Title:
Pitching training mat and kit and associated method for training pitchers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A training mat and kit for baseball and softball pitchers, and associated method. The mat includes a pitching rubber and one or more parallel lines for proper foot placement and body alignment. The kit comprises a pitching training mat, which may be pre-marked, stickers or marking devices for the mat, a ball, and instructional material.



Inventors:
Kempf, Cheri (Antioch, TN, US)
Application Number:
10/952063
Publication Date:
03/30/2006
Filing Date:
09/28/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
W. EDWARD RAMAGE (COMMERCE CENTER SUITE 1000 211 COMMERCE ST, NASHVILLE, TN, 37201, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A pitching training device, comprising: a. a mat; b. a pitching rubber marked on the mat; and c. one or more parallel guide lines marked on the mat.

2. The pitching training device of claim 1, wherein the mat is rectangular in shape.

3. The pitching training device of claim 2, wherein the pitching rubber is rectangular in shape and located proximal to one end of said mat, with the longitudinal axis of the pitching rubber perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the mat.

4. The pitching training device of claim 1, wherein two parallel guidelines extend from the pitching rubber to a front edge of the mat.

5. The pitching training device of claim 4, further wherein the two parallel guidelines also extend from the pitching rubber to a back edge of the mat opposite the first edge.

6. The pitching training device of claim 1, further comprising a center line, parallel to the guide lines, extending from the pitching rubber to a front edge of the mat.

7. The pitching training device of claim 1, further wherein the center line also extends from the pitching rubber to a back edge of the mat.

8. The pitching training device of claim 1, further comprising one or more foot silhouettes that can be removably attached to the mat in various locations.

9. A pitching training kit, comprising: a. a pitching training mat; and b. a ball.

10. The pitching training kit of claim 9, wherein said ball is a softball, baseball, or training ball.

11. The pitching training kit of claim 9, wherein said pitching training mat comprises a rectangular mat marked with a pitcher's rubber, a center line along the longitudinal axis of the mat, and one or more guide lines parallel to the center line, and further comprising one or more foot silhouettes that can be removably attached to the mat in various locations.

12. The pitching training kit of claim 9, wherein said pitching training mat is a blank rectangular mat.

13. The pitching training kit of claim 12, further comprising one or more stickers or marking devices for placement on said pitching training mat.

14. The pitching training kit of claim 13, wherein said stickers or marking devices comprise a pitcher's rubber, a center line, one or more guide lines, and one or more foot silhouettes that can be removably attached to the mat in various locations.

15. The pitching training kit of claim 9, further comprising means for visual instruction.

16. The pitching training kit of claim 15, wherein said means for visual instruction comprise a video or DVD.

17. The pitching training kit of claim 9, further comprising a CD or written material with instructions and instruction information.

18. The pitching training kit of claim 9, further comprising means for obtaining additional information.

19. A pitching training method, comprising: a. placing foot silhouettes on a pitching training mat; b. positioning the pitcher's feet on the appropriate silhouettes for initial foot placement; c. holding a ball; and d. pitching the ball while moving the feet to the appropriate silhouettes for follow-through foot placement.

Description:

PRIORITY

This application claims priority under Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/506,351, filed Sep. 26, 2003, by Cheri Kempf, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference, and is entitled to that filing date.

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates to training devices and methods for baseball and softball. More specifically, the present invention relates to a pitching training mat and kit, and associated method for teaching the fundamental techniques of baseball and softball pitching.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

Pitching is a critical element in the games of softball and baseball. The position of pitcher requires the player to develop proper pitching technique and mechanics. A pitcher can deliver a ball with high velocity and precision, which in turn requires excellent anticipation and reflex skills from a batter in order to hit the ball. Proper technique and mechanics not only affect the success of the player and his or her team by maximizing performance, but also can greatly reduce the incidence of injuries.

Pitching generally requires leg strength and proper leg mechanics. Proper foot placement during the act of pitching can involve numerous factors, including foot spacing, foot placement during follow-through, and stride. Arm movement and body positioning also are critical.

A number of baseball pitching training apparatus are known in the prior art. Many focus on just one or two particular aspects of pitching, however, such as foot position or body position. For example, Weeks, U.S. Pat. No. 5,000,449, discloses a pitching trainer comprising a mat showing proper foot positioning for pitching in baseball, along with a tee mechanism and target. And Martin, U.S. Pat. No. 6,663,512, discloses a baseball pitching device with a control arm for teaching body positioning for selected baseball pitches. Kits for teaching a baseball batter to utilize a proper batting position also are known. For example, Wiseman, et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,642,880, discloses a kit comprising a mat with indicia for proper foot positioning. These devices and techniques, however, are not directly applicable to softball pitching, and do not assist the pitcher in visualizing the appropriate line along which to pitch. Moreover, the mechanical nature of several of these devices make them difficult to move, set up, and use, as well as increasing the cost of training.

Thus, what is needed is an inexpensive, easy-to-use device for teaching showing the proper foot placement and body alignment for baseball and softball pitching, and a kit for teaching the fundamental techniques and mechanics of pitching.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides for training devices in the form of a stationary pitching mat with indicia showing proper foot placement and body alignment for a pitcher, and a kit and associated method for teaching the fundamental techniques and mechanics of softball pitching. The present invention can act as a guide for foot placement and form, body alignment, and facilitate compliance with league regulations.

The kit comprises a pitching mat made of rubber or similar material that is suitable for a person to stand on repeatedly. The mat can be premarked with a variety of indicia, including a pitcher's plate and one or more lines delineating a direction in which to throw. One such line can mark a “powerline,” or line of greatest power for pitching. Alternatively, the mat can be blank, and a variety of stickers can be provided for the player to place on the map in appropriate places to designate a pitcher's plate and the above-described lines, including a power line. The kit may further include instructions for placement of the stickers and using the kit, and instructions for mat care, including cleaning of the mat.

The kit may further comprise a softball or training ball, such as a Club K-Worth “SofDot” 11-inch ball, and a video or CD with directions and instructions on the fundamentals of pitching. The instructional video or CD would include instruction on the main concepts in pitching, such as using the total body, being efficient, and having a loose and relaxed arm. It also could include instruction on gripping the ball, upper body mechanics (e.g., making a circle with the arm, following through, and maintaining a tall posture), and lower body mechanics (e.g., the stride, driving from the back leg, and maintaining balance). The video or CD also could demonstrate training drills (e.g., one knee into net, standing into net). The kit may further provide a means of obtaining additional information (such as a website address or telephone number).

Thus, it should be understood that the embodiments and examples have been chosen and described in order to best illustrate the principals of the invention and its practical applications to thereby enable one of ordinary skill in the art to best utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited for particular uses contemplated. Even though specific embodiments of this invention have been described, they are not to be taken as exhaustive. There are several variations that will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, it is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the claims appended hereto.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a top view of one embodiment of a pre-marked pitching mat in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 shows a top view of an alternative embodiment of a pre-marked pitching mat in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 3 shows a partial perspective view of the pre-marked pitching mat from FIG. 2 in use showing initial foot placement.

FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of a pre-marked pitching mat from FIG. 2 in use showing foot placement during the pitch.

FIG. 5 shows a perspective view of the components of a training kit in accordance with the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now in more detail to the drawings in which like parts have like identifiers, FIG. 1 is a top view of a pitching training mat 1. The pitching training mat 1 generally is rectangular, although it may be any suitable shape. A pitcher's plate or rubber 2 is marked on one end of the mat 1. While FIG. 1 shows the pitcher's rubber 2 symmetrically disposed perpendicular to a center line 3 which runs along the longitudinal center axis of the mat 1, the exact positioning of the pitcher's rubber 2 from the end and sides of the mat 1 may vary. Two or more guide lines 4 extend from the pitcher's rubber 2 (or the area next to the pitcher's plate) parallel to the center line 3. The center line 3 and guide lines 4 may be of any suitable width, length or color to be visible to the user. The center line 3 and guide lines 4 may also be solid or dashed or broken, or comprise two or more parallel sub-lines. The pitcher's rubber 2 may be simply painted or marked on the mat 1, but may also be slightly elevated above the mat in order to simulate a true pitching rubber or plate in the game.

In one exemplary configuration, the mat 1 is 3 feet wide by 9 feet long, although it may be any other size sufficient for a person to stand and stride on. The center line 3 is 1 or 2 inches wide, while the two guide lines 4 may be one-half inch to one inch wide. The center line 3 begins at the front edge 5 of the pitcher's rubber 2 equidistant from both sides, and extends the length of the mat 1. Each guide line 4 starts at the back edge 6 of the pitcher's rubber 2, and extends the length of the mat 1 parallel to the center line 3. Each guide line 4 is equi-distant from the closest respective edge of the mat 1.

In another exemplary configuration, as shown in FIG. 2, the center line 3 and/or one or more of the guide lines 4 may extend beyond the back edge 6 of the pitcher's plate.

The mat 1 may be made of any suitable material sufficient to withstand a person standing and moving on it, such as vinyl, polymeric material, rubber, artificial turf, or similar materials that provide secure footing for the user. The thickness also may be of any suitable thickness to provide secure footing. In one exemplary embodiment, for example, the mat 1 is made of 3/16″ to ¼″ thick vinyl or rubber. In a preferred embodiment, the material used has an abrasion resistance of less than or equal to 3% Loss @ 1000 cycles using a H-18 wheel (per federal standard 193, modified). The coefficient of friction may be about 0.8 or higher dry, and about 0.45 or higher wet. The Durometer reading may be about 83, plus or minus 3.

In yet another embodiment, the present invention may include one or more foot silhouettes 7 that can be attached to the mat 1 to demonstrate the proper alignment and placement of the user's feet during a pitch. The silhouettes 7 are removable so they can be placed on various locations on the mat 1, or adjusted for the size and type of user.

The mat 1 can thus be used to analyze and measure pitching mechanics for a particular user. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the user is guided as to initial foot placement, body alignment, and the pitching motion.

FIG. 5 shows a kit 10 for teaching the fundamental techniques and mechanics of softball pitching. The kit comprises a pitching mat 11, which may be a pre-marked mat 1 as described above. Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 5, the mat can be blank, accompanied by a variety of stickers or similar marking devices 12 to be placed on the mat by the user or other person. These stickers or marking devices 12 could include, but are not limited to, a pitcher's rubber, a center line, one or more guide lines, and foot silhouettes. The pitching mat 11 would be of the same general size, shape, and thickness as pre-marked mat 1 described above. The mat 11 also could be constructed of similar material as described above. The kit 10 may further comprise instructions for placement of the stickers and using the kit 13, and instructions for mat care 14, including cleaning of the mat.

In another exemplary embodiment, the kit 10 may further comprise a softball, baseball, or some form of training ball 15. An example of such a training ball is a Club K-Worth “SofDot” 11-inch ball. Further, the kit 10 may comprise some means of visual instruction 16, such as a video or DVD, with directions and instructions on the fundamentals of pitching. The instructional video or DVD would include instruction on the main concepts in pitching, such as using the total body, being efficient, and having a loose and relaxed arm. It also could include instruction on gripping the ball, upper body mechanics (e.g., making a circle with the arm, following through, and maintaining a tall posture), and lower body mechanics (e.g., the stride, driving from the back leg, and maintaining balance). The video or DVD also could demonstrate training drills (e.g., one knee into net, standing into net). In another exemplary embodiment, the kit may also comprise a CD or booklet 17 with similar instructional information. Finally, the kit may further provide a means of obtaining additional information (such as a website address or telephone number) 18.

Thus, it should be understood that the embodiments and examples have been chosen and described in order to best illustrate the principals of the invention and its practical applications to thereby enable one of ordinary skill in the art to best utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited for particular uses contemplated. Even though specific embodiments of this invention have been described, they are not to be taken as exhaustive. There are several variations that will be apparent to those skilled in the art, and variations and changes may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit of the invention. Accordingly, it is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the claims appended hereto.