Title:
Training device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method for batting training includes an elongate member with a tensioning device having a first end connected to the elongate member, a first connector connected to a second end of the tensioning device, and a second connector connected to the elongate member. A ball is slidably engaged with the elongate member and the ball is hit on the upper half of the ball with a bat having a non-perforated striking end.



Inventors:
Bragg, David (Longview, WA, US)
Gaston, Jim (Rainier, OR, US)
Evitt, Gary (Castle Rock, WA, US)
Application Number:
10/639844
Publication Date:
02/19/2004
Filing Date:
08/12/2003
Assignee:
BRAGG DAVID
GASTON JIM
EVITT GARY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00; (IPC1-7): A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kevin L. Russell (Portland, OR, US)
Claims:
1. A batting trainer comprising: (a) an elongate member; (b) a tensioning device having a first end connected to said elongate member; (c) a first connector connected to a second end of said tensioning device; (d) a second connector connected to said elongate member; (e) a ball slidably engaged to said elongate member; and (f) a bat having a non-perforated striking end for hitting said ball on said elongate member.

2. The batting trainer of claim 1 wherein said tensioning device is a spring.

3. The batting trainer of claim 1 wherein said elongate member is a cable.

4. The batting trainer of claim 3 wherein said cable is coated with plastic.

5. The batting trainer of claim 1 wherein said first connector includes a swivel connection.

6. The batting trainer of claim 1 wherein said second connector includes a swivel connection.

7. The batting trainer of claim 1 further comprising: (a) a first support interconnected to said first connector supporting said elongate member above the ground; and (b) a second support interconnected to said second connector supporting said elongate member above the ground.

8. The batting trainer of claim 7 wherein said cable is under tension when supported between said first and second supports.

9. The batting trainer of claim 1 wherein a plurality of balls are slidably engaged to said elongate member.

10. The batting trainer of claim 1 wherein said elongate member is inclined with respect to the ground.

11. A method of batting training comprising: (a) providing an elongate member with a tensioning device having a first end connected to said elongate member, a first connector connected to a second end of said tensioning device, and a second connector connected to said elongate member; (b) slidably engaging a ball with said elongate member; and (c) hitting said ball with a bat having a non-perforated striking end for hitting said ball on said elongate member.

12. The method of claim 11 wherein said tensioning device is a spring.

13. The method of claim 11 wherein said elongate member is a cable.

14. The method of claim 13 wherein said cable is coated with plastic.

15. The method of claim 11 wherein said first connector includes a swivel connection.

16. The method of claim 11 wherein said second connector includes a swivel connection.

17. The method of claim 11 further comprising: (a) interconnecting a first support to said first connector supporting said elongate member above the ground; and (b) interconnecting a second support to said second connector supporting said elongate member above the ground.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein said cable is under tension when supported between said first and second supports.

19. The method of claim 11 wherein a plurality of balls are slidably engaged to said elongate member.

20. The method of claim 11 wherein said elongate member is inclined with respect to the ground.

21. A method of batting training comprising: (a) providing an elongate member with a tensioning device having a first end connected to said elongate member, a first connector connected to a second end of said tensioning device, and a second connector connected to said elongate member; (b) slidably engaging a ball with said elongate member; (c) hitting said ball with a bat having a non-perforated striking end for hitting said ball on said elongate member; and (d) wherein said hitting further comprises hitting the top half of said ball while being free from hitting the lower half of said ball.

22. The method of claim 21 wherein said tensioning device is a spring.

23. The method of claim 21 wherein said elongate member is a cable.

24. The method of claim 23 wherein said cable is coated with plastic.

25. The method of claim 21 wherein said first connector includes a swivel connection.

26. The method of claim 21 wherein said second connector includes a swivel connection.

27. The method of claim 21 further comprising: (a) interconnecting a first support to said first connector supporting said elongate member above the ground; and (b) interconnecting a second support to said second connector supporting said elongate member above the ground.

28. The method of claim 27 wherein said cable is under tension when supported between said first and second supports.

29. The method of claim 21 wherein a plurality of balls are slidably engaged to said elongate member.

30. The method of claim 21 wherein said elongate member is inclined with respect to the ground.

Description:

[0001] This is a continuation of application Ser. No. 09/705,650 filed Nov. 2, 2000.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to a ball training device.

[0003] In sports players are greatly benefitted by repetitive training of the particular motions required in the sport. With ball sports, however, repetitive exercises are hampered by the requirement for retrieving the ball after each execution of a particular exercise. There are several means of coping with ball retrieval, the most simple being to confine the ball in a small enclosure or with the aid of a backboard of some sort. For example, batters can bat a ball in a small cage. Complicated automatic ball retrieval and projectile systems, such as might be found in a batting cage, are available, but these devices tend to be large and expensive, and hence not readily accessible for general use.

[0004] Another option is to tether the ball in some fashion so that its range of motion is restricted. The use of elastic tethers ensures that the ball will eventually return to rest in the starting position, albeit with considerable rebound action.

[0005] One simple tethered-ball device is described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,948,150. The ball hangs via an elastic cord from an inverted “L” shaped support means. A horizontal surface at the tether point coupled to a flexible vertical rod acts to dampen the kinetic energy imparted by striking the ball. The horizontal surface also functions as a rebound surface and prevents the elastic cord and ball from wrapping around the horizontal support means. The entire device is attached to a net pole or a wall at a fixed height. One of the problems associated with vertically tethered devices is that the tether itself interferes with a downward strike on the ball. In addition, a stable mount is required and the ball is maintained in a stationary location to which the player must go to. An inherently bothersome feature of a tethered-ball device is the delay caused by waiting for the ball to come to rest before it can be struck again. Further, it is difficult to learn to strike a moving ball using a tethered ball.

[0006] With respect to baseball, one of the most difficult skills to master is hitting a pitched baseball. First, a hitter must be able to coordinate the swing of a bat with the location of a ball so that good contact with the ball can be made while swinging the bat. Once this is mastered, the hitter must next learn to make good contact with the ball at the various positions at which it may cross home plate, from an inside pitch to an outside pitch, and from a high pitch to a low pitch, and the various combinations of these two variables.

[0007] In the development of these skills, the trainer or coach often uses a baseball tee to support a ball at a selected height above a representation of the baseball home plate. The player then hits the ball. In this manner, the player can practice swinging and improve hand-to-eye coordination. Moreover, the player can develop his wrist and arm muscles as well as overall body mechanics.

[0008] Various practice batting tees have been developed in the past for this purpose. The practice tees developed to date, however, have limitations which have discouraged their overall acceptance in the baseball world. In some cases, the tees have been very expensive to produce, and the cost has been prohibitive for many of the smaller teams.

[0009] Many existing ball support devices for batting practice and the like, typically, comprise a support post which is adapted to be embedded in the ground or otherwise supported by a base so as to extend vertically upwards. The upper end of the post has a cup or dish-shaped member thereon which provides an upwardly facing concave surface in which the ball to be struck can be located. Devices of this nature are used to play various games and are used as training aids for young players who are not sufficiently well coordinated to play conventional baseball where the ball is thrown towards the batsman.

[0010] Most existing ball support devices have many limitations. Many of the limitations include, for example, (1) no ability to pitch the ball to the player, (2) must fetch the ball after striking the ball, (3) can not teach striking a ball that is coming down, such an overhand pitch, (4) difficult to teach proper striking of the top ½ of the ball, (5) need to constantly adjust the height of the ball to match the batter which is time consuming and troublesome, (6) the striking and replacement of a ball on the support takes considerable time and effort, and (7) the player is only working on the form necessary to strike a stationary ball as opposed to a moving ball.

[0011] What is desired, therefore, is a batting training device that is suitable for rapid repetitive training while simultaneously reinforcing proper batting technique.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] FIG. 1 is a pictorial view of an exemplary embodiment of a batting trainer of the present invention.

[0013] FIG. 2 is a pictorial view of the batting trainer of FIG. 1 illustrating the striking of a rising ball.

[0014] FIG. 3 is a pictorial view of the batting trainer of FIG. 1 illustrating the striking of a falling ball.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0015] Referring to FIG. 1 a batting trainer 10 includes a first connector 12 suitable to detachably connect to a first support 14. The first connector 12 may be any type of connector, such as for example, a swivel connector, a string tied in a knot, a handle, etc. The first support 14 may be any type of member or fixture that supports the batting trainer 10 at a location above the ground, such as for example, a post, a wall, a fence, and a person holding the terminal portion of the batting trainer. An extendable spring 16 is connected to the first connector 12. An elongate cable 18 is connected to the spring 16. The cable 18 may be any elongate somewhat flexible member, such as cable, string, wire, twine, rope, etc. The cable 18 is preferably plastic coated cable. Moreover, the support 14 may support the cable 18 above the ground with the first connector 12 tied to ground. Preferably, the batting trainer 10 includes only a single cable 18 (or multiple ones secured together to form a single cable 18) as opposed to multiple cables interconnected to the balls (described later). The spring 16 may be any type of device that maintains a tension on the cable 18. A second connector 22 is connected to the opposing end of the cable 18 from the first connector 12. The second connector 22 may be any type of connector, such as for example, a swivel connector, a string tied in a knot, a handle, etc. The second connector 22 is suitable to detachably connect to a second support 24. The second support 24 may be any type of member or fixture that supports the batting trainer 10 at a location above the ground, such as for example, a post, a wall, a fence, and a person holding the terminal portion of the batting trainer. Moreover, the support 24 may support the cable 18 above the ground with the second connector 22 tied to ground. The result of tensioning the batting trainer 10 between the pair of supports 14 and 24 together with the spring 16 helps maintain the cable 18 taught or otherwise tensioned. It is to be understood that additional members may be interconnected between the different portions of the batting trainer.

[0016] An adjustment mechanism 26 may be used to interconnect the cable 18 to the spring 16 (or first connector 12 or second connector 22 or any other member). The adjustment mechanism 26 permits the length of the cable 18 maintained in tension between the supports 14 and 24 to be adjusted. In this manner, the batting trainer 10 may be interconnected between supports 14 and 24 having a different spacing while still using the same batting trainer 10. The extra length 28 of cable 18 not currently being used may be wound up or simply left hanging. In this manner, the length of the batting trainer 10 may be adjusted to be suitable for whatever supports 14 and 24 are available.

[0017] One or more balls 20a, 20b, 20c, 20d, such as for example wiffle balls or pickle balls, are slidably engaged to the cable 18. Preferably, the cable 18 passes generally through the center of the balls 20 so that half of the ball is above the cable and half of the ball is below the cable, while the balls preferably freely rotate around the cable 18. It may be readily observed that the entire batting trainer 10 is portable by simply detaching it from the supports 14 and 24. A spacer may be provided between the balls and the adjustment mechanism.

[0018] To practice hitting the ball, especially for young children, the ball 20a is positioned at a position slightly spaced apart from the remaining balls 20b, 20c, 20d. The batter then attempts to strike the ball 20a with a bat (or other striking device) causing the ball 20a to slide down the cable 18 away from the remaining balls 20b, 20c, 20d. Next, the ball 20b is positioned at a position slightly spaced apart from the balls 20c, 20d (ball 20a already being hit to a distant position). The batter then attempts to strike the ball 20b causing the ball 20b to slide down the cable 18 away from the remaining balls 20c, 20d. This process is repeated for the remaining balls. This process of positioning the ball at a suitable position is especially suitable for teaching proper batting technique. Each ball may be quickly positioned by the batter or coach to a consistent position which is the same every time the batter swings at the ball. With such consistency of position, the batter may focus on proper bating technique. A fundamental principal in proper batting technique is to strike the top half of the ball 20 with the bat. With a cable 18 passing through the center of the ball 20 and the batter maintaining his bat at a position above the ball 20, the batter is simply unable to improperly strike the ball at a position on the lower half of the ball 20. In addition, the batter will likewise be unable to strike the ball 20 in the center of the ball 20 because of the position of the cable 18. If the batter strikes the cable 18 before striking the ball 20 then the batter has immediate feedback that he is striking the ball too low and may correct for such errors. When the ball is struck properly, namely the top ½ of the ball, the ball 20 will slide down the cable 18 away from the batter. In addition, including an elongate cable 18 encourages the batter to have a relatively level swing to avoid striking the cable, which is proper batting technique. The quick repetitive batting motion available with the batting trainer helps the batter improve his batting average and also reduces the time required for adequate training. Another benefit of having the ball 20 secured to the cable 18 is that the coach or batter will not have to chase down the ball 20, except for perhaps walking the length of the cable 18, which decreases the tedium of batting practice involved with collecting balls hit into the baseball field.

[0019] To the present inventors amazement, properly striking the ball 20 supported by the tensioned cable 18 results in the ball 20 sliding generally smoothly down the cable 18. In contrast, improperly striking the ball 20, such as hitting down on the ball supported by the tensioned cable 18 results in the cable 18 and ball 20 significantly oscillating in an up and down motion while the ball 20 does not travel far down the cable 18 in comparison to a properly struck ball. In this manner, the batter obtains nearly instantaneous feedback on whether or not a proper technique has been employed. After repeated striking of the balls together with observing the path of the ball, the batter will tend to automatically adjust his swing until a proper reaction of the ball is obtained. This automatic adjustment will occur even without the constant feedback of a coach, which is especially important for batting training where a qualified coach is not available. This likewise avoids reinforcing bad batting habits which are difficult to break later on.

[0020] To practice striking a moving ball, the coach (or other person) may slide the ball down the cable 18 toward the batter. The batter then attempts to strike the ball as it passes thereby sending the ball back along the cable 18. The batter may practice hitting pitches of different speeds by the coach simply varying the speed of the pitch. In addition, the incline of the cable 18 may be varied, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 to practice striking a rising ball and a falling ball, respectively. Further, the height of the batting trainer 10 may be adjusted to practice hitting low pitches and high pitches. Also, the distance that the ball travels on the cable 18 may be adjusted to further simulate a slow or fast pitch.

[0021] Another benefit of the batting trainer 10 is that the batter may readily stand on either side of the cable 18, thereby providing training for switch hitting. Also, the batter may readily train to hit inside or outside pitches by changing his position with respect to the cable 18. Further, the batting trainer is highly compact and may be set up nearly anywhere. In addition, the batting trainer is useful for all ball based activities, such as for example softball.

[0022] The terms and expressions which have been employed in the foregoing specification are used therein as terms of description and not of limitation, and there is no intention, in the use of such terms and expressions, of excluding equivalents of the features shown and described or portions thereof, it being recognized that the scope of the invention is defined and limited only by the claims which follow.