Title:
Batting trainer for inexperienced players
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This invention relates to a batting trainer consisting of a ball launching apparatus with a ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball and a training ball much lighter and smaller than a regulation baseball or softball that can train an inexperienced batter to practice hand-eye coordination on a smaller flying target for improved swing precision. The said ball launching apparatus can be in a form of a flying-ball launching toy gun, with said training ball being made of soft cellular plastic foam and having a circumference smaller than 60 mm and a weight lighter than 30 g. It will be safe for an inexperienced player to practice his/her swing with said batting trainer in a limited open space such as the backyard.



Inventors:
Wey, Albert Chin-tang (Westmont, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/235598
Publication Date:
03/29/2007
Filing Date:
09/26/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
124/4, 124/7
International Classes:
F41B3/04; A63B69/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Albert C. Wey (233 E. 57th Street, Westmont, IL, 60559-2080, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A batting trainer comprising: a ball launching apparatus with a ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball; and a training ball, said training ball being smaller and lighter than a regulation baseball or softball.

2. The batting trainer according to claim 1, wherein said ball launching apparatus is a flying-ball launching toy gun.

3. The batting trainer according to claim 1, wherein said ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball is mechanically driven by coil spring.

4. The batting trainer according to claim 1, wherein said ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball is mechanically driven by compressed air.

5. The batting trainer according to claim 1, wherein said ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball is mechanically driven by compressed gas.

6. The batting trainer according to claim 1, wherein said training ball has a circumference smaller than 60 mm (millimeters) and a weight lighter than 30 g (grams).

7. The batting trainer according to claim 1, wherein said training ball is made of soft cellular plastic foam.

8. The batting trainer according to claim 1, wherein said training ball is hollow and consists of a spherical plastic shell.

9. A method for training inexperienced batters to practice hand-eye coordination and for thereby improving their swing and targeting of the ball comprising: providing a ball launching apparatus with a ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball; and providing a training ball, said training ball having a circumference smaller than 60 mm (millimeters) and a weight lighter than 30 g (grams).

10. The batting training method according to claim 9, wherein said ball launching apparatus is a flying-ball launching toy gun.

Description:

BACKGROUND—FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates to a batting trainer consisting of a ball launching apparatus with a ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball and a training ball much lighter and smaller than a regulation baseball or softball that can train an inexperienced batter to practice hand-eye coordination on a smaller flying target for improved swing precision, even in a limited open space such as one's backyard.

BACKGROUND—DESCRIPTION OF PRIOR ART

Hitting a baseball or softball well requires precise timing. To improve their swing, players must practice their swing mechanics repeatedly. For instance, players can practice their swing by receiving pitches from an automatic pitching machine or hitting a ball from a tee. Both of these practicing techniques help to improve player's hand-eye coordination.

With the popularization of baseball sports, pitching machines are proliferated in the art. In use, a pitching machine is charged with a ball. The machine ejects a ball through the air toward a batter. The batter attempts to hit the ball by swinging the bat along the perceived path of the ball. The various designs of pitching machines which are necessary to engage a ball and to propel the ball are well known in the art (e.g. U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,402,640 and 6,508,243). Nevertheless, none of them proved to be ideal for inexperienced young players for several reasons. For example, the known automatic pitcher for training batters is sophisticated and expensive. It requires a vast open space so that players may practice their swing only in a batting cage. Besides, such machine accelerates ball throw at a considerable speed, which exposes the inexperienced players to substantial risk of being hit, even if a substitute training ball that is lighter than a hard, heavy regulation ball is used. As a result, young players build up alertness and tightness through such training instead of confidence.

Alternatively, inexpensive ball-hitting training devices were developed for training inexperienced players (e.g. U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,555,110 and 6,612,943). In these training devices the baseball is either suspended still by a cord or on a tee. The predictable and unchangeable position of the ball may lose player's interests soon after a few battings.

Therefore, a need has risen for a swing practicing apparatus for young, inexperienced players that can not only improve their hand-eye coordination to enhance the swing accuracy, but also be challenging, competitive, safe and fum to play with.

In accordance with the present invention, a batting trainer for inexperienced players is provided that substantially reduces disadvantages and problems associated with previously developed apparatus for swing improvement. The batting trainer of the present invention consists of a ball launching apparatus, preferably in a form of a flying-ball launching toy gun, with a ball propulsion mechanism for propelling (or “shooting”) a ball through the air within a range of about 5 meters or so. The ball to be ejected from said ball launching apparatus is a substitute training ball that is much smaller and lighter than a 9-inch-circumference, 5-oz-weight regulation baseball. Its size and weight may be similar to a hollow training golf ball.

In practice, within a range of 5 meters (15 feet) or so, parent or playmate can easily aim the flying-ball launching toy gun to precisely deliver “pitches” over selected different areas of home plate or other target, with help of a ball-catching net delineated the “strike zone” of the player. Because of short range and small ball, traveling speed of the training ball becomes relatively fast on reaching the hitting zone. Meanwhile, the players have to focus on hitting a smaller flying target at an unpredictable pitch, which simulates the feel and aerodynamic behavior of a regulation baseball. This can significantly improve their accuracy on hitting a comparatively “giant” (or feeling like a “basket-ball-size”) regulation baseball in real games. In addition, such a small, light-weight substitute ball will not sail when pitched hard or hit hard. The risk of body injury or property damage in a confined area has diminished. Further, the time needed to recover the hit balls is minimal, which can increase the number of repetitions that a player can achieve. The batting trainer of the present invention enables inexperienced players to practice hitting at a small playing area such as their backyards.

OBJECTS AND ADVANTAGES

Accordingly, one object of this invention is to provide a batting trainer for inexperienced players that is challenging, competitive, safe and fun to play with.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a batting trainer for inexperienced players to improve their hand-eye coordination for significantly increased hitting accuracy.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a simple and easy-to-install, maintenance-free batting trainer, with which it is safe to play everywhere.

These objectives are achieved by a batting trainer consisting of a ball launching apparatus with a ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball and a training ball that is much lighter and smaller than a regulation baseball or softball.

Other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will hereinafter become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following description.

DRAWING FIGURES

FIG. 1 shows a cutaway perspective view of one embodiment of the present invention in a form of a flying-ball launching toy gun on a supporting base with a ball feeder.

Reference Numerals in Drawings
11Launch barrel12Loading knob
13Running block14Coil spring
15Locking/unlocking means16Trigger
21Training ball22Ball feeder
31Support base32Link shaft
41Aiming aid

SUMMARY

In accordance with the present invention, a safe, challenging and fun to play batting trainer for inexperienced players consists of a ball launching apparatus, preferably in the form of a flying-ball launching toy gun, with a ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball through the air within a range of about 5 meters or so. The ball to be ejected from said ball launching apparatus is a substitute training ball that is much smaller and lighter than a 9-inch-circumference 5-oz-weight regulation baseball. The size and weight of said training ball may be similar to a hollow training golf ball.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows a cutaway perspective view of one embodiment of the present invention, in which a ball launching apparatus is designed to be in the form of a flying-ball launching toy gun. The shape of a toy gun is chosen simply because all young, inexperienced baseball players are familiar with a similar toy gun and know how it will operate. It may remove their fears to start with and add much fun into their practice.

The flying-ball launching toy gun comprises a body with a launch barrel (11) and a loading knob (12) that is displaceable along the launch barrel for bringing the running block (13) into the pre-shooting position. A coil spring (14) is used to cause the running block to move from the rear pre-shooting position to the front post-shooting position so that the training ball (21) can be launched forward. One end of the coil spring is fixed to the launch barrel and the other end is fixed to the running block.

A locking/unlocking means (15) is used for locking the running block in the pre-shooting position and unlocking the running block so as to move toward the post-shooting position. Meanwhile, a trigger (16) is installed at the body for pivotal movement about a hinge shaft, a locker operably connected with the trigger and having a locking protrusion, a catching hook formed on the running block to catching the locking protrusion of the locker.

The above described ball launching apparatus is designed to shoot a training ball (21) that is much smaller and lighter than the hard, heavy regulation baseball, which is 9 inches (73 mm) in circumference and 5 ounces (140 g) in weight. The preferable size and weight of the training ball may be similar to that of a hollow training golf ball. The training ball can be fed into the launching body through a ball feeder (22) that may hold up to 10 or more balls. The whole flying-ball launching body assembly can be mounted on a support base (31), or a tripod, through an adjustable-height link shaft (32) to increase stability of delivering a shooting pitch. An aiming aid (41) is installed to help precisely deliver “pitches” over selected different areas of home plate or other target. A commercially available ball-catching net delineated the “strike zone” can be placed behind the player to improve the accuracy of shooting the ball at targeted zone, intentionally to pitch either a strike or a fault ball.

The ball propulsion mechanism of the present invention is specifically designed for propelling a ball through the air within a short range of about 5 meters (15 feet) or so. This can be done by selecting a launcher driven by coil spring with a force constant capable of doing so. Of course, the launching mechanism can also be pneumatically powered by compressed air, gas or the like. The launching can be automated. The various components of a pneumatic device for firing projectiles with a charge of compressed air that accelerates a projectile through a barrel are well known in the art and are not detailed herein.

CONCLUSION, RAMIFICATIONS, AND SCOPE

According to the present invention, a safe, challenging and fun to play batting trainer for inexperienced players consists of a ball launching apparatus with a ball propulsion mechanism for propelling a ball and a training ball much lighter and smaller than a regulation baseball or softball that can train an inexperienced batter to practice hand-eye coordination on a smaller flying target for improved swing precision.

The invention has been described above. Obviously, numerous modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings. Such variations are not to be regarded as a departure from the spirit and scope of the invention and all such modifications as would be obvious to one skilled in the art are intended to be included within the scope of the following claims.