Title:
Baseball batting training device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A training device for baseball batting is described. The training device includes an upper rail and a lower rail supported in fixed relationship to each other by a plurality of rail supports. A plurality of legs support the rails and rail supports at a height above the ground that allows a batter to swing a bat between the rails using a natural batting swing. A plurality of resistance members are disposed between the rails to provide resistance as a batter swings the bat along a swing path between the rails.



Inventors:
Marchel, Stephen Lewis (Margate, NJ, US)
Application Number:
10/973489
Publication Date:
04/27/2006
Filing Date:
10/26/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/451, 473/453
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
IP GROUP OF DLA PIPER LLP (US) (PHILADELPHIA, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A training device for baseball batting comprising: an upper rail and a lower rail supported in selected relationship to each other by a plurality of rail supports; a plurality of legs supporting at least one rail or rail support at a height above the ground that allows a batter to swing a bat between the rails using a natural swing; and a plurality of resistance members between the rails, each resistance member being engaged with at least one of the rails.

2. The training device of claim 1, wherein the resistance members comprise gates, each gate comprising a resiliently flexible upper portion engaged with the upper rail, and a resiliently flexible lower portion engaged with the lower rail.

3. The training device of claim 2, wherein the rails are substantially parallel to each other.

4. The training device of claim 3, wherein the rails are flexible in a horizontal plane so that the rails can form arcs having infinitely selectable centers of curvature.

5. The training device of claim 4, further comprising a locking band in association with one of the rails, the locking band preventing the rail with which it is associated from flexing when fixed relative to the rail at two or more of the rail supports.

6. The training device of claim 2, wherein the gates comprise an overlapping region where part of the upper portion extends downwardly past the top of the lower portion.

7. The training device of claim 6, wherein one of the upper or lower portions comprises a semicircular or semioval-shaped protrusion extending into the overlapping region.

8. The training device of claim 7, wherein the semicircular or semioval-shaped protrusion has a radius approximating the radius of a baseball.

9. The training device of claim 1, wherein at least one of the plurality of legs is telescoping.

10. The training device of claim 9, wherein the rail supports are each pivotally attached to one of the legs at a pivot point.

11. A baseball batter training device comprising: an arcuate upper rail disposed above an arcuate lower rail; a plurality of rail supports, each having an open aspect that includes rail receiving members, the rail receiving members supporting the upper and lower rails in substantially parallel relationship; a plurality of gates extending between the upper and lower rails, the gates comprising a resiliently flexible upper portion engaged with the upper rail and a resiliently flexible lower portion engaged with the lower rail; and a plurality of legs, each leg supporting at least one rail or rail support at a pre-selected height above the ground.

12. The baseball batter training device of claim 11, wherein at least one of the legs is telescoping such that the substantially parallel rails can be inclined with respect to the ground.

13. The baseball batter training device of claim 12, wherein the rail supports are pivotally supported by the legs.

14. The baseball batter training device of claim 11, wherein the rails are flexible in a horizontal plane so that the rails can form arcs having infinitely selectable centers of curvature.

15. The baseball batter training device of claim 14, further comprising a locking band received by the rail receiving members, the locking band being concentrically arranged with one of the upper or lower rails and preventing the associated rail from flexing when fixed relative to the associated rail at two or more of the rail receiving members.

16. The baseball batter training device of claim 11, wherein the gates comprise an overlapping region where part of the upper portion extends downwardly past the top of the lower portion.

17. The baseball batter training device of claim 16, wherein one of the upper or lower portions comprises a semicircular or semioval-shaped protrusion extending into the overlapping region.

18. The baseball batter training device of claim 17, wherein the semicircular or semioval-shaped protrusion has a radius approximating the radius of a baseball.

19. The baseball batter training device of claim 11, wherein each of the gates urges a bat being swung between the rails to a position about midway between the rails.

20. A method of training a baseball batter comprising: swinging a baseball bat along a path between a pair of spaced apart rails; impinging the bat upon a resistance member as the bat is swung along the path; flexing the resistance member to create an opening for the bat as the bat is swung along the path; repeating the steps of impinging and flexing until the bat has proceeded through a plurality of resistance members along the path.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to the training of athletes, and particularly to the training of baseball batters.

BACKGROUND

Baseball batting is a skill that requires agility, hand-eye coordination and strength. A player's ability to contact the ball and put it in play depends in large part on agility and hand-eye coordination. Conventionally, a player improves his or her skills by participating in batting practice or by performing dedicated agility exercises. Such activities can help the player develop the ability to hit the ball squarely and with the “sweet” part of the bat.

Once a batter has successfully put a ball into play, what becomes of the play often depends on the strength of the batter. For example, when a ball is hit squarely, strength can mean the difference between a home run and a fly-out or between a line drive base hit and a weak ground ball. Therefore, baseball batters often strive to become stronger.

In the past, baseball players engaged in traditional weight training to build strength. Such training could involve free weights, bench pressing machines or other gym equipment. However, traditional weight training does not specifically target the muscles or body tissues used in batting. Nor does it provide much help in developing agility or hand-eye coordination.

What is needed is a training device that will enable baseball players to develop the specific muscles using in batting. Such a device that would, at the same time, also help develop the agility and hand-eye coordination a batter requires is also needed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a device for baseball batting training. The training device includes an upper rail and a lower rail supported in fixed relationship to each other by a plurality of rail supports. A plurality of legs support the rails and rail supports at a height above the ground that allows a batter to swing a bat between the rails using a natural batting swing. A plurality of resistance members are disposed between the rails to provide resistance as the batter swings the bat through the swing path between the rails.

In some embodiments, the rail supports maintain a pair of arcuate rails in substantially parallel relationship. The resistance members can be in the form of a plurality of gates extending between the substantially parallel rails, where the gates include a resiliently flexible upper portion engaged with the upper rail and a resiliently flexible lower portion engaged with the lower rail.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings a form which is presently preferred; it being understood, that this invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the outside and top of a baseball batting training device according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a front view of a resistance member of the device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the outside of the device of FIG. 1 in an inclined position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

It will be appreciated that the following description is intended to refer to specific embodiments of the invention selected for illustration in the drawings and is not intended to define or limit the invention, other than in the appended claim.

In the figures, in which like reference numerals indicate like elements, there is shown a preferred embodiment of a training device 10. The training device 10 can include a pair of substantially parallel rails, shown as an upper rail 12 and a lower rail 14. As used herein, the term substantially parallel rails means two or more elongated members, whether straight or curved, that are substantially the same distance apart along most of their lengths. The distance between the rails can be selected so that a batter can swing a bat through the device, as described in more detail below, without fear of striking the rails, and to establish an appropriate space to install resistance member, also described below. It is contemplated that a distance between the rails of about 55 cm (about 22 inches) is suitable. The upper rail 12 and the lower rail 14 can be flexible in a horizontal plane so that the rails can be adjusted from a straight configuration to arcuate configurations having infinitely selectable centers of curvature.

The rails 12, 14 can be supported in substantially parallel arrangement by two or more rail supports. The rail supports can be open rail supports, such as C-shaped brackets 16A, 16B and 16C. The C-shaped brackets can be arranged such that they have open aspects oriented toward the center of curvature of the rails when the rails are arranged arcuately. The open aspects of the C-shaped brackets (or other open support) define the inside of the training device 10, while the closed aspects of the C-shaped brackets define the outside of the training device 10. The C-shaped brackets can be adequately deep to swing a bat through the open bracket without fear of striking the bracket. It is contemplated that a bracket opening depth of about 60 cm (about 24 inches) is suitable.

A plurality of resistance members are disposed between the upper rail 12 and the lower rail 14. Each resistance member can be in the form of a gate 18 having a resiliently flexible upper portion 20 engaged with the upper rail 12 and a resiliently flexible lower portion 22 engaged with the lower rail 14. The upper portions 20 and lower portions 22 can include rail engaging members, such as posts 24. The posts 24 can extend through orifices in the upper or lower rails 12, 14. The ends of the posts 24 can be threaded so as to receive a nut (not shown) to securely engage the gates 18 with the rails 12, 14. Alternatively, the posts 24 can include grooves, orifices or other structures for receiving clips, pins or the like. In another alternative form, the posts 24 are smooth, to facilitate easy molding of the portions. In that case, self tapping nuts, clamps or the like can engage the posts 24 to securely engage the gates 20. The configuration and operation of the gates 18 are described in more detail below with respect to FIG. 3.

The open rail supports can be supported above the ground by vertical supports. The vertical supports can support the open rail supports directly or indirectly, such as by a connection with one or more of the rails. The vertical supports can be telescoping legs 26A, 26B and 26C and can include stabilizing feet. The telescoping legs can be uniformly adjusted so as to position the open rail supports, rails and associated resistance members at a height above the ground that allows a batter to swing a bat between the rails using a natural swing. The distance can be selected based on the height of the batter to be trained and the characteristics of the batter's swing. A typical batter to be trained may desire to have the lower rail 14 of the device about 90 cm (about 3 feet) above the ground. The telescoping legs can also be adjusted in a non-uniform manner to incline the substantially parallel rails, as discussed below with respect to FIG. 4.

The open rail supports include rail receiving members adjacent the open aspects for securely receiving the pair of substantially parallel rails. The rail receiving members at the top of the open rail supports can be clamps 28 hingedly engaged with the ends of the C-shaped brackets 16. Each clamp 28 can rotate about a horizontal hinge pin 30 (obscured from view by rail 12 at the top of the open rail support, but shown adjacent the bottom of the open rail support where rail 14 is received). The hinge pin permits the clamp 28 to swing into engagement with a clamp receiving tab 32 disposed at the end of the C-shaped supports 16. A fastener, such as a bolt and nut, can be placed through orifices in the hinged clamp 28 and clamp receiving tab 32 and tightened to retain the rail 12 once engaged with the rail receiving members. Other fasteners, such as clamps, pins, straps, mating tabs and slots, or other known fastening or locking devices can also be used. Alternatively, the rail receiving members can be made of unitary construction with the C-shaped clamps 16. Embodiments of unitary construction can be flexed to engage the rails 12, 14 and then tightened using any of the means described above to securely retain the rails. Each clamp 28 can instead be a distinct part that can be independently fastened to the end of the C-shaped bracket 16 above and below each rail.

The rail receiving members at the bottom of the open rail support can be similar to that at the top. If a hinged clamp is used, the clamp and clamp receiving tab can be offset from the vertical plane of the open rail support so as not interfere with the portion of the open rail support adjacent the vertical leg 26. Otherwise, a threaded or smooth orifice can be provided through the adjacent portion, through which a fastener can be inserted and tightened to retain the rail 14.

In use, a batter to be trained can stand facing the inside of the training device 10 and can swing a bat 34 through the device 10. For a right handed batter, the path of the head of the bat 34 can proceed through the C-shaped support 16A, and impinge upon and proceed through the resistance members sequentially, ultimately passing through the C-shaped supports 16B and 16C and all of the resistance members. As shown in FIG. 1, the bat 34 has passed through three of the gates 18 and is impinging upon a fourth. As the bat 34 strikes each gate 18, the upper portion 20 and lower portion 22 each flex in the direction of the swing under the influence of the bat. The flexing of the gate portions separates the gate portions until an opening is created through the gate to allow the bat to proceed therethrough. Once the bat has passed through the gate, the upper 20 and lower 22 portions each can resiliently flex back to the closed position.

As noted above, the substantially parallel rails can be adjustable so as to form arcs having infinitely selectable centers of curvature. As shown in FIG. 2, the rail 12 can be provided with slots 36 along the inside edge to facilitate flexation. The slots 36 can include expanded inner portions to further enhance the flexibility of the rail 12. The lower rail 14 can be the same or similar. The flexibility of the rails 12, 14 allow the device 10 to be adjusted based on the individual swing of the batter to be trained. For example, a batter with short arms may have a swing that passes the bat head through an arc of greater curvature than that of a batter with longer arms. The length of the bat can also be a factor in determining the path of the bat head. The curvature of the rails 12, 14 can be adjusted infinitely to accommodate a swing of almost any batter.

A locking band 38 can be provided in association with one or both of the rails 12, 14. The locking band 38 can be a thin flexible band of, for example, steel, and can be of the same height or different height as the rail with which it is associated. The locking band 38 can be juxtaposed with the inside or outside surface of the rail, or can be adjacent the inside or outside surface in a groove provided in the rail. In any of these configurations, the locking band 38 can be received by the rail receiving members of the open supports along with the rails. When the rails 12, 14 have been adjusted to the desired curvature, the clamps 28 can be tightened to fix the locking band 38 with respect to the rail 12. With the locking band 38 fixed relative to the rail 12 adjacent the open aspects of the open rail supports, the locking band resists any tendency of the rail 12 to return to an unflexed position or assume a more flexed position, thereby locking the rail 12 in the shape of an arc having the selected center of curvature. The rail 14 can be provided with a similar locking band.

An embodiment of a resistance gate 18 is shown in more detail in FIG. 3. The resistance gate 18 can be formed by injection molding a resiliently flexible plastic material, such as high density polyethylene or polypropylene. The upper portion 20 and lower portion 22 of the resistance gate can include thinned regions 40, 42, respectively, for facilitating flexing of the gate portions when the bat is swung through the device 10. The thinned regions 40, 42 can be provided in areas of the gate where the bat is not expected to frequently strike. The thinned regions 40, 42 can be narrower in width than the rest of the gate, as shown in FIG. 3, narrower in depth, both, or omitted entirely.

The interface between the upper and lower gate portions can be straight or can be of an irregular shape. The interface can include contact between the upper and lower portions or can include a gap in between the portions. The center of the gate 18 can include an overlapping region 44 where part of the upper portion 20 extends downwardly past the top of the lower portion 22. In the embodiment shown, the overlapping region is characterized by a semicircular protrusion 46 extending from the lower portion 22, and complimentary fingers 48 extending from the upper portion 20. Other shapes, such as a semioval-shaped, triangular or rectangular protrusion, can also be used. The semicircular protrusion 46 can have a radius that approximates the radius of a baseball, which is approximately 4 cm (about 1½ inches).

The overlapping region helps to ensure that the bat impinges upon and flexes both the upper portion 20 and lower portion 22 of the gate, thereby helping to prevent the bat from striking and over-flexing just one of the portions, which could result in premature wear or breakage of the portion struck. It is contemplated, however, that the gate portions 20, 22 may eventually break or wear. At such time, it is possible to install new gates or gate portions between the rails.

It should be noted that the two portion configuration of the gates 18 can help guide the bat as it is swung through the device 10. In this respect, the device 10 can be at least partially self-guiding. For example, if a batter swings the bat too high, the bat could initially strike only the upper portion 20 of the first gate. As the upper portion 20 flexes, it assumes an average angle with respect to vertical. The angle from vertical generally is greater for the part of the upper portion 20 that is farthest from the upper rail 12. This condition tends to urge the bat downwardly toward the lower portion 22 as the bat is swung through the gate. Each gate encountered throughout the swing can have a similar affect on the bat. The self-guiding effect can help the batter develop a level swing.

Because training with the device 10 can emulate a natural batting swing, a batter can develop the specific muscles and body tissues that are used when batting. If all of the gates installed between rails 12 and 14 offer the same resistance and are spaced evenly along the swing path, the batter can experience substantially constant resistance through the duration of the swing. Constant resistance training may be desirable to help the batter develop a consistent swing with good follow-through. However, the gates 18 need not be of uniform resistance. If desired, gates of different resistance or resistance members of different types can be installed along the swing path.

The gates 18 can be provided in a variety of different sizes and shapes for different levels and types of hitters. A power hitter may desire to train using gates that offer greater resistance. A finesse hitter, on the other hand, may desire to install gates that offer less resistance in the training device 10. Gates offering even less resistance may be well suited for little league players or beginners. Gates with thicker widths and/or depths will generally provide greater resistance than those with narrower widths and/or depths. The resistance of any particular gate will also be dependent upon the elasticity and other characteristics of the material from which it is formed. Gates of different amounts of resistance can be color coded so that they can be easily identified. For example, red, yellow and green could be indicative of high, medium and low resistance, respectively.

The gates can be of uniform length so as to fit appropriately between the rails 12, 14 if the rails are arranged in a substantially parallel configuration. If the rails 12, 14 are about 55 cm apart, the combined length of the upper portion 20, lower portion 22 and any gap therebetween can, excluding the posts 24, be about 55 cm. If it is desired to use rails in a non-parallel configuration, such as if a track of decreasing width is desired, open rail supports of different sizes and resistance gates of different lengths can be used.

As shown in FIG. 4, the device 10 can be inclined to allow a batter to train using an angled or inclined swing. For a right handed batter, the device 10 can be inclined to train using an upwardly moving swing by extending the telescoping leg 26C further than leg 26A. Telescoping leg 26B and any other intermediate legs can be extended to the appropriate intermediate degree. When positioned in the selected inclined position, the telescoping legs can be locked in place by screws, a rotational locking mechanism or any other known method of locking telescoping devices.

When the device 10 is inclined, the open rail supports can be angled from vertical or the substantially parallel rails can be angled from the normal of the open rail supports. In the embodiment shown, the C-shaped brackets 16 are pivotally attached to the telescoping legs 26 at pivot point 50. A ball pivot, an interleaf pivot, hinge or any other type of pivotal attachment can be provided at the pivot point 50 so that each C-shaped bracket 16 can pivot with respect to the associated telescoping leg 26 and remain normal to the inclined rails 12, 14.

A variety of modifications to the embodiments described will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the disclosure provided herein. Thus, the invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential attributes thereof and, accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims, rather than to the foregoing specification, as indicating the scope of the invention.





 
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