Title:
Swing training bat
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A swing training includes a bat body having a handle, a barrel and a tapered section joining the handle. The bat body is adapted for hitting a pitched ball. A locking grip is adjustably fixed to the handle and has a bottom end knob and a top end knob. A sliding grip is mounted on the handle and movable between the locking grip and the barrel. The sliding grip has a bottom end knob for stopping the movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the locking grip.



Inventors:
Forney, Jeffrey Andre (Gilbert, AZ, US)
Panuska, Brian (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Application Number:
11/131677
Publication Date:
02/02/2006
Filing Date:
05/17/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Richard E. Oney (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A swing training bat comprising: a bat body having a handle, a barrel and a tapered section joining the handle, the bat body being adapted for hitting a pitched ball; a locking grip adjustably fixed to the handle and having a bottom end knob and a top end knob; a sliding grip mounted on the handle and movable between the locking grip and the barrel; the sliding grip having a bottom end knob for stopping the movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the locking grip; and means for stopping movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the barrel.

2. The swing training bat of claim 1 wherein the bat body is fabricated from metal.

3. The swing training bat of claim 1 wherein the bat body is fabricated from aluminum.

4. The swing training bat of claim 1, wherein the barrel is hollow and bat includes weighted members adapted to be inserted and secured into barrel.

5. The swing training bat of claim 1, wherein the handle is hollow and the bat includes weighted members adapted to be inserted and secured into the handle.

6. The swing training bat of claim 1 further comprising an end knob that is removable and interchangeable with end knobs of differing weights.

7. The swing training bat of claim 1 wherein a person may place one hand on the locking grip and the other hand on the sliding grip and the person may simulate batting by swinging the bat while simultaneously moving the sliding grip along the bat body from a first position near the barrel to a second position near the locking grip.

8. The swing training bat of claim 1 wherein the locking grip comprises an end knob adapted to clamp the locking grip to the handle.

9. The swing training bat of claim 1 wherein the means for stopping movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the barrel comprises an end knob adapted to clamp the restrict the movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the barrel.

10. The swing training bat of claim 1 wherein the means for stopping movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the barrel comprises a collet secured to the bat body.

11. The article of claim 1 wherein the handle and the barrel are adapted to receive interchangeable weighted inserts.

12. The swing training bat of claim 1 wherein the locking grip and the sliding grip comprise aluminum.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION DATA

This application is based on and claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/571,627 filed on May 17, 2004, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by this reference.

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates to apparatus for developing a batter's swing mechanics in hitting a ball and for improving strength in the muscles used for hitting. More particularly, it relates to a swing training bat for baseball and softball that helps teach the batter the proper swing path to the baseball and to improve bat control, bat speed, and hand-eye coordination by conditioning and strengthening the muscles used for the swing as well as communicating to the brain and the neuromuscular system the proper feel of a good swing.

Baseball provides one of the toughest challenges in all of sports—hitting a spherical ball with a bat having a rounded striking surface. One of the greatest difficulties facing players is the proper swing mechanics to perform this daunting task, which ultimately measures ones success in the game. During a proper batting swing, various segments of the batter's body progress through sequence of accelerations and decelerations, i.e. a kinematic sequence, to transfer energy effectively from the ground through the body and into the bat. The muscles of each of these body segments contribute to the swing and must be trained in the proper kinematic sequence. Briefly described, the proper kinematic sequence occurs as follows: First, the pelvis begins rapidly rotating toward the pitcher, momentarily leaving the upper torso, shoulders and arms behind. After reaching its peak rotational speed, the pelvis rapidly decelerates and energy from the rotation of the pelvis is transferred to the shoulders. The shoulders in turn reach a higher peak rotational speed and then decelerate, passing their energy to the arms. The arms repeat this action passing their energy to the back, which reaches a peak rotational speed at a point in time very near to the time that the bat impacts the ball. This, in a layman's term, results in the “whipping” action of the bat.

Proper swing technique encompasses proper hand placement and body movement to provide the proper swing path, as well as optimal bat acceleration, and ample power to hit the ball. The upper cut swing is probably one the most incorrect swing paths that hitters use when trying to hit the baseball. This is when the head portion of the bat passes underneath the baseball resulting in no contact or improper contact. Another fundamental problem that hitters face is making contact with the ball along the heavier or “sweet spot” portion of the bat. This portion of the bat provides the most hitting surface and power. Players' swing paths and lack of strength through the impact zone is often the cause of this problem.

To increase the power of a batter's swing, one needs to increase the weight of the batter's bat as well as the speed of the bat swing at the point of impact with the ball. To do this, a batter needs to develop strength as well as bat speed. At the same time, the batter also must learn the proper mechanics of the swing. The best way to give the batter feedback as to whether he or she is using proper mechanics is to hit live pitching so that the batter can immediately see the results of the swing.

Previous devices to help improve a batter's swing are available, but they typically do not provide training for the proper swing mechanics, conditioning and strength training and feedback all in one device. Some swing trainers only help the batter to determine optimal bat acceleration or simply increase bat resistance by increasing the weight of the bat. A batter can increase muscle mass by increasing the weight of the bat he or she must swing, but still have poor swing technique. Further, bat acceleration can be achieved even if the batter's swing technique is poor. Therefore, none of the training bats described above is capable of teaching a batter proper swing technique.

One device, disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Pub. No. U.S. 2002/0055402, published May 9, 2002, discloses a swing trainer that can be used to improve a batter's swing mechanics as well as conditioning and strength. The device, however, cannot be used to hit live pitching and therefore lacks to simulate a true game batting situation and to provide feedback to the batter as to how well he or she is hitting the ball.

In view of the above discussion, there exists a need for an improved swing training bat that can provide training for the proper swing mechanics, conditioning and strength training and that also can be used to hit live pitching. Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide such a device.

It is another object of the invention to provide such a swing training bat that is readily adaptable to individual batters and allows for differences in age, body frame, height and strength.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a swing training bat that is relatively easy to manufacture and use.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a swing training bat that allows the batter to obtain immediate feedback to the batter as to how well he or she is actually hitting the ball.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a method for training the proper swing mechanics and for simultaneously providing conditioning and strength training as well as immediate feedback to the batter as to how well he or she is actually hitting the ball.

Additional objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description that follows, and in part will be apparent from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and obtained by the instrumentalities and combinations pointed out herein.

SUMMARY

To achieve the foregoing objects, and in accordance with the purposes of the invention as embodied and broadly described in this document, there is provided a swing training bat including a bat body having a handle, a barrel and a tapered section joining the handle. The bat body is adapted for hitting a pitched ball. A locking grip is adjustably fixed to the handle and has a bottom end knob and a top end knob. A sliding grip is mounted on the handle and movable between the locking grip and the barrel. The sliding grip has a bottom end knob for stopping the movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the locking grip. The bat includes means for stopping movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the barrel.

In one advantageous embodiment, the bat body is fabricated from a suitable metal, such as aluminum. The handle and the barrel are adapted to receive interchangeable weighted inserts. The barrel is hollow and bat includes weighted members adapted to be inserted and secured into the barrel. Likewise, the handle is hollow and the bat includes weighted members adapted to be inserted and secured into the handle. The handle can have an end knob that is removable and interchangeable with end knobs of differing weights. The locking grip and the sliding grip can be fabricated from aluminum.

A batter may place one hand on the locking grip and the other hand on the sliding grip and the person may simulate batting by swinging the bat while simultaneously moving the sliding grip along the bat body from a first position near the barrel to a second position near the locking grip. The locking grip can include an end knob adapted to clamp the locking grip to the handle. The means for stopping movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the barrel can include an end knob adapted to restrict the movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the barrel. The means for stopping movement of the sliding grip in the direction of the barrel can include a collet secured to the bat body.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of the specification, illustrate the presently preferred methods and embodiments of the invention and, together with the general description given above and the detailed description of the preferred methods and embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of one embodiment of a swing training bat according to the present invention with a partial sectional view showing the structure of the bat body with the locking and sliding grips in place on the bat handle.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the locking grip shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view taken through line 33 of FIG. 2 showing the structure of one of the locking grip end knobs.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the sliding grip shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a side view of the end knob of the bat of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a top view of the end knob of the bat of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a swing training bat according to the present invention.

FIG. 8 is an enlarged view of the top end knob of the locking grip shown in FIG. 7, showing how the locking grip is held in a fixed position on the bat handle.

FIGS. 9A-E show a batter swinging the embodiment of FIG. 1 with one hand on the locked grip and the other hand on the sliding grip, progressing from the starting position (FIG. 9A), to a position where the batter begins sliding the sliding grip down the bat handle toward the locked grip (FIG. 9B), to a mid-point of the swing (FIG. 9C), to a position where the sliding grip contacts the locked grip (FIG. 9D) and to the completion of the swing (FIG. 9E).

DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIG. 1, one embodiment of a swing training bat 10 in accordance with the present invention is depicted. The swing training bat 10 has a body 11 familiar ball bat shape with a generally-cylindrical handle 12 at one end and a generally-cylindrical barrel 14 at the other to provide an impact area for striking a ball. A tapered section 13 connects the smaller diameter handle 12 to the larger diameter barrel 14. The bat body 11 is of hollow construction using metal or other suitable materials, as is known in the art. A barrel end cap 15 is fixed to the end of the barrel 14. A bat end knob 16 is fixed to end of the handle 12. A tubular locking grip 18 is fixed over the shaft 12 near the end knob 16. The locking grip 18 has a bottom annular end knob 20, a top annular end knob 22 and a tubular gripping member 24 for a batter to grip with his or her bottom hand. A tubular sliding grip 26 is mounted over the shaft 12 so that it can move along the shaft 12 between the barrel 14 and the locking grip top end knob 22. The bat increased diameter of tapered section 13 acts as a stop to restrict the sliding grip 26 from sliding too far toward the barrel 14. The sliding grip 26 also includes a bottom annular end knob 28 and a top annular end knob 30, similar to the locking grip 18, as well as a gripping portion 32 for a batter to grip with his or her top hand. The handle gripping portions 24, 32 may be covered with a leather or fabric wrap, foam grip, or other suitable grip material. Preferably, the handle gripping portions 24, 32 have the same diameter and the covering for each is the substantially the same. One or both of the handle gripping portions 24, 32 can be provided with grooves for proper finger and hand alignment.

The barrel end cap 15 is fixed to the end of the barrel 14, such as by welding or any other suitable means known in the art for attaching an end cap to a bat barrel so that it can withstand the impact of hitting live pitching. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, the end cap 15 has a threaded portion 17 complementary to a threaded opening 19 in the end of barrel 14 such that the end cap 15 can be screwed into the end of the barrel 14. The barrel end cap 15 has a threaded bore 30 for receiving a removable weighted barrel plug 31. The barrel plug 31 is removable so that plugs of various weights can be used to provide different weight loads to the barrel 14.

The grips 18, 26 are made of a durable material that is capable of withstanding repetitive impacts of hitting live pitching with the swing training bat 10. One suitable material is aluminum. Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, one embodiment of a locking grip 18 suitable for fabrication from aluminum is shown in more detail. As shown in FIG. 2, the locking grip bottom end knob 20, gripping portion 24 and top end knob 22 are fabricated as a unitary piece. An axial bore 34 extends through the locking grip 18 and each of the end knobs 20, 22. The locking grip bore 34 is sized to closely accept the handle 12 and to allow the locking grip 18 to easily be moved along the length of the handle 12 so that the position of the locking grip 18 along the bat handle 12 can be adjusted.

Still referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, the axial bore 34 forms apertures 36, 38 in the end knobs 20, 22, respectively. The size of the end knob apertures 36, 38 can be adjusted so that each of the end knobs 20, 22 clamps onto the bat handle 12 and lock the locking grip 18 in a fixed position on the bat handle 12. Each end knob 20, 22 is split by a slot 40 in the end knob 20, 22 that extends from an outer surface 42 of the end knob 20, 22 to the aperture 36, 38 in a plane that is generally parallel to and intersects the grip longitudinal axis A. A threaded clamping screw hole 44 is disposed in each of the end knobs 20, 22 for accepting a clamping screw or bolt 46. The screw holes 44 are generally perpendicular to and extend across the slots 40. The screw holes 44 are threaded and sized to accept the clamping screw 46 and includes a countersink 48 so that the heads of the clamping screws 46 do not protrude beyond the end knob outer surface 42 when the clamping screw tightened in the screw hole 44. Parting cuts 50 are disposed in an outer peripheral portion of the end knobs 20, 22. Each of the parting cuts 50 lies in a plane that is generally parallel to and intersects the grip longitudinal axis A. A transverse slot 52 is formed in the gripping member 24 adjacent each of the end knobs 20, 22 and in a plane generally perpendicular to grip longitudinal axis A. The transverse slots 52 extend slightly more than half way across the diameter of the gripping member 24. The transverse slots 52 serves to separate a generally semicircular portion of the end knobs 20, 22 from the gripping member 24. The transverse slots 52 and the parting cuts 50 allow the split end knobs 20, 22 to act as clamps by reducing the size of the end knob apertures 36, 38 as the clamping screws 46 are tightened in the screw holes 44, causing the annular end knobs 20, 22 to clamp tightly onto the bat handle 12. In this configuration, the end knobs 20, 22 can function as clamps to lock the locking grip 18 in place on the bat handle 12. By loosening the clamping screws 46, the position of the locking grip 18 can be adjusted on the bat handle 12 before locking it in place. This allows a batter to adjust the position of his or her lower hand on the bat 10, depending on the needs and demands of the batter.

Referring to FIG. 4, an embodiment of a sliding grip 26 suitable for fabrication from aluminum is shown in more detail. As shown in FIG. 4, the sliding grip bottom end knob 28, gripping portion 32 and top end knob 30 are fabricated as a unitary piece. An axial bore 54 extends through the sliding grip 26 and each of the end knobs 28, 30. The sliding grip bore 54 is sized to closely accept the handle 12 and to allow the sliding grip 26 to easily be moved along the length of the handle 12. The axial bore 54 includes a tapered section 56 near the top end knob 30 to accommodate at least a portion of the enlarged diameter of the bat tapered section 13. Preferably, the axial bore 54 is coated with a material to reduce friction with the handle 12, such as a Teflon coating. The top end knob 30 has a construction similar to that previously described for the locking grip end knobs 20, 22. This allows the size of the top end knob aperture 58 to be adjusted so that the end knob 30 can act as a stop to prevent the sliding grip 26 from sliding beyond a point on the bat body 11 having a diameter greater than that of the end knob aperture 58.

Referring to FIGS. 5 and 6, an embodiment of the bat end knob is shown in more detail. The end knob 16 includes a knob portion 60 and a weighted rod 62. A part of the weighted rod 62 is provided with screw threads 64. The interior of the bat handle 12 is hollow to accommodate of the rod 62. The rod 62 may vary in weight and length to provide end knobs 16 of different weights. The rod 62 terminates in a screwdriver tool 70 for tightening the clamping screws on the grips 18, 26. The end of the bat handle 12 includes a threaded hole (not shown), with threads complementary to the end knob screw threads 64, into which the end knob 16 may be screwed to secure the end knob 16 to the end of the bat handle 12. An elastomeric O-ring 68 positioned adjacent the screw threads 64 can be used to help secure the end knob 16 so that it does not come loose during use of the swing training bat 10. When the end knob 16 is screwed into the handle 12 in this manner, the end knob weighted rod 62 extends into the interior of the shaft 12. End knobs having different weights can be used to provide more or less weight in the shaft 12 and to adjust the balance of the swing training bat 10, depending on the needs and demands of the batter.

The swing training bat 10 of FIG. 1 is assembled for use by sliding the sliding grip 26 onto the bat handle 12 then mounting the locking grip 18 on the bat handle between the sliding grip 26 and the end of the bat handle 12. The locking grip 18 is positioned on the bat handle 12 and locked by tightening clamping screws (not shown). A barrel plug 31 of the desired weight is screwed into the end cap 15 and an end knob 16 of the desired weight is screwed into the bat handle 12. The weights of the barrel plug 31 and end knob 16 are selected to provide the desired overall bat weight and to counterbalance each other so as to give the training bat 10 a balance similar to that of a bat used in a game situation.

Referring to FIGS. 7 and 8, another embodiment of the swing training bat 10 is shown. In this embodiment the swing training bat 10 includes a bat body 11, barrel end cap 15, end knob 16 similar to the embodiment of FIG. 1. The locking grip 18 has a bottom annular end knob 20, a top annular end knob 22 and a gripping portion 24 for a batter to grip with his or her bottom hand similar to the embodiment of FIG. 1, but the end knobs are not designed to clamp the batting handle 12. Instead, pin 80 is inserted through a hole in the handle 12. The pin seats in a groove 82 in the top of the locking grip end knob 22 to prevent the locking grip from sliding up the handle 12. A spacer ring 84 is positioned on the handle 11 between the locking handle lower end knob and the bat end knob 16 to prevent the locking grip 18 from sliding toward the end knob 16. The sliding grip 26 is mounted over the handle 12, as previously described, so that it can move along the shaft 12 between the barrel 14 and the locking grip top end knob 22. An adjustable collet 86 serves as an upper stop for the sliding grip 26. The spacer ring 84 and collet 86 can be made of plastic or any other suitable material.

Referring to FIGS. 9A-E, a typical use of the swing training bat 10 is shown. A batter 100 grips the swing training bat 10 with the bottom hand 102 on the locking grip 18 and the top hand 104 on the sliding grip 26. In the initial or starting position, as shown in FIG. 10A, the user moves the sliding grip 26 toward the barrel 14 until the user reaches a comfortable arm extension or the sliding grip 26 reaches its stopping point on the bat tapered section 13. Thus in the starting position, the user's hands are spaced apart, the spacing varying depending on the user's size and reach.

As the batter begins to swing the bat 10, the sliding grip 26 is moved along the shaft 12 toward the locking grip 18, as shown in FIG. 9B. As the batter continues the swing (see FIG. 9C), the sliding grip 26 is moved further along the shaft 12 until the sliding grip 26 is stopped by the locking grip top end knob 22. The sliding grip allows the batter to learn to maintain better leverage and control over the bat barrel and helps develop the desired swing mechanics. The sliding action of the sliding grip 26 helps teach the batter to bring the bat through the swing so that the barrel 14 meets the ball squarely. This action helps prevent the top wrist from rolling over (see FIG. 9D). If a batter breaks his or her top wrist or rolls it over prematurely, the bat will slow down and reduce the torque generated by the batter. By maintaining a stiff wrist or a square bat head at the point of impact, this helps the batter can generate greater torque and increase his or her maximal rotational speed. Because of the mechanics and the rotational motion of the body, a delayed breaking of the wrist angle can cause a significant increase in bat speed. As the swing progresses the bat barrel 14 lags behind, but now as the upper body and the torso and the arms are propelling forward at maximal speed, they create a whipping action causing the bat barrel to speed up greatly (FIG. 9D).

At the completion of the swing, as shown in FIG. 9E, the batter's hands 102, 104 are in close proximity, much like on a conventional baseball bat. At this point, the sliding grip bottom knob 28 contacts the locked handle top knob 22.

Using the bat in this manner causes the batter to swing the bat barrel 14 with the proper neuromuscular mechanics described above. The counterbalance action of the swing training bat 10 recruits the proper muscle groups that drive the bat head toward the ball. By adjusting the removable weights, the balance of the swing training bat 10 can be adjusted to be more like that of a conventional bat than previous swing training devices

Significantly, because the swing training bat body 11 utilizes the shape of a conventional bat, it can be used to hit “live” pitching, i.e. balls pitched by a person or a pitching machine. This allows the user to more closely simulate a game batting situation, to teach the body the neuromuscular mechanics used during the actual game movement or skill movement and to get immediate feedback as to the effectiveness of the swing.

When used as described herein, the swing training bat 10 helps improve the biomechanics of the batter's swing. It helps the batter to develop a smooth, precise swing and teaches the batter to take the bat head directly to the baseball. It helps the batter to use the correct body movement to generate torque around a center axis running down through the middle of the body to provide maximum rotation speed and increase the force at impact with the ball. Adjusting the weight of the bat, balancing the bat using the weight counterbalance system and using the leverage provided from the sliding action of the sliding grip helps the batter to stay fixed on a center swing axis and develop more torque with his or her body, thereby creating a whipping action in the swing.

With repetitive practice swings using the trainer 10, proper form and technique should eventually become sufficiently developed so that the person will duplicate such form and technique when swinging a conventional baseball bat. As the user becomes increasingly proficient using the swing trainer 10, the user can increase the weight of the swing training bat 10 while still maintaining a proper bat balance by increasing the weight in the barrel 16 and the counterbalancing weight in the handle 12. As a user's skill and physical requirements change, the position of the locking grip 18 on the handle 12 can be altered to accommodate the changes.

From the foregoing, it can be seen that the present invention provides a number of advantages. Using the swing training bat and method of the invention, an inexperienced batter can learn how to swing a bat properly and with the correct technique. Similarly, an experienced batter can use the trainer to improve his or her current swing technique or to increase the power behind an already perfected swing. It can be used to hit live pitching, thereby providing immediate instructional feedback as the batter sees the ball come off the bat. The counterbalanced weighting system of the bat can be used to increase the batter's strength and conditioning while at the same time providing proper bat balance and “feel.” The bat promotes driving the barrel directly to the baseball and in toward the body to generate more torque. The swing training bat puts the body in the proper torque position, which is crucial to any effective swing. The swing training bat helps to create a square impact by teaching the batter not to break his or her wrists until after contact with the ball. The bat can be used to improve a batter's swing, strength, mechanics and power, regardless of the ability level or age of the batter.

While certain preferred embodiments and methods of the invention have been described, these have been presented by way of example only, and are not intended to limit the scope of the present invention. Additional advantages and modifications will readily occur to those skilled in the art. Therefore, the invention in its broader aspects is not limited to the specific embodiments, methods and conditions described herein, which are not meant to and should not be construed to limit the scope of the invention. Accordingly, departures may be made from such embodiments and methods, variations may be made from such conditions, and deviations may be made from the details described herein without departing from the spirit or scope of the general inventive concept as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.