby the motor rotates said cam, said rotation causing said arm to move tangentially to said cam's axis of rotation, causing said pitching apparatus to rotate.

13. The accessory claimed in claim 11 wherein said gear assembly further comprising: an offset cam attached to said motor; a spring attached to said base; an arm attached to said spring and to said pitching apparatus; and an idler wheel attached to said arm and pressed against said offset cam by a constant force exerted by said spring whereby said motor causes the offset cam to rotate, said rotation causing said arm to move tangentially to said cam's axis of rotation, causing the pitching apparatus to rotate.

14. A pitching machine system for providing a variety of pitches, said system comprising: a traditional pitching machine; and an accessory rigidly attached to a pitching apparatus whereby said accessory enables said pitching apparatus to move laterally and provide varied pitches.

15. The system claimed in claim 14 further comprising a variety of different shaped cams for varying the pitch.

16. A pitching machine accessory for modifying an existing pitching machine, said existing pitching machine having a pitching apparatus mounted on a sleeve rotatably attached to a shaft, said shaft connected to a stand, said accessory comprising: a base rigidly attached to said shaft; a turning means mounted on said base; and a gear assembly attached to said turning means, said gear assembly further attached to said sleeve, whereby said turning means causes said gear assembly to move said sleeve laterally in relation to said stand.

17. The accessory claimed in claim 16 wherein said gear assembly further comprising: a deflection means attached to said turning means for converting rotary motion to another motion; a contact means attached to said base; and a means to reduce friction attached to said contact means and to said pitching apparatus and operatively connected to said deflection means, whereby said turning means rotates said deflection means, said rotation causing said means to reduce friction to move tangentially to said deflection means' axis of rotation, causing said pitching apparatus to rotate, and said contact means maintaining the deflection means in contact with the means to reduce friction.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims the benefit of Ser. No. 60/500,894 filed Sep. 5, 2003, which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an accessory for a pitching machine, and more particularly, to an accessory for a pitching machine which will provide varied angular deflection to direct the ball differently each time it is pitched.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Traditional pitching machines are manufactured such that they pitch the ball to the same location every time. This type of machine does not accurately simulate the diversity of pitches that a baseball/softball player would see in a game situation. In order to accurately simulate the diversity of pitches that a player would see in a game situation, the pitching machine should alter the direction of each pitch and each pitch should go to a different location while remaining in the strike zone.

This limitation of traditional pitching machines has been addressed recently with the introduction of new, redesigned pitching machines. One example of redesigned machines uses belts to alter the direction of the ball. This is done by adjusting the velocity of the belts. Another example of a redesigned machine moves the shaft of the pitching machine vertically and horizontally to alter the direction of the ball. This is done by using two motors attached to tie rods, which are attached to crank wheels, and replacing the base of the traditional machine with this assembly.

Although these two examples of redesigned pitching machines provide for a diversity of pitches, both of these redesigned machines require the purchase of an entirely new pitching machine.

Accordingly, there is a need for an accessory that fits on a traditional pitching machine, that modifies the direction of each pitch, that places each pitch in a different location within the strike zone, and that simply attaches to an existing traditional pitching machine and does not require the purchase of a new pitching machine.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a pitching machine accessory for modifying an existing pitching machine is provided. The existing pitching machine has a pitching apparatus mounted on a sleeve rotatably attached to a shaft, where the shaft is connected to a stand. The accessory includes a base rigidly attached to the shaft, a motor mounted on the base and a gear assembly attached to the motor. The gear assembly is further attached to the sleeve, whereby the motor causes the gear assembly to move the sleeve laterally in relation to the stand.

Some embodiments of the present invention include one or more of the following. The gear assembly further includes an offset cam attached to the motor, a spring attached to the base and an arm attached to the spring and to the pitching apparatus and operatively connected to the offset cam. When the motor rotates the cam, the rotation causes the arm to move tangentially to the cam's axis of rotation. This causes the pitching apparatus to rotate. Also, where the offset cam is removably attached to the motor such that the offset cam can be replaced with different sized offset cams. Where the arm is attached to the sleeve. Where the accessory additionally includes a mounting collar attached to the base wherein the mounting collar removably attaches the pitching accessory to the shaft.

Additional embodiments of the present invention may also include one or more of the following: where the gear assembly further includes an offset cam attached to the motor, a spring attached to the base, an arm attached to the spring and to the pitching apparatus and an idler wheel attached to the arm and pressed against the offset cam by a constant force exerted by the spring. This arrangement allows the motor to cause the offset cam to rotate and this rotation causes the arm to move tangentially to the cam's axis of rotation, causing the pitching apparatus to rotate.

Where the offset cam is removably attached to the motor such that the offset cam can be replaced with different sized offset cams. Where the arm is attached to the sleeve. Where the accessory additionally includes a mounting collar attached to the base wherein the mounting collar removably attaches the pitching accessory to the shaft.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a method of modifying an existing pitching machine. The method includes the steps of removing a bolt attaching a pitching apparatus to a stand and attaching an accessory to the stand and the pitching apparatus.

Some embodiments of the present invention include one or more of the following. Where the accessory includes a base rigidly attached to the shaft, a motor mounted on the base and a gear assembly attached to the motor. The gear assembly further attached to the sleeve, whereby the motor causes the gear assembly to move the sleeve laterally in relation to the stand. Where the gear assembly further includes an offset cam attached to the motor, a spring attached to the base and an arm attached to the spring and to the pitching apparatus and operatively connected to the offset cam, whereby the motor rotates the cam, the rotation causes the arm to move tangentially to the cam's axis of rotation and this causes the pitching apparatus to rotate. Where the gear assembly further includes an offset cam attached to the motor, a spring attached to the base, an arm attached to the spring and to the pitching apparatus and an idler wheel attached to the arm and pressed against the offset cam by a constant force exerted by the spring. The result is that the motor causes the offset cam to rotate, this rotation causes the arm to move tangentially to the cam's axis of rotation and this causes the pitching apparatus to rotate.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a pitching machine system for providing a variety of pitches. The system includes a traditional pitching machine and an accessory rigidly attached to a pitching apparatus whereby the accessory enables the pitching apparatus to move laterally and provide varied pitches.

Some embodiments of the present invention include where the system further includes a variety of different shaped cams for varying the pitch.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a pitching machine accessory for modifying an existing pitching machine. The existing pitching machine having a pitching apparatus mounted on a sleeve rotatably attached to a shaft and the shaft is connected to a stand. The accessory includes a base rigidly attached to the shaft, a turning means mounted on the base and a gear assembly attached to the turning means. The gear assembly is also attached to the sleeve, whereby the turning means causes the gear assembly to move the sleeve laterally in relation to the stand.

Some embodiments of the present invention include where the gear assembly further includes a deflection means attached to the turning means for converting rotary motion to another motion, a contact means attached to the base and a means to reduce friction attached to the contact means and to the pitching apparatus and operatively connected to the deflection means. The turning means rotates the deflection means and this rotation causes the means to reduce friction to move tangentially to the deflection means' axis of rotation. This causes the pitching apparatus to rotate. The contact means maintains the deflection means in contact with the means to reduce friction.

These aspects of the invention are not meant to be exclusive and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art when read in conjunction with the appended claims and accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be better understood by reading the following detailed description, taken together with the drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 shows the prior art pitching machine;

FIG. 2 shows a side view of one embodiment of the present invention, hidden lines represent the rod, sleeve and pitching apparatus;

FIG. 3 is a top view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a side view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 2 with the idler arm removed;

FIG. 5 is a bottom view of an alternate embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 6 is a side view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 5.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention is an accessory for a pitching machine that attaches to a traditional pitching machine and modifys the pitching machine to provide varied pitches. A traditional pitching machine has a pitching apparatus attached to a sleeve, the sleeve is rigidly mounted onto a shaft using a bolt, the shaft is connected to a stand. The bolt ensures that the pitching apparatus is stationary. Thus, the traditional pitching machine does not provide for a rotating pitching apparatus, therefore, all of the pitches are substantially identical. The present invention modifies the traditional pitching machine. Upon removing the bolt, a gear assembly is attached to the sleeve and the body of the accessory is attached to the shaft. A motor is connected to the gear assembly and the body, and provides the movement of the gear assembly, which then causes the pitching apparatus to rotate in a lateral direction. Depending on the gear assembly design, the pitches will vary.

Referring first to FIG. 1, a traditional pitching machine 10, as it exists in the prior art, is shown. The pitching machine 10 includes a stand 12 and the mechanical pitching apparatus 14. The stand 12 is connected to the pitching apparatus 14 by a metal rod 16 at the top of the stand 12, which slides into a sleeve 18 in the pitching apparatus 14. The sleeve 18 is fixed to the rod 16 by a bolt 20. The pitching apparatus 14 is stationary, and therefore, each pitch by the pitching apparatus 14 is substantially identical

The present invention attaches to a pitching machine 10 where the rod 16 is bolted to the sleeve 18. The present invention requires the bolt 20 to be removed from the sleeve 18 and rod 16 such that the sleeve 18 is pivotably attached to the rod 16.

Referring now to FIG. 2, the present invention includes a motor 26 mounted on a base 24 that rigidly attaches to the rod 16. The motor 26 is further attached to a gear assembly 30, which is attached to the arm 28. The arm 28 is attached to the sleeve 18. The pitching apparatus (not shown, see FIG. 1, 14) is also attached to the sleeve 18. When initiated, the motor 26 moves the gear assembly 30, which causes the sleeve 18 to pivot. Thus, the pitching apparatus pivots in relation to the stand (not shown, see FIG. 1, 12) to horizontally vary the location of pitches delivered from the pitching machine 10.

In the preferred embodiment, the motor is a geared motor. In one embodiment of the present invention, a Brother gear motor is used. The motor can be either AC or DC powered. In one embodiment, the motor is mounted vertically and in an alternate embodiment, the motor is mounted horizontally. The motor can have an infinite range of speeds. In other embodiments, any type of motor can be used. In still other embodiments, the motor on the existing pitching machine can be used as the gear assembly motor. In one alternate embodiment, a motor is not included in the gear assembly and the cam is instead turned by hand.

In the preferred embodiment, the base 24 is made from steel. However, in other embodiments, any type of material may be used including, but not limited to any material falling in he category of metal, plastics and/or wood. Although the base 24 is depicted as shown in FIG. 2, the shape of the base 24 can be any shape that allows the invention to function as described herein. Additionally, although in FIG. 2 the accessory is shown as bolted together, the parts could alternatively be glued or welded.

With reference to FIG. 3, in one embodiment, the gear assembly 30 includes an idler arm 28, an idler wheel 34, an offset cam 32 and a spring 36. The spring 36 is attached to the base 24, on one end, and attached to the arm 28 on the other. The arm 28 is attached to the sleeve 18 at one end and the spring 36 at the opposite end. The idler wheel 34 is attached to the arm 28. The spring 36 exerts constant force on the arm 28 which is attached to the idler wheel 34. This biases the idler wheel 34 against the offset cam 32. The offset cam 32 is attached to the motor (not shown) and rotates when the motor is initiated. Thus, the arm 28, biased through the idler wheel 34 against the offset cam 32, moves in response to the rotation of the cam 24. The arm 28 moves in a substantially perpendicular direction in relation to an axis of the cam 32.

In the preferred embodiment, the spring is made from steel and is approximately 3 inches long and has a ⅝ inch diameter. However, in other embodiments, the spring can be made of any material, for example (but not limited to) elastic or rubber. In alternate embodiments, gas and/or spring struts are used. The purpose of the spring is to keep the idler arm in contact with the cam. Therefore, any means for maintaining the contact between the idler arm and the cam can be used. In alternate embodiments, the spring is replaced by an elastomer bumper, pneumatic cylinder, nitrogen gas spring or any other device known in the art which creates a force opposed to a movement. In still additional alternate embodiments, the cam is attached directly to the idler arm, making the spring unnecessary.

In the preferred embodiment, the cam is round with the hold drilled off center. However, in other embodiments, the cam is any shape that would provide a deflection. In alternative embodiments, the cam is any shape or any other mechanism currently known in the art to convert rotary motion to another motion. The cam is made of hardened steel, but in other embodiments, the cam is made any metal or from any durable material.

In one preferred embodiment, the idler wheel is a round piece of steel. In another preferred embodiment, the idler wheel is replaced with a piece of Teflon used as a rub strip. In alternate embodiments, anything that reduces wear and friction can be used.

In one embodiment, the offset cam 32 is removably attached to the motor, such that the offset cam 32 can be replaced with different sized offset cams (not shown), which affects an angular degree of oscillation of the pitching apparatus (not shown).

With reference to FIGS. 2 and 3, the pitching accessory 40 to modify a pitching machine 100 is mounted on the pitching machine stand by securing the mounting collar 42 to the pitching machine rod 16. The mounting collar 42 is secured to the mounting plate 24. An electric motor 26 that powers the accessory 40 is secured to the bottom side of the mounting plate 24. The idler arm 28 is secured on one end to the pitching apparatus above the mounting collar 42 and mounting plate 24. The other end of the idler arm 28 rests on the idler wheel 34 and is attached to a spring 36 which is attached to the mounting plate 24.

With reference to FIGS. 3 and 4, the electric motor 26 rotates the offset cam 32. The rotation of the offset cam 32 provides lateral deflection of the idler arm 28, through the idler wheel 34. The spring 36 is used either in extension or compression to maintain a positive contact between the offset cam 32 and the idler wheel 34. The amount of movement in the idler arm 28 will be determined by the offset in the offset cam 32. This movement of the offset cam 32 which directs the idler arm 28 determines the direction that the ball is pitched from the machine.

With reference to FIGS. 5 and 6, another embodiment of the pitching accessory 40 is shown. It will be noted that the accessory 40 is ‘inverted’ in comparison to the embodiment shown in FIG. 2. The accessory 40 includes a motor 26 mounted on a base 24 that rigidly attaches to the pitching machine sleeve 18. The motor 26 is further attached to a gear assembly 44, which is attached to the rod 16. When initiated, the motor 26 moves the gear assembly 44, which causes the sleeve 18 to pivot in relation to the rod 16.

The present invention pivots the pitching apparatus 104 in relation to the stand to horizontally vary the location of pitches delivered from the pitching machine. Operation of the accessory does not change as a result of being inverted, but some pitching machines may be impeded by a motor located on the bottom of the base.

Still referring to FIGS. 5 and 6, the gear assembly 44 operates slightly differently than the gear assembly in FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 (shown as 30). Specifically, and with reference to FIGS. 2, 3 and 4, rather than connecting an idler arm 28 to an idler wheel 34 biased against an offset cam 32 by a spring 36, referring again to FIGS. 5 and 6, this embodiment biases the idler arm 28 directly against an offset cam 32 with the spring 36.

Referring again to FIG. 1, the present invention further includes a novel method of modifying an existing pitching machine 10. The first step of the method involves removing a bolt 20 attaching the pitching apparatus 14 to the stand 12 at the rod 16. Referring now to FIG. 2, the next step is attaching a base 24 to the rod 16, the base 24 having mounted thereon a motor 26 and a gear assembly 30 connected to the motor 26. The next step is connecting the gear assembly 30 to the pitching apparatus 14.

Once the pitching accessory is attached to the pitching machine, the variability of the pitches can be increased using a variety of methods. First, the timing of the pitching apparatus (the actual pitch) and the motor. Second, the shape of the cam. Third, the length of the idler arm and the position of the idler wheel. Finally, the offset from the sleeve to the cam axis. By varying any of these factors, the pitches will vary.

While the principles of the invention have been described herein, it is to be understood by those skilled in the art that this description is made only by way of example and not as a limitation as to the scope of the invention. Other embodiments are contemplated within the scope of the present invention in addition to the exemplary embodiments shown and described herein. Modifications and substitutions by one of ordinary skill in the art are considered to be within the scope of the present invention.





 
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