Title:
Balls for use in baseball and softball
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Balls are provided for use in baseball or softball, including, for example, a solid sphere, an outer shell of a foamed material, covering the solid sphere, and a material covering the outer surface of the shell. Methods for making a ball and a ball core are also described.



Inventors:
Chan, Chong Veng (NT, HK)
Application Number:
10/641271
Publication Date:
07/22/2004
Filing Date:
08/14/2003
Assignee:
CHAN CHONG VENG
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B37/12; A63B45/00; (IPC1-7): A63B37/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20120052975Mr. "V" Right or Left Handed Putter Negative LoftMarch, 2012Vlosich
20130237343MULTI-LAYER GOLF BALL PROVIDING IMPROVED SPEEDSeptember, 2013Snell et al.
20100179003GOLF TEEJuly, 2010Steinhobel
20100056288WRIST POSITIONING ATHLETIC DEVICEMarch, 2010Baker
20170136334DEVICE TO PRACTICE BALL KICK-UPSMay, 2017Manzano Santaella et al.
20030078116Isophthalic acid polyamide polymer for use in golf ball covers or mantlesApril, 2003Thomas III et al.
20020016230Baseball or softball batFebruary, 2002Okuyama et al.
20120083356METHOD OF PUTTING AND A PUTTERApril, 2012Arnette
20030211908RacketNovember, 2003Matsumoto
20060094545Tennis ball retrieverMay, 2006Blades
20080051207Convertible golf bag base and putting greenFebruary, 2008Leslie



Primary Examiner:
ROSSI, JESSICA L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FISH & RICHARDSON P.C. (BO) (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A ball for use in baseball or softball comprising: (a) an inner sphere, (b) an outer shell of a foamed material, covering the inner sphere, and (c) a material covering the outer surface of the shell.

2. The ball of claim 1 wherein the inner sphere is solid.

3. The ball of claim 1 wherein said sphere comprises a mixture of a polymer and pieces of cork.

4. The ball of claim 3 wherein the polymer comprises rubber.

5. The ball of claim 1 wherein the outer shell comprises a polymer selected from the group consisting of polyurethane, EVA, and mixtures thereof.

6. The ball of claim 1 wherein the material covering the outer surface of the shell comprises two panels of material that are stitched together.

7. The ball of claim 1 wherein the material covering the outer surface of the shell is selected from the group consisting of genuine leather, fabric, rubber, PVC, PU, and TPU.

8. The ball of claim 7 wherein the two panels comprise sheets of fabric material with an EVA foam backing.

9. The ball of claim 8 wherein the two panels are bonded by an extra knitted fabric along the edges and stitched together to provide a high seam effect.

10. The ball of claim 1 wherein said material covering the outer surface of the shell comprises a layer of rubber molded and vulcanized over the surface.

11. A method of making a ball for use in softball or baseball, comprising the steps of: a) blending a core polymer with pieces of cork to form a blended mixture; b) molding and heating the blended mixture to form a sphere; c) injecting a foamable polymer into a mold under conditions so that the polymer will form a foam shell; and d) applying the foam shell to the sphere.

12. The method of claim 11 wherein the sphere is solid.

13. The method of claim 11 further comprising (e) molding and heating the sphere and the shell to form a core suitable for use in a ball.

14. The method of claim 11 wherein the applying step includes applying an adhesive to a surface of the solid sphere.

15. The method of claim 11 wherein the core polymer comprises rubber.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein the molding step further comprises vulcanizing the rubber.

17. The method of claim 11 wherein the injecting step includes forming two hemispherical shell portions.

18. The method of claim 13 further comprising wrapping said core with a cover.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein said wrapping step comprises wrapping said ball material with two panels of fabric material with EVA foam backing.

20. The method of claim 19 further comprising bonding the panels by an extra knitted fabric along the edges and stitching together to provide a high seam effect.

21. The method of claim 18 wherein said wrapping step comprises wrapping said ball material with a rubber layer.

22. The method of claim 21 further comprising vulcanizing said rubber layer.

Description:

[0001] This application calims benefit from U.S. Provisional Applciation No. 60/440,518, filed Jan. 16, 2003.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] This invention relates to balls for use in baseball and softball.

BACKGROUND

[0003] The invention relates to balls, e.g., substitute baseballs, softballs and the like, and to methods for making balls.

[0004] Regulation baseballs and softballs typically include a cork and rubber core surrounded with yarn windings and a leather cover. Regulation baseballs and softballs are quite hard and can cause serious injury, especially to younger and/or inexperienced ballplayers. It is therefore desirable to significantly reduce the chance of injury by providing balls that are softer. Various substitute baseballs and softballs have been proposed to address the need for balls that are softer and thus safer than regulation balls. It is important, however, to maintain the performance, durability, and the “look and feel” of substitute balls so that they can function as suitable training balls, and so that the players' enjoyment of the game is not diminished by the feeling that the ball is not a regulation ball.

[0005] One type of ball that has been used for baseball and softball training and recreation includes a mixed rubber and cork core in a hollow sphere form with a layer covering the sphere. The softness and bounce of the ball can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number and the size of the pieces of cork in the mixture, and/or by adjusting the wall thickness of the hollow sphere. When struck by a bat, these balls generally sound to the players similar to that of the regulation balls discussed above. However, after certain types of impacts, such as the ball being hit by the bat, the mixed rubber and cork core can be shattered or cracked apart easily. In order to increase durability, the hollow core may be replaced by a solid core. However, this will produce a relative increase in hardness which may compromise safety.

[0006] Others types of baseballs include a core formed of a softer material, such as urethane foam, polyurethane (PU) foam, or rubber foam. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,772,019 discloses a game ball formed with a soft, resilient, substantially closed-cell plastic foam core. These balls can be adjusted to be softer than those having a mixed rubber/cork core, and will typically last longer by comparison, but do not provide the player with the feel of a regulation ball while playing.

SUMMARY

[0007] In one aspect, the invention features a ball for use in baseball or softball including an inner sphere, an outer shell of a foamed material, covering the solid sphere, and a material covering the outer surface of the shell.

[0008] Embodiments may include one or more of the followings features. The inner sphere is solid. The sphere includes a mixture of a polymer and pieces of cork. The polymer is selected from the group consisting of polyurethane, rubber, and mixtures thereof. The outer shell comprises a polymer selected from the group consisting of polyurethane, EVA, and mixtures thereof. The material covering the outer surface of the shell comprises two panels of material that are stitched together. The material covering the outer surface of the shell is selected from the group consisting of genuine leather, rubber, fabric, PVC, PU, and TPU. The two panels comprise sheets of fabric material with an EVA foam backing. The two panels are bonded by an extra knitted fabric along the edges and stitched together to provide a high seam effect. The material covering the outer surface of the shell includes a layer of rubber molded and vulcanized over the surface. The ball has the dimensions and appearance of a regulation ball.

[0009] In another aspect, the invention features a method of making a ball for use in softball or baseball, including: (a) blending a core polymer with pieces of cork to form a blended mixture; (b) molding and heating the blended mixture to form a sphere; (c) injecting a foamable polymer into a mold under conditions so that the polymer will form a foam shell; and (d) applying the foam shell to the sphere.

[0010] Embodiments of this aspect of the invention may include one or more of the following features. The sphere is solid. The method further includes (e) molding and heating the sphere and the shell to form a core suitable for use in a ball. The applying step includes applying an adhesive to a surface of the solid sphere. The core polymer includes rubber. The molding step further comprises vulcanizing the rubber. The core polymer may include polyurethane. The injecting step includes forming two hemispherical shell portions. The method further includes wrapping the core with a cover. The wrapping step comprises wrapping the ball material with two panels of fabric material with EVA foam backing. The method further includes bonding the panels by an extra knitted fabric along the edges and stitching together to provide a high seam effect. The wrapping step includes wrapping the ball material with a rubber layer. The method further includes vulcanizing the rubber layer.

[0011] Among the advantages of the invention are the following. The balls have good durability and safety. The characteristics of the foamed shell can be controlled over a broad range that allows the amount of rebound or bounce of the ball to be accurately controlled by changing the foam density. The inclusion of the foam shell tends to reduce the chance of injury to a player struck by the ball, compared, for example, with a ball having the whole core made from solid rubber. Moreover, the foamed material is softer than the inner sphere of the core and thus can absorb the external impacts, e.g. baseball batting. The balls can generally be played for a longer time than a similar ball without the foamed shell. In embodiments in which the solid inner sphere is made of a mixture of rubber or polyurethane and cork, the ball will generally produce a crack sound similar to that produced by a regulation baseball or softball. In some implementations, the ball has a feel that is similar to that of a regulation baseball or softball, which will tend to increase the players' enjoyment of the game.

[0012] To further enhance the safety of the invention for the young players, especially for children, in some implementations the ball is covered by a layer of fabric with EVA foam backing. A fabric cover with an EVA foam backing provides further softness of the ball for the players. Extra cloth may be bound along the edges of the fabric panels, to create a high seam effect after the edges of the fabric panels are stitched together. This high seam effect provides good gripping and control for a beginner or trainee.

[0013] The details of one or more embodiments of the invention are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0014] FIG. 1 is a view of a ball.

[0015] FIG. 2 is a view of a core of a ball.

[0016] FIGS. 3A-3B are a cross-sectional view of a mold to an inner sphere of the core.

[0017] FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a method of making a core shell.

[0018] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of forming the sphere.

[0019] FIG. 6 is a view of a second example of a ball.

[0020] FIG. 7 is a view of a third example of a ball.

[0021] Like reference symbols in the various drawings indicate like elements.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0022] Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, a ball 14, used in baseball or softball, includes a core 10. Core 10 is covered with two panels 15, 16 that are stitched together with a durable thread 17 (e.g., nylon, polyester or vinyl thread). Core 10 includes a solid, inner sphere 13 placed within two hemispherical outer core shells 11, 12, each having a wall thickness T.

[0023] The construction of core 10 and the material used to form core 10 enables a ball to be durable and safe while also providing the “look and feel” of a regulation ball.

[0024] The inner sphere is formed of a mixture of a polymer, such as polyurethane or rubber, and pieces of cork. The cork pieces may be of any desired size. The polymer mixture generally includes other, non-resilient, processing components that are selected to bind the pieces of cork together upon heating of the polymer mixture. The inner sphere preferably has a diameter of about 3.0-8.0 cm, and weighs about 50-80 grams.

[0025] The outer shell is formed of a foamed polymeric material, preferably polyurethane or ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). The outer shell preferably has a wall thickness T of 1.0-2.0 cm, and weighs about 50-90 grams. Examples of suitable properties for a 9″ baseball and a 12″ softball are given below. The density of the outer shell and/or the inner sphere may vary for balls of other sizes.

[0026] 9″ Baseball:

[0027] Whole core diameter—7.07-7.18 cm

[0028] Whole core weight—104-114 gm

[0029] Thickness of the outer shell—1.0 cm

[0030] Density of the shell—0.4-0.54 gm/cm3

[0031] Density of the inner sphere—0.7-0.84 gm/cm3

[0032] C.O.R.—0.42*

[0033] 12″ Softball:

[0034] Whole core diameter—9.4-9.5 cm

[0035] Whole core weight—136-144 gm

[0036] Thickness of the outer shell—1.2 cm

[0037] Density of the shell—0.2-0.37 gm/cm3

[0038] Density of the inner sphere—0.28-0.45 gm/cm3

[0039] C.O.R.—0.53*

[0040] * C.O.R. (Coefficient of Rebounce) is equal to the measured rebounce of a ball after a free drop to the ground from 2 meter height.

[0041] The density and bounce characteristics can be changed to suit particular applications. For example, the density of the outer shell can be varied by adjusting the amount of sponging agent included in the foamed polymeric material, while the density of the inner sphere can be varied by adjusting the size and/or number of the cork pieces.

[0042] The shell is generally adhered to the outer surface of the inner sphere by an adhesive or glue, as will be described below. However, if desired, other techniques of joining the sphere and shell may be employed.

[0043] The core (inner sphere and shell) preferably weighs about 100-170 grams in total, depending on the requirements of the players.

[0044] The cover is made of a sheet material such as genuine leather, fabric, poly vinyl chloride (PVC), poly urethane (PU), or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). The cover may consist of separate panels of material stitched together or may be formed from molded rubber.

[0045] Referring to FIGS. 3A-3B, inner sphere 13 is formed by forming a mixture 26 such as mixing rubber and cork (for a baseball), or a urea/melamine adhesive and latex blend and cork (for a softball), together with other process components (see examples below) that bind the cork and polymer together by open rolling and kneading. For example, in constructing a baseball, mixture 26 has the following ingredients: 1

ComponentWeight (g)Weight %
Natural Rubber4.257.359
Reclaimed (Natural) Rubber12.7422.061
Light Calcium3.776.528
Yellow Oil0.420.727
Sulfur0.510.883
Zinc Oxide0.681.177
Stearic Acid0.510.883
Dibenzothiozyl Disulfide0.310.537
Accelerator for Rubbers0.250.433
Rubber anti-aging agent0.340.589
Cork33.9758.823

[0046] In another example, in constructing a softball, mixture 26 has the following ingredients: 2

ComponentWeight (g)Weight %
Cork67.3376.338
Urea-melamine Adhesive13.4715.272
Latex6.737.630
Anti-bacteria agent0.670.760

[0047] Mixture 26 is placed into a concave hemispherical mold 27 and covered by another concave hemispherical mold 28. The two concave hemispherical molds 27, 28 are locked together by clamps 29 and 30 to mold the mixture 26 inside in a solid spherical shape. Mixture 26 is heated in molds 27, 28, e.g., at 140° C. for 15-20 minutes. The molded mixture 26 is cooled and removed from molds 27, 28 to form inner sphere 13. In this embodiment, inner sphere 13 has a diameter of 3.0-5.3 cm for a baseball and 5.7-8.0 cm for a softball.

[0048] Referring to FIG. 4, two hemispherical core shells, 11, 12 are formed by mixing together polyurethane along with other components, such as those shown below to form a polyurethane mixture 31. For example, in constructing a baseball or softball, the following ingredients may be used to form mixture 31. 3

ComponentRatio (g)
Polyether Polyol100
Methylene Bisphenyl Isocyanate (MDI)20-55
Water0.5-2.5
Diazobicyclo(2.2.2)octance (DABCO)0.1-0.3
Dibutyltin Dilaurate (T-9)0.08-0.23
Silicone oil0.2-0.8

[0049] In the aforesaid formula, water is used as a sponging agent, DABCO & T-9 as an accelerator, and silicone oil as a stabilizer.

[0050] Mixture 31, in liquid form, is injected into a set of molds 32 (FIG. 4). Heating mixture 31 at 50° C. for 15-20 minutes inside mold 32 causes a chemical reaction, causing mixture 31 to foam. The mixture is allowed to fill the mold, after which the finished hemispherical shell is removed from the molds to form outer shell 12. The process is repeated to form outer shell 11. In this embodiment, the hemispherical shell has a wall thickness of 1.0-2.0 cm.

[0051] Referring to FIGS. 5A and 5B, circumferential edges 33 &34 of the resulting hemispherical shells are sanded to provide a rough surface. A thin glue or adhesive 35, which is a kind of glue as well as a curing agent under the heating process described hereunder, is applied over the surface of the inner sphere 13 and the inner surfaces of the hemispherical outer shell 11 and 12 respectively and then heated at a temperature of 70° C. for 10 minutes to accelerate the curing process. The inner sphere 13 is placed on the inner surface of hemispherical outer shell 12 and covered by hemispherical outer shell 11 (FIG. 5) for another 10 minutes while the curing process is still going on. The inner sphere 13 and the outer shells 11 and 12 are then adhered under the curing process and core 10 is formed. The outer surface of the resulting core 10 is buffed and sanded. Core 10 is covered by panels 15, 16 which are stitched together.

[0052] In other embodiments, core 10 can be placed in other constructed balls. For example, in FIG. 6, a ball 18 is formed by covering core 10 with two panels of material 19, 20, e.g. knitted fabric and an EVA backing, that are bonded together by an extra knitted fabric 21 and stitched together with durable thread 22 (e.g., nylon, polyester or vinyl thread). The material is formed by laminating a layer of EVA foam underneath a fabric sheet. The material is cut into two panels in the shape of regular baseball or softball cover. The edge of each fabric panel is then bound by the extra cloth 21, and the edges of the fabric panels are stitched together so as to form a ball cover having a high seam effect, i.e., the seam is raised above the surface of the ball, due to the extra cloth layer at the seam.

[0053] In another embodiment, a ball 23 is formed by covering core 10 with a layer of rubber 24 that is molded with a raised stitching pattern 25 to simulate the stitching of a regulation baseball or softball.

[0054] A number of embodiments of the invention have been described. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims.