Title:
Collapsible L-screen for protecting a baseball pitcher
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An L-screen for protecting a baseball pitcher includes a plurality of screen sections pivotally connected to one another. The screen sections are pivotable, relative to one another, from a collapsed configuration in which the screen sections at least partially overlap one another, to a deployed configuration in which the screen sections optionally form an L-shape.



Inventors:
Stromsborg, Kevin (Encino, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/215372
Publication Date:
03/01/2007
Filing Date:
08/29/2005
Assignee:
Jas. D. Easton, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090098957ATHLETIC ARTICLE FOR USE IN FLAG FOOTBALLApril, 2009Hitchcock et al.
20090305804Positioning device for a golfer when puttingDecember, 2009Kramski
20080153631Combination golf ball gauge and divot repair device and methodJune, 2008Mazetta
20090181806Golf Tee and Methods to Manufacture Golf TeesJuly, 2009Wood et al.
20050096145Golf swing aidMay, 2005Barretto
20070135245Sports racquet with string port holesJune, 2007Gazzara et al.
20060142099Ball hitting stance training deviceJune, 2006Trucks
20020022537Low spin golf ball comprising a metal, ceramic, or composite mantle or inner layerFebruary, 2002Nesbitt et al.
20090270195Putter Fitting MethodOctober, 2009Edel
20090062042LIGHTED NOCK FOR ARCHERY ARROWMarch, 2009Huang et al.
20100087278Off Court TennisApril, 2010Braun et al.



Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PERKINS COIE LLP - LOS GENERAL (POST OFFICE BOX 1247, SEATTLE, WA, 98111-1247, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An L-screen for protecting a baseball pitcher, comprising: a first screen section; a second screen section pivotally connected to a first side of the first screen section; a third screen section pivotally connected to a second side of the first screen section; wherein the second and third screen sections are pivotable from a deployed configuration to a collapsed configuration in which the first, second, and third screen sections at least partially overlap one another.

2. The L-screen of claim 1 wherein the first, second, and third screen sections at least substantially form an L-shape in the deployed configuration.

3. The L-screen of claim 1 wherein the first, second, and third screen sections are substantially coplanar in the deployed configuration.

4. The L-screen of claim 1 wherein the first, second, and third screen sections rest against one another in the collapsed configuration.

5. The L-screen of claim 4 wherein, in the collapsed configuration, each side of an outer frame of the first screen section rests against a corresponding side of an outer frame of each of the second and third screen sections.

6. The L-screen of claim 1 wherein, in the collapsed configuration, an outer frame of the first screen section is located between an outer frame of each of the second and third screen sections.

7. The L-screen of claim 1 further comprising a plurality of locking mechanisms located in at least one of the first, second, and third screen sections for locking the L-screen into the deployed configuration.

8. The L-screen of claim 7 wherein at least one of the locking mechanisms comprises a locking pin and a locking insert that is slidable into a frame of one of the first, second, and third screen sections.

9. The L-screen of claim 1 further comprising a plurality of detachable legs attached to at least one of the first and third screen sections for maintaining the L-screen in an upright deployed position.

10. The L-screen of claim 1 further comprising at least one foldable leg attached to at least one of the first and third screen sections for maintaining the L-screen in an upright deployed position, with the foldable leg pivotable to a position near or against the L-screen.

11. The L-screen of claim 1 further comprising at least one detachable wheel mechanism attached to one of the first, second, and third screen sections when the L-screen is in the collapsed configuration.

12. The L-screen of claim 1 wherein the first and second sides of the first screen section are substantially perpendicular to each other.

13. The L-screen of claim 1 wherein an outer frame of each of the first, second, and third screen sections is rectangular.

14. The L-screen of claim 1 wherein the second and third screen sections are pivotally connected to the first screen section via a plurality of hinges.

15. The L-screen of claim 14 wherein the hinges are welded to frames of the first, second, and third screen sections.

16. An L-screen for protecting a baseball pitcher, comprising: a plurality of screen sections pivotally connected to one another; wherein the screen sections are pivotable, relative to one another, from a collapsed configuration in which the screen sections at least partially overlap one another, to a deployed configuration in which the screen sections at least substantially form an L-shape.

17. The L-screen of claim 16 further comprising a plurality of locking mechanisms located in or on at least one of the screen sections for locking the L-screen into the deployed configuration.

18. A method for collapsing an L-screen that includes a plurality of screen sections, comprising: disengaging locking mechanisms on the L-screen; and pivoting the screen sections, relative to one another, until the screen sections at least partially overlap one another.

19. The method of claim 18 further comprising removing legs from the L-screen.

20. The method of claim 18 further comprising attaching a wheel mechanism to at least one of the screen sections after the pivoting step.

21. An L-screen for protecting a baseball pitcher, comprising: a plurality of means for preventing a ball from passing therethrough pivotally connected to one another; wherein the plurality of means are pivotable, relative to one another, from a collapsed configuration in which the plurality of means at least partially overlap one another, to a deployed configuration in which the plurality of means at least substantially form an L-shape.

Description:

BACKGROUND

L-frame pitching screens, or “L-screens,” and similar devices have long been used to protect pitchers from being struck by batted balls during batting practice. A typical L-screen includes a tubular frame in the shape of a capital “L,” and includes netting for blocking balls batted toward the pitcher. The L-screen is typically placed near the front of the pitcher's mound or other pitching area so that the pitcher may stand behind the L-screen while pitching batting practice (or while feeding balls into a pitching machine). The pitcher typically stands behind the L-screen and throws pitches over the “short” portion, or lower section, of the L-screen. The pitcher may stand behind the “tall” portion of the L-screen while pitching (except for the pitcher's throwing arm), or the pitcher may move behind the tall portion of the L-screen after throwing the pitch. When a ball is hit toward the pitcher, the L-screen protects the pitcher from being struck by the batted ball.

While L-screens have been effective at protecting pitchers from being struck by batted balls, they are often cumbersome to store and to transport from place to place. Some improvements, such as the addition of permanent wheels, have been made to L-screens to make them easier to transport, but these L-screens are still generally large and cumbersome. In an effort to reduce storage and transport size, L-screens have also been developed including a frame that may be broken down into smaller components. The process of assembling and breaking down these L-screens, however, is often very time-consuming, and can be frustrating because the netting on the L-screen can become knotted and/or tangled. Thus, a need exists for an L-screen that is easy to quickly set-up and to readily make compact for transport and storage.

SUMMARY

An L-screen for protecting a baseball pitcher includes a plurality of screen sections pivotally connected to one another. The screen sections are pivotable, relative to one another, from a collapsed configuration in which the screen sections at least partially overlap one another, to a deployed configuration in which the screen sections optionally form an L-shape.

Other features and advantages of the invention will appear hereinafter. The features of the invention described above can be used separately or together, or in various combinations of one or more of them. The invention resides as well in sub-combinations of the features described.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings, wherein the same reference number indicates the same element throughout each of the views:

FIGS. 1A-1D illustrate the steps for setting up or deploying a collapsible L-screen, according to one embodiment.

FIGS. 2A-2D illustrate the steps for collapsing a collapsible L-screen, according to one embodiment.

FIG. 3A illustrates a wheel mechanism with the wheels detached from an axle.

FIG. 3B illustrates the wheel mechanism of FIG. 3A with the wheels attached to the axle.

FIG. 4A illustrates adjacent frame members of a collapsible L-screen with a locking pin in an open or unlocked position.

FIG. 4B illustrates the adjacent frame members of the collapsible L-screen shown in FIG. 3 with the locking pin in a closed or locked position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various embodiments of the invention will now be described. The following description provides specific details for a thorough understanding and enabling description of these embodiments. One skilled in the art will understand, however, that the invention may be practiced without many of these details. Additionally, some well-known structures or functions may not be shown or described in detail so as to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the relevant description of the various embodiments.

The terminology used in the description presented below is intended to be interpreted in its broadest reasonable manner, even though it is being used in conjunction with a detailed description of certain specific embodiments of the invention. Certain terms may even be emphasized below; however, any terminology intended to be interpreted in any restricted manner will be overtly and specifically defined as such in this detailed description section.

Turning now in detail to the drawings, as shown in FIGS. 1A-1D and 2A-2D, a collapsible L-screen 10 includes a first screen section 12. A second screen section 14 is pivotally connected to a first side of the first screen section 12, and a third screen section 16 is pivotally connected to a second side of the first screen section 12. The first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 may be connected to one another via hinges 18 welded to, or otherwise attached to, frames 20 of the screen sections 12, 14, 16. The first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 may alternatively be connected to one another via any other suitable mechanism or device that provides pivoting or folding movement between the neighboring screen sections.

The L-screen 10 may alternatively include a greater or lesser number of screen sections. For example, an L-screen 10 may include six screen sections, with all or some of the screen sections pivotally connected to neighboring screen sections. As another example, the L-screen 10 may include only two screen sections, such as a “tall” screen section pivotally connected to a “short” screen section, or a “wide” screen section pivotally connected to a “narrow” screen section. In such a case, the L-screen would not be as compactly foldable or collapsible as would an L-screen including three or more pivotally connected screen sections. For ease of description, an L-screen 10 including first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 will be described herein.

The frames 20 of the first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 may be tubular or otherwise suitably shaped, and may be made of steel, aluminum, plastic, PVC, and/or any other suitable material. The frames 20 may be hollow or solid. The L-screen 10 is preferably relatively lightweight, having a total weight of approximately 15 to 30 pounds, or 20 to 25 pounds. The L-screen 10 may, of course, be heavier or lighter depending on the material composition of the frames 20 of the screen sections 12, 14, 16 and the other materials that make up the L-screen 10.

Each of the first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 includes netting 22, canvas, and/or another sturdy fabric or similar material attached to and located within its frame 20 for deflecting baseballs or softballs hit toward the L-screen 10. If netting 22 is used, it may be made of nylon® (polyamide), polyester, or any other material suitable for preventing a batted ball from passing through the netting. The netting 22 or other material may be tied, bonded, clamped, and/or otherwise fastened or attached, either removably or fixedly, to the frames 20 of the first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16.

The first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 may be rectangular or may have any other suitable shape, and preferably each have the same, or approximately the same, dimensions. One or more of the screen sections 12, 14, 16 may, however, have different dimensions than the other respective screen sections 12, 14, 16. Each of the first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 may have approximate dimensions of 3 to 4 feet by 3 to 4 feet, or 3.5 feet by 3.5 feet, or may have any other suitable dimensions.

In general, the “tall” portion of the L-screen 10 (i.e., the portion including the first and second screen sections 12, 14) is preferably tall enough to protect people of varying heights, and the “short” portion (i.e., the portion including the third screen section 16) is preferably short enough that a person (or pitching machine) can readily throw or otherwise deliver a ball over the short portion. In one embodiment, the first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 form, or substantially form, a coplanar “L”-shape when the L-screen 10 is in its deployed or working configuration. It is contemplated, however, that the L-screen 10 may take on other shapes or forms in its deployed configuration.

As shown in FIGS. 1C and 1D, detachable legs 25 or other stand elements are preferably included for attachment to the L-screen 10. Each leg 25 may include one or more pieces, such as a lateral base portion 27 and an upwardly extending connecting portion 29, and may be configured in any manner suitable for supporting and maintaining the L-screen 10 in an upright position. The legs 25 may be made of steel, aluminum, plastic, PVC, and/or any other suitable material.

The legs 25 may be attachable to the L-screen 10 via holes or other openings in the bottom of the frames 20 of the first and/or third screen sections 12, 16. The connecting portions 29 of the legs 25 may include push pins or spring-loaded pins or protrusions that snap into corresponding openings in the frame members 20 when the legs 25 are inserted a predetermined distance into the frames 20, or the legs 25 may be attached via a friction or interference fit, or via any other suitable manner or mechanism.

In an alternative embodiment, the legs 25 may be permanently attached to the L-screen 10, and may optionally include hinges or similar elements that allow portions of the legs 25 to pivot or fold up near or against the L-screen 10 for ease of transport and/or storage. For example, the outwardly extending base portions 27 of the legs 25 may be pivotally connected to their respective connecting portions 29 so that the base portions 27 may be pivoted or folded up to a position near or in contact with the frame 20 or netting 22 of the L-screen 10, to facilitate transport and storage.

As shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B, one or more detachable wheel mechanisms 30 are optionally included for attachment to the L-screen 10. A wheel mechanism 30 includes one or more wheels 32, which may be detachably or fixedly attached to an axle 34 or other similar element. For example, the wheels 32 may be attachable to the axle 34 via push pins or spring-loaded pins or protrusions on the axle 34 that snap into corresponding openings in the wheels 32, or via any other suitable mechanism. The axle 34 preferably passes through and/or is otherwise attached to a shaft 36 that extends substantially perpendicularly to the axle 34. The wheels 32 may be made of rubber, plastic, and/or any other suitable material(s). The shaft 36 and axle 34 may be made of steel, aluminum, plastic, PVC, or any other suitable material.

As shown in FIG. 2D, the shaft 36 of the wheel mechanism 30 may attach into the same opening in the first screen section 12 as does one of the removable legs 25 (e.g., the left leg 25 shown in FIG. 1C). The shaft 36 may include push pins or spring-loaded pins or protrusions that snap into place in corresponding openings in the frame members 20, or it may be attached via a friction or interference fit, or via any other suitable manner or mechanism. Alternatively, the shaft 36 of one or more wheel mechanisms 30 may be attachable into one or more different openings in the frames 20 of any of the first, second, and/or third screen sections 12, 14, 16, or may be attachable to the L-screen 10 via screws, bolts, clamps, clips, or other suitable devices, in any suitable manner. For example, if the legs 25 are permanently attached in openings in the first and third screen sections 12, 16, the one or more wheel mechanisms 30 may be attachable to other portions of the first and third screen sections 12, 16 in any suitable manner.

In an alternative embodiment, the one or more wheel mechanisms 30 may be permanently connected to the L-screen 10. In such a case, one or more of the legs 25 may be attachable into one or more openings in the frames 20 of the screen sections 12, 14, 16, or may be attachable to the frames 20 via screws, bolts, clamps, clips or other suitable devices, in any suitable manner. Thus, it is contemplated that one or more legs 25 and/or wheel mechanisms 30 may be detachably or fixedly attached to the L-screen 10 via any suitable manner.

As is best shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, one or more of the first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16 preferably include one or more locking mechanisms 40 for locking or securing neighboring screen sections into the deployed position (as shown in FIGS. 1B-1 D, for example). In one embodiment, each locking mechanism 40 includes a locking pin 42 connected to, or including or otherwise in communication with, a locking insert 44. The locking pin 42 is slidable along a groove 46 or slot in the frame 20 from an unlocked position (as shown in FIG. 4A) to a locked position (as shown in FIG. 4B) in which the locking insert 44 slides into an opening in the neighboring screen section.

The groove 46 may be straight, or it may be curved or angled to aid in holding the locking pin 42 in the open and/or locked position. The locking pin 42 may additionally or alternatively snap or click into place in the locked and/or unlocked positions, and/or may be held in place via gravity or via any other suitable manner. Any other suitable locking device or mechanism, such as spring-loaded hinge(s) and/or permanent stop(s), may additionally or alternatively be included on the L-screen 10 to lock or otherwise maintain the L-screen 10 in its deployed or working position.

As indicated by arrows in FIGS. 1B and 2B, two locking mechanisms 40 are included in the second screen section 14 for sliding engagement into the first screen section 12, and one locking mechanism 40 is included in the third screen section 16 for sliding engagement into the first screen section 12. A greater or lesser number of locking mechanisms 40 may of course be included. Furthermore, the one or more locking mechanisms 40 may be included in or on any one or more of the first, second, and third screen sections 12, 14, 16.

FIGS. 1A-1D illustrate the steps for setting up or deploying the collapsible L-screen 10, according to one embodiment. As shown in FIG. 1A, the second and third screen sections 14, 16 are pivoted relative to the first screen section 12 until the L-screen 10 is in its fully-deployed position, as shown in FIG. 1B. The locking pins 42 are then moved along their respective grooves 46 or slots (as indicated by the arrows in FIG. 2B) such that the locking inserts 44 slide into corresponding openings in the adjacent frame sections, as shown in detail in FIGS. 4C and 4D.

Once all of the locking mechanisms 40 have locked, or otherwise secured, the L-screen 10 into its deployed or working position, one or more legs 25 may be attached to the first and/or third screen sections 12, 16, as shown in FIG. 1C. Alternatively, if permanent legs 25, such as the foldable legs described above, are fixedly attached to the frame(s) 20 of the L-screen 10, the legs 25 may be unfolded or pivoted into their working position. At this point, the set-up process is complete and the L-screen 10 is ready for use, as shown in FIG. 1D.

FIGS. 2A-2D illustrate the steps for collapsing the L-screen 10 into a transport or storage position, according to one embodiment. As shown in FIG. 2A, the legs 25 are removed (or folded up against, or adjacent to, the frame sections 20 of the L-screen 10, if foldable legs are used). The locking mechanisms 40 are then disengaged from their respective frame openings, as indicated by the arrows in FIG. 2B. Next, the second and third screen sections 14, 16 are pivoted relative to the first screen section 12, as shown in FIG. 2C, until the three screen sections 12, 14, 16 at least partially or substantially overlap one another.

The frames 20 of the three screen sections 12, 14, 16 may perfectly overlap and come into contact with one another, as shown in FIG. 2D, or they may be offset and/or not be in direct contact with one another. As further shown in FIG. 2D, the one or more wheel mechanisms 30 may optionally be attached to one or more of the screen sections 12, 14, 16, as described above, to ease transport of the L-screen 10. Alternatively, if the user would prefer to carry the L-screen 10, the wheel mechanisms 30 may be omitted.

The collapsible L-screen 10 described herein is readily deployable and collapsible via hinges or other pivotal connections. Thus, the L-screen 10 may be quickly set up for use, and/or folded up into a compact configuration for transport or storage, without the need to disassemble the screen sections 12, 14, 16 that make up the L-screen 10. Furthermore, because the netting 22 or other protective material of the L-screen 10 is preferably fixedly attached within the screen sections 12, 14, 16, it does not become tangled or knotted when the L-screen 10 is deployed or collapsed. As a result, the L-screen 10 is very efficient to use, store, and transport.

While several embodiments have been shown and described, various changes and substitutions may of course be made, without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Importantly, several of the steps described above may be performed in any suitable order, and not necessarily in the order described herein. The invention, therefore, should not be limited, except by the following claims and their equivalents.