Title:
MOLDED GAME BALL
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A baseball or softball comprising a cover having an outer surface that is formed of a first material. A second material that is easier to grip than the first material is affixed to the cover in the same location as the seam on a conventional baseball or softball. The ball's outer surface is molded and stitchless, meaning that the outer covering is not made by stitching panels together. While the ball may be stitchless, it may have simulated, molded stitches. The second material, when positioned on a planar surface, comprises a continuous strip having two generally semicircular ends each integral with a pair of opposed concave sides (e.g. a FIG. 8 configuration).



Inventors:
Smith, Katherine (Eureka, MO, US)
Cullinane, Daniel (Maryland Heights, MO, US)
Application Number:
14/071108
Publication Date:
03/06/2014
Filing Date:
11/04/2013
Assignee:
RAWLINGS SPORTING GOODS COMPANY, INC. (St. Louis, MO, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B37/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WONG, STEVEN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HUSCH BLACKWELL LLP (190 Carondelet Plaza Suite 600, ST. LOUIS, MO, 63105, US)
Claims:
What is claimed and desired to be secured by Letters Patent is as follows:

1. A game ball, comprising: a molded stitchless cover comprising an outer surface at least a portion of which is formed of a first material molded over an interior structure of the ball to form a molded cover; and a second material affixed to said cover and positioned to mimic the pattern of a seam of a conventional baseball or softball, said second material being easier to grip than said first material.

2. The game ball of claim 1, wherein said first material is formed from thermoplastic polyurethane, polyurethane, rubber, ionomer, polyvinylchloride, or combinations thereof

3. The game ball of claim 1, wherein said second material has a coefficient of friction that is greater than said first material.

4. The game ball of claim 1, wherein said second material is tackier than said first material.

5. The game ball of claim 1, wherein said second material is textured.

6. The game ball of claim 1, wherein said second material has a lower hardness or durometer than said first material.

7. The game ball of claim 3, wherein said second material has a static coefficient of friction that is greater than said first material.

8. The game ball of claim 7, wherein said first material has a static coefficient of friction between 0.75 to 1, and said second material has a static coefficient of friction between 1 to 1.4.

9. The game ball of claim 3, wherein said second material has a dynamic coefficient of friction that is greater than said first material.

10. The game ball of claim 9, wherein said first material has a dynamic coefficient of friction between 0.5 to 0.95, and said second material has a dynamic coefficient of friction between 0.95 to 1.2.

11. The game ball of claim 1, wherein said second material has a different color than said first material.

12. The game ball of claim 1, wherein said second material is ink.

13. The game ball of claim 1, wherein said second material is affixed with adhesive or a chemical bond to said first material.

14. The game ball of claim 2, wherein said second material comprises ink, silicone enhanced ink, paint, adhesive, polyurethane, polyvinylchloride, rubber, leather, synthetic leather, or an elastomer.

15. The ball of claim 1, wherein molded raised protrusions are formed on said outer surface to simulate the stitches of a conventional baseball or softball.

16. The ball of claim 1, wherein molded raised protrusions are formed on said second material to simulate the stitches of a conventional baseball or softball.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a divisional application of, and claims priority to, U.S. Ser. No. 12/958,956 filed Dec. 2, 2010 which is incorporated herein by reference.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to a game ball, and in particular, to a game ball having a grip enhancing material affixed to its cover.

2. Description of Related Art

The covers of conventional baseballs and softballs are typically formed from two panels which are positioned over an interior structure of the ball and stitched together to form a seam. The panels may be formed from a variety of materials depending on the anticipated use and desired cost of the ball. For example, the panels may be formed from leather, polyurethane, polyvinylchloride, or blends thereof. Alternatively, baseballs and softballs may be “stitchless” having an outer cover that is molded from a polymeric material. These stitchless balls may have simulated stitching molded to the outer cover in the same general location as the stitches on a conventional baseball or softball. Before throwing either type of ball, a player typically utilizes the seams to obtain a preferred grip on the ball. Further, players and coaches view the seams of a thrown ball in order to determine the ball's rotation, which typically is indicative of the flight path that the ball will follow.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a game ball having grip enhancing material on the exterior surface of the ball, wherein the grip enhancing material is presented on the ball in a pattern that resembles or mimics the pattern of the seam on a conventional stitched ball. The grip enhancing material is preferably presented in a prominent color to enable players and/or coaches to determine the rotation of the ball when thrown.

One embodiment of the present invention is directed toward a game ball comprising a cover having at least two panels that are coupled together along a seam. Each panel comprises an outer surface that is formed of a first material. A second material that is easier to grip than the first material is affixed to each of the panels adjacent to the seam. The second material may be affixed to the first material in any manner. For example, the second material may be sprayed, coated, screened, adhered, welded, bonded, or chemically bonded to the first material. The second material enhances a player's ability to grip the game ball by presenting a surface surrounding the ball's seam that is easier to grip than the remainder of the ball's cover. Preferably, the second material also has a different color than the first material in order to enhance a player's ability to determine the rotation of the ball when thrown. Most preferably, stitching joins the two panels and the second material is the same color as the stitching.

The second material of the game ball is easier to grip than the first material. For example, the second material may comprise a material that is tackier than the first material; a material that has a higher coefficient of friction, static and/or dynamic, than the first material; a material that has a lower hardness or durometer than the first material; and/or a material that is textured differently from the first material. Preferably, the second material of the game ball has a greater frictional interaction with a player's hands than the first material.

Another embodiment of the present invention is directed toward a baseball or softball comprising a cover having an outer surface that is formed of a first material. A second material that is easier to grip than the first material is affixed to the cover in the same location as the seam on a conventional baseball or softball. Preferably, the ball's outer surface is molded and stitchless, meaning that the outer covering is not made by stitching panels together. While the ball may be stitchless, it may have simulated, molded stitches. Preferably, the second material, when positioned on a planar surface, comprises a continuous strip having two generally semicircular ends each integral with a pair of opposed concave sides (e.g. a FIG. 8 configuration). The second material is easier to grip than the first material as described above.

Additional aspects of the invention, together with the advantages and novel features appurtenant thereto, will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following, or may be learned from the practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and attained by means of the instrumentalities and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of a game ball according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of the ball of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a rear elevational view of the ball of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view taken through the line 4-4 in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of one panel of the ball of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of another panel of the ball of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a front elevational view of a stitchless game ball in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a side elevational view of the game ball of FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view taken through the line 9-9 in FIG. 7; and

FIG. 10 is a front elevational view of a stitchless game ball having simulated molded stitches in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring now to FIGS. 1-6, an enhanced grip game ball according to one embodiment of the present invention is shown generally as 10. Game ball 10 is a softball or baseball having a cover 12 that is formed from a pair of substantially identical panels 14 and 16. Panels 14 and 16 are stitched together with thread 18 that passes through openings 19 (FIG. 5) in the panels to form a seam 20. The panels 14 and 16 enclose an interior structure of the ball (not shown), which may be formed from any material or combination of materials. Preferably, the ball's interior structure is formed in the same manner as a conventional baseball or softball that is suitable for competitive use. However, it is within the scope of the invention for the ball's interior structure to be formed in any manner.

Referring to FIG. 4, outer surfaces 14a and 16a of panels 14 and 16, respectively, are formed from a first material, and a second material 22 is affixed to each of the outer surfaces 14a and 16a adjacent to seam 20. The thickness of the second material 22 is exaggerated for clarity in FIG. 4. The panels 14 and 16 may be constructed entirely from the first material, or the panels 14 and 16 may be formed from more than one material such that the first material which makes up the outer surfaces 14a and 16a of the panels 14 and 16 is applied, affixed, or otherwise joined to the material or materials that make up the remainder of the panels 14 and 16. The second material 22 may comprise any type of material that is easier to grip than the first material which forms outer surfaces 14a and 16a. The second material 22 enhances a player's ability to grip the game ball 10 by presenting a surface surrounding the ball's seam 20 that is preferably tackier than the outer surfaces 14a and 16a which are formed from the first material, has a coefficient of friction, static or dynamic, that is greater than the first material, is textured, and/or has a lower hardness or durometer than the first material.

The first material that forms outer surfaces 14a and 16a may be any type of material but is preferably full grain leather, split leather, a synthetic polymeric material such as vinyl, polyurethane, polyvinylchloride, or blends thereof. As described above, panels 14 and 16 may be formed from more than one material, such as full grain or split leather coated with a polymeric material such as vinyl, polyurethane, polyvinylchloride, or blends thereof that forms the outer surfaces 14a and 16a of the panels. The second material 22 that is affixed to outer surfaces 14a and 16a is preferably ink, silicone enhanced ink, paint, adhesive, polyurethane, polyvinylchloride, rubber, leather, synthetic leather, elastomer, or combinations thereof.

The second material 22 may be applied to each outer surface 14a and 16a in any manner. For example, the second material 22 may comprise paint or ink that is applied to outer surfaces by silk screening, pad printing, coating, or spraying 14a and 16a and allowed to dry. The second material 22 may also comprise a strip or strips of material that are adhered, bonded, chemically bonded, or thermally bonded to outer surfaces 14a and 16a. The second material 22 may also comprise an ink that is first applied to the outer surfaces 14a and 16a and then is heated to permanently bond it to the outer surfaces 14a and 16a. Further, the second material 22 may be applied to the outer surfaces 14a and 16a after they are stitched together along seam 20, or before they are stitched together as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6.

It is also within the scope of the present invention for the second material 22 to be positioned in a recess that is formed in panels 14 and 16. For example, the panels 14 and 16 may be skived, compressed, or otherwise reduced in thickness before the second material 22 is affixed to the reduced thickness portion of the panels 14 and 16. Alternatively, the second material 22 may be affixed to the edges of panels 14 and 16 such that the second material 22 is positioned directly adjacent to the interior structure of the ball.

When a player's hand is in direct contact with ball 10, the frictional interaction between the second material 22 and the player's hand is preferably greater than the frictional interaction between the first material that forms panel outer surfaces 14a and 16a and the player's hand. Further, the coefficient of friction of the second material 22 is preferably greater than the coefficient of friction of the first material. Preferably, both the dynamic and static coefficients of friction are greater for the second material 22 than for the first material. However, it is also within the scope of the invention for either the static or dynamic coefficient of friction to be greater for the second material 22 than for the first material. Preferably, the static coefficient of friction for the first material is between 0.75 to 1, and most preferably between 0.9 to 1. Preferably, the static coefficient of friction for the second material is between 1 to 1.4, and most preferably between 1.1 to 1.3. Preferably, the dynamic coefficient of friction for the first material is between 0.5 to 0.95, and most preferably between 0.75 to 0.95. Preferably, the dynamic coefficient of friction for the second material is between 0.95 to 1.2, and most preferably between 1 to 1.1.

The second material 22 may present a textured surface that enhances a player's ability to grip the game ball 10. For example, the second material 22 may have a pebbled surface or have any other pattern of contours, protrusions or depressions that present a textured surface. If the second material 22 has protrusions, preferably the protrusions have a height that is less than the height of the stitching 18 on the ball, which is preferably between approximately 0.01 to 0.08 inches.

The second material 22 may also be easier to grip than the first material because the second material is tackier than the first material. For example, the second material 22 may be formed from an adhesive or any of the other materials referenced above that is tackier than the first material.

It is also within the scope of the invention for the second material 22 to have a lower hardness or durometer than the first material so that the second material 22 is easier to grip than the first material.

The second material 22 also preferably has a different color than the first material so that it is easier to determine the ball's rotation when it is thrown or pitched. Typically, players and coaches focus on the seams of a thrown ball in order to determine the ball's rotation, which can be indicative of the flight path that the ball will follow. Because the second material 22 is visually more prominent than the seams on a typical baseball or softball, it is easier for players and coaches to determine the rotation of ball 10 than the rotation of a typical softball or baseball. The ball 10 may be used for training pitchers and batters to spot the rotation of different types of pitches since it is easier to view the rotation of ball 10. For instance, pitchers and pitching coaches can more easily see the rotation of ball 10 when it is pitched to determine and improve upon a pitcher's effectiveness. Ball 10 may also be used for training a batter to spot different types of pitches based on their rotation, which can help the batter anticipate a ball's flight path. The thread 18 that joins panels 14 and 16 is preferably the same color as the second material 22. However, it is within the scope of the invention for the thread 18 to be a different color than the second material 22. Preferably, the second material 22 has a color that is highly visible and that contrasts with the color of the first material to enhance visibility. Most preferably, the second material 22 is formed from a bright red or neon color that contrasts with the remainder of the ball 10. If the ball 10 is for use in a competition that is sanctioned by a particular organization, preferably the second material is the color that is required by that particular organization. For example, the second material 22 is preferably blue if the ball 10 is a softball for use in an USSSA sanctioned competition, the second material 22 is preferably black if the ball 10 is a softball for use in a NSA sanctioned competition, and the second material 22 is preferably green if the ball 10 is a softball for use in an ISA sanctioned competition.

Ball 10 is particularly advantageous for use as a training aid because the second material 22 makes it easier for a player to grip the ball and because the second material 22, when having a different color than the first material, makes it easier for a player or coach to determine the ball's rotation when thrown. However, it is also within the scope of the invention for ball 10 to be used as a competition baseball or softball if desired.

The shape of panel 14 is described herein with reference to FIG. 5. Because panel 16 (FIG. 6) is identical to panel 14, its shape is not described in detail herein and it should be understood that the description of panel 14 herein also applies to panel 16. Panel 14 is a generally planar sheet of material having a pair of circular ends 24 and 26 that are joined by a middle section 28 which has concave sides 30 and 32. The second material 22 is affixed to a peripheral edge 33 of panel 14 and has a FIG. 8 shape that is defined by a pair of semicircular ends 34 and 36 that are each joined with a pair of opposed concave sides 38 and 40. As described above, the second material 22 may be affixed to panels 14 and 16 either before or after they are stitched together. Further, if the second material 22 is affixed to edges of panels 14 and 16 such that the second material 22 is adjacent to the ball's interior structure, the second material 22 for each panel 14 and 16 may be stitched together.

As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, the second material 22 is positioned between the holes 19 and the peripheral edges of the panels 14 and 16 such that it is coextensive with the stitching 18 of the ball as shown in FIG. 1. However, it is within the scope of the invention for the second material 22 to cover more or less of the panels 14 and 16 then shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. The width of second material 22 on each of panels 14 and 16 is preferably between approximately 3 to 12 millimeters, more preferably between approximately 5 to 8 millimeters, and most preferably approximately 5 millimeters. Thus, when the panels 14 and 16 are joined together at seam 20 the total width of second material 22 is preferably between approximately 6 to 24 millimeters, more preferably between approximately 10 to 16 millimeters, and most preferably approximately 10 millimeters. The thickness of the second material 22, or the distance from outer surfaces 14a and 16a to the top 22a of the second material 22, as shown in FIG. 4, is preferably between approximately 0.25 to 3 millimeters, and most preferably approximately 1.5 millimeters. Panels 14 and 16 may have any desirable thickness.

While game ball 10 is shown in FIGS. 1-6 as a baseball or softball formed from two panels 14 and 16 that are sewn together along a seam 20, other types of game balls are within the scope of the present invention. For example, soccer balls, volleyballs, basketballs, and footballs having an easy to grip second material 22, as described above, affixed to their outer surface adjacent to a seam are also within the scope of the present invention.

Referring now to FIGS. 7-9, a second embodiment of game ball according to the present invention is shown generally as 110. Game ball 110 has a stitchless cover 112 that is preferably molded. Stitchless, as used herein, encompasses a game ball that has simulated, molded stitches, as shown in FIG. 10 and described below. An outer surface 112a (FIG. 9) of cover 112 is preferably formed from a first material. A second material 114 is affixed to the outer surface of cover 112 in the same location as the seam on a conventional baseball or softball that is formed from two panels which are stitched together, such as the ball 10 shown in FIGS. 1-6. The second material 114, when positioned on a planar surface, has the same shape as the shape of the second material 22 that is shown in FIG. 5. Thus, the second material 114, when positioned on a planar surface, comprises a continuous strip in the general shape of a FIG. 8 having two generally semicircular ends, one of which is shown as 116 in FIG. 8, each integral with a pair of opposed concave sides 118 and 120. Preferably, the second material 114 has a width of between approximately 6 to 24 millimeters, more preferably between approximately 10 to 16 millimeters, and most preferably approximately 10 millimeters.

The first and second materials of ball 110 have the same properties as the first and second materials of ball 10 and preferably are each formed from one of the materials listed above for the first and second materials of ball 10. Most preferably, the first material making up the cover 112 of ball 110 is formed from thermoplastic polyurethane, polyurethane, rubber, ionomer, polyvinylchloride, or combinations thereof, which is molded over any type of interior structure to form a molded cover. The cover 112 of the ball 110 may also be formed from more than one material. For example, the cover 112 may comprise a backing material that is coated with one of the materials described above. The backing material may comprise a woven backing or be formed from full grain leather, split leather, or microfiber. The cover 112 may be injection molded over the interior structure of the ball. The cover 112 may also be formed from panels that are positioned over the ball's interior structure and thermally bonded to each other to present the outer cover 112. Most preferably, the second material 114 is formed from an ionomer, rubber, ink, silicone enhanced ink, paint, adhesive, polyurethane, polyvinylchloride, leather, synthetic leather, elastomer, or combinations thereof. The second material 114 is preferably silk screened, pad printed, coated, sprayed, adhered, bonded, chemically bonded, thermally bonded, or molded to the cover 112.

As described above with respect to ball 10, the second material 114 of ball 110 also preferably has a different color than the first material for the purpose of making it easier to identify the ball's rotation when thrown.

It is also within the scope of the present invention for the second material 114 to be positioned in a recess that is formed in cover 112. For example, the cover 112 may be skived, compressed, or otherwise reduced in thickness before the second material 114 is affixed to the reduced thickness portion of the cover 112. Alternatively, the second material 114 may be integrally molded with the remainder of the cover 112 such that the second material 114 is positioned directly adjacent to the interior structure of the ball and forms the entire thickness of cover 112 where it is positioned.

Referring now to FIG. 10, another embodiment of game ball according to the present invention is shown as 210. Game ball 210 is substantially similar to game ball 110 except that game ball 210 has raised, molded protrusions 212 extending outward from the ball's cover 214 in the same location as the stitches on a conventional baseball or softball that is formed from two panels which are stitched together, such as ball 10 shown in FIGS. 1-6. The protrusions 212 simulate the look and feel of the stitching on a conventional baseball or softball. Like game ball 110, the cover 214 of game ball 210 is formed from a first material, and a second material 216 is affixed to the outer surface of cover 214 in the same location as the seam on a conventional baseball or softball that is formed from two panels which are stitched together.

The first and second materials of ball 210 have the same properties as the first and second materials of balls 10 and 110 and preferably are each formed from one of the materials listed above for the first and second materials of balls 10 and 110. Most preferably, the first and second materials of ball 210 are formed from the same materials and in the same manner as described above with respect to ball 110. The molded protrusions 212 on ball 210 may be formed from the same material as either the first or second material, or they may be formed from a different material. Further, the molded protrusions 212 may be integrally molded with cover 214 during the cover's molding process. As described above with respect to ball 10, the second material 216 of ball 210 also preferably has a different color than the first material for the purpose of making it easier to identify the ball's rotation when thrown. The molded protrusions 212 may have the same color as the second material 216. However, it is also within the scope of the invention for the protrusions 212 to have the same color as the first material or a different color.

From the foregoing it will be seen that this invention is one well adapted to attain all ends and objectives herein-above set forth, together with the other advantages which are obvious and which are inherent to the invention.

Since many possible embodiments may be made of the invention without departing from the scope thereof, it is to be understood that all matters herein set forth or shown in the accompanying drawings are to be interpreted as illustrative, and not in a limiting sense.

While specific embodiments have been shown and discussed, various modifications may of course be made, and the invention is not limited to the specific forms or arrangement of parts and steps described herein, except insofar as such limitations are included in the following claims. Further, it will be understood that certain features and subcombinations are of utility and may be employed without reference to other features and subcombinations. This is contemplated by and is within the scope of the claims.