Title:
Multifunctional and random pitching apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A pitching apparatus for conducting batting practice wherein the apparatus spins and ejects a pitched ball in a predetermined pitching pattern into the air, and the batter swings a bat in order to hit the pitched ball. The pitching apparatus includes a housing having first and second side walls and a base member with a curved ball track member thereon for forming an interior wheel well. The pitching apparatus also includes a pitching rubber wheel member mounted within the interior wheel well and defining a space between the pitching rubber wheel member and the curved ball track member. The pitching apparatus further includes a first motor having a first motor shaft for rotating the pitching rubber wheel member in a clockwise rotation, and at least one positioning handle for adjusting the space between the pitching rubber wheel member and the curved ball track member in order to adjust the size of the space for receiving different size balls therethrough. Additionally, the pitching apparatus includes a pitching control assembly for controlling a predetermined pitching pattern from the pitching rubber wheel member for pitching the ball into the air from the housing; and a tripod assembly for supporting the housing in an elevated position, and having an upper platform connected to the base member.



Inventors:
Lin, Chiu Yuan (Fengyuan Taichung, TW)
Application Number:
11/018885
Publication Date:
06/22/2006
Filing Date:
12/21/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
124/78, 124/7
International Classes:
F41B3/04; A63B69/00; F41B15/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Ezra Sutton, Esq. (Woodbridge, NJ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A pitching apparatus for conducting batting practice wherein the apparatus spins and ejects a pitched ball in a predetermined pitching pattern into the air, and the batter swings a bat in order to hit the pitched ball, comprising: a) a housing including first and second side walls and a base member having a curved ball track member thereon for forming an interior wheel well; b) a pitching rubber wheel member mounted within said interior wheel well and defining a pitching space between said pitching rubber wheel member and said curved ball track member; c) a first motor having a first motor shaft for rotating said pitching rubber wheel member in a clockwise rotation; d) adjustment means for adjusting said pitching space between said pitching rubber wheel member and said curved ball track member in order to adjust the size of said pitching space for receiving different size balls therethrough; e) pitching control assembly for controlling a predetermined pitching pattern from said pitching rubber wheel member for pitching the ball into the air from said housing; and f) means for supporting said housing in an elevated position, including an upper platform connected to said base member.

2. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein said pitching control assembly includes a compressible control cogwheel member and a base pivot member both mounted on said upper platform below said base member of said housing; said base member and said housing being pivotally connected to said upper platform by said base pivot member to allow said base member and said housing to pivot to the left and right; said control cogwheel member being pivotally connected to said upper platform to pivot to the left and right with said base member to produce left-sided curve balls and right-sided curve balls from said apparatus.

3. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 2, wherein said pitching control assembly further includes a locking member for receiving a corner of said control cogwheel member in order to stabilize said housing in one of three pitching positions being a left-sided curve ball, a right-sided curve ball and a center fast ball.

4. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 2, wherein said pitching control assembly further includes a cogwheel motor having a cogwheel motor shaft member for rotating said control cogwheel member for producing lateral movement of said base member and said housing.

5. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein said adjustment means includes at least one positioning handle for adjusting said space between said rubber wheel member and said curved ball track member.

6. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 2, wherein said compressible control cogwheel member is substantially triangular in shape and includes a centrally located pivot opening for receiving a rotatable pivot member therein.

7. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 6, wherein said compressible control cogwheel member is an equilateral triangle having three sides and three corners thereon.

8. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 6, wherein said rotatable pivot member includes an upper pivot member connected to a hollow pivot shaft member having a lock bolt opening for receiving a lock rod member therein.

9. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 6, wherein the distance from said pivot member to an angle point A is custom character and wherein the distance from said pivot point member to a back wall of said compressible control cogwheel member is custom character such that custom character is is greater than custom character(custom character>custom character).

10. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 9, wherein said control cogwheel member is compressed as said control cogwheel member revolves under said base member such that said angle A moves to the left side of said base member causing said housing to shift slightly to the left in order to produce a left-sided curve ball from said apparatus.

11. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 9, wherein said control cogwheel member is compressed as said control cogwheel member revolves under said base member such that said angle A moves to the right side of said base member causing said housing to shift slightly to the right in order to produce a right-sided curve ball from said apparatus.

12. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 3, wherein said locking member includes an upper locking member being attached to a locking attachment element having an attachment opening for receiving an axle plug member therein for locking said locking member in position relative to said upper platform.

13. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 12, wherein said upper locking member receives one of said three corners of said control cogwheel member for stabilizing said housing in order to allow a predetermined pitching pattern to take place.

14. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 4, wherein said cogwheel motor shaft member of said cogwheel motor includes a locking bolt opening for receiving said locking bolt therein.

15. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 14, wherein said cogwheel motor shaft member is detachably received within said hollow pivot shaft member of said control cogwheel member and is locked in place by said locking bolt in order to allow a lateral rotation of said control cogwheel member for producing a random and predetermined pitching pattern to take place.

16. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 2, wherein said base pivot member includes an upper pivot shaft member, a lower pivot shaft member and a central pivot disc member, wherein each of said upper and lower pivot shaft members are, positioned on opposing sides of said central pivot disc member.

17. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein said housing further includes an upper member connected to said first and second side walls; said first side wall having a first shaft opening, said second side wall having a second shaft opening.

18. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 17, wherein each of said shaft openings for receiving said first motor shaft of said first motor for rotating said rubber wheel member.

19. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein said pitching rubber wheel member includes a wheel shaft opening for receiving therethrough said first motor shaft of said first motor for rotating said rubber wheel member.

20. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 19, further including shaft bearing rings in said first and second shaft openings aligned with said wheel shaft opening of said pitching rubber wheel member for receiving said first motor shaft of said first motor therethrough.

21. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein said for supporting means includes a tripod stand assembly having said upper platform with three leg strut openings for receiving three leg struts therein, respectively.

22. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 21, wherein each of said leg struts includes an upper strut member and a lower strut member movable relative to each other to adjust the elevation of said housing.

23. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 22, wherein each of said upper strut members includes a plurality of leg set openings for extending said upper strut members away from said lower strut member.

24. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 23, wherein each of said lower strut members includes a compressible set latch button thereon, wherein each of said set latch buttons are detachably received within one of said leg set openings for extending the length of said upper strut members from said lower strut members of said each leg strut.

25. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein said upper platform includes a front platform wall and a top platform wall.

26. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 25, wherein said front platform wall includes an axle opening for receiving of an axle plug member therein.

27. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 25, wherein said top platform wall includes an opening for receiving said locking attachment element of said locking member therein; a first platform shaft opening for receiving said cogwheel motor shaft member of said cogwheel motor; and a second platform shaft opening for receiving said lower pivot shaft member of said base pivot member.

28. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 25, wherein said upper pivot shaft member is received within a base shaft opening of said base member and said lower pivot shaft member is received within a second platform shaft opening of said top platform wall of said upper platform, wherein said base pivot member allows for the lateral swing movement to the left and right on said base pivot member relative to said housing and said upper platform.

29. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein said apparatus further includes a detachable ball hopper member for holding a plurality of balls therein.

30. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 29, wherein said detachable ball hopper member includes an upper funnel-type compartment connected to a curved ball chute connector for allowing a single ball to be funneled into said space between said rubber wheel member and said curved ball track member.

31. A pitching apparatus in accordance with claim 1, wherein said ball includes a baseball, a softball, a hardball, a tennis ball, a squash ball, a rubber ball, a wiffle ball, a paddle ball or a hand ball.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a multifunctional and random pitching apparatus for hitting a ball. More particularly, it relates to a pitching apparatus having a delivery mechanism for automatically delivering a ball in a predetermined direction or pattern, such as a left-handed or right-handed curve ball, a cutter or a sinker fastball and the like, allowing the hitter to practice swings for a given type of pitch.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Baseball is a popular sport and exercise in many countries such as the United States, Mexico, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Venezuela, and Japan. Usually a baseball game must be played by nine baseball players per team. If only one person desires to play baseball, a problem arises of not having at least a pitcher, a catcher and a batter (hitter) for batting practice by a player. To overcome this problem in the prior art, a baseball server for a single user was developed to eliminate the need for a pitcher and a catcher. In one prior art patent, the baseball server throws a baseball which has a flying path simulating the traveling path of the baseball from a pitcher. However, this prior art baseball server needs a larger area for use, so that it is inconvenient for many users.

Another problem occurs when a user plays batting practice in a self-batting format with no mechanical equipment involved, wherein the batter throws a baseball upwards and then hits the baseball with a bat. The flight path of the baseball will be affected by the behavior of the batter such that the flight path of the baseball is either unfair or beneficial to the batter and does not represent a proper swinging movement by the batter. Moreover, after the baseball is thrown upward, the user must then hold and swing the bat quickly, often missing the thrown upward and arching baseball. This time period is too short for the batter to react quickly for a proper swinging movement.

There remains a need for a pitching apparatus having a delivery mechanism for automatically delivering a ball in a predetermined pattern, for example a chest-high fastball, for allowing the hitter to practice his or her swings on that pitch pattern being delivered by the pitching apparatus. The apparatus should also include control means for adjusting the height, speed and/or direction of the ball being pitched. Additionally, the apparatus should further include a pair of positioning handles for adjusting the space between the rubber wheel and the base member for accommodating different size balls, such as a baseball, a softball, a tennis ball, a squash ball, a rubber ball and the like.

The prior art does not disclose or teach such a multifunctional and random pitching apparatus using a novel delivery mechanism for automatically delivering a ball in a predetermined pitching pattern in order to allow a batter to practice swings for hitting a ball for a given type of pitch.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a multifunctional and random pitching apparatus having a novel delivery mechanism for automatically delivering a ball in a predetermined pitching pattern in order to allow a batter to practice hitting swings for batting the ball for a particular type of pitch.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that has the delivery mechanism capable of delivering a baseball in a predetermined pattern, such as a left-handed curve ball, a right-handed curve ball, a slider, a screw ball, a splitter, a knuckle ball, a sinker, a fastball and the like, by adjusting a control box that includes control means for adjusting the height, speed and/or direction of the baseball being pitched.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that has a pair of positioning handles for adjusting the space between the rubber wheel and the base member for accommodating different size balls being used in the apparatus, such as a baseball, a hardball, a softball, a tennis ball, a squash ball, a rubber ball and the like.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that has a plurality of adjustable legs for adjusting the height of the apparatus in order to allow the batter to adjust the ball projectile based upon personal preference in his or her attempt to hit the ball for a particular-type of pitch while in the batter's box.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that has the ability to provide benefits to a hitter by randomly changing the speeds on the various pitches so as to simulate a real game situation, where a “real-live” pitcher randomly throws pitches at different speeds which may also be in and out of the strike zone to disrupt the timing of the hitter.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that has the ability of the user (hitter) to adjust the pitching apparatus to work on hitter weaknesses, such as hitting a curve ball, a slider, a knuckle ball or a change up pitch (hitters in high school and college have a tougher time adjusting to professional level pitching because the pitchers have a better command of their breaking and off-speed pitches).

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that has the ability to deliver pitches at greater speeds and/or breaking pitches thus helping a hitter see more quality pitches than a “real-live” pitcher who may be throwing batting practice to the user (hitter).

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that is a benefit to players in cold weather climates in order to have players work in the off season and in-doors (during the winter months) for preparation of the forthcoming baseball season.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that is simple to use, requires only a limited space, is easy to maintain, and is capable of withstanding everyday wear and tear.

A still further object of the preset invention is to provide a pitching apparatus that can be mass produced in an automated and economical manner and is readily affordable by the consumer.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a pitching apparatus for conducting batting practice wherein the apparatus spins and ejects a pitched ball in a predetermined pitching pattern into the air, and the batter swings a bat in order to hit the pitched ball. The pitching apparatus includes a housing having first and second side walls and a base member with a curved ball track member thereon for forming an interior wheel well. The pitching apparatus also includes a pitching rubber wheel member mounted within the interior wheel well and defining a space between the pitching rubber wheel member and the curved ball track member. The pitching apparatus further includes a first motor having a first motor shaft for rotating the pitching rubber wheel member in a clockwise rotation, and at least one positioning handle for adjusting the space between the pitching rubber wheel member and the curved ball track member in order to adjust the size of the space for receiving different size balls therethrough. Additionally, the pitching apparatus includes a pitching control assembly for controlling a predetermined pitching pattern from the pitching rubber wheel member for pitching the ball into the air from the housing; and a tripod assembly for supporting the housing in an elevated position, and having an upper platform connected to the base member.

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF THE DRAWINGS

Further objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon the consideration of the following detailed description of the presently-preferred embodiment when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the pitching apparatus of the preferred embodiment of the present invention showing the apparatus in an assembled state being readied for operational use thereof;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the major component parts contained thereto;

FIG. 2A is an enlarged exploded perspective view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the compressible control cogwheel member and a rotatable pivot point member being attached thereto;

FIG. 2B is an enlarged exploded perspective view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing a cogwheel bearing member having an upper bearing ring member and a bearing ring attachment element with an attachment opening for receiving an axle plug member therethrough;

FIG. 2C is an enlarged exploded perspective view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing a base pivot member having an upper shaft member, a lower shaft member and a pivot disc member;

FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing a compressible control cogwheel member in a first control position for delivering a baseball in a forward direction;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged top plan view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the compressible control cogwheel member in its first control position for delivering a fastball;

FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the compressible control cogwheel member in a second control position for delivering a baseball in a left-sided curved direction;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged top plan view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the compressible control cogwheel member in its second control position for delivering a baseball in a left-sided curved pattern;

FIG. 7 is a front elevational view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the compressible control cogwheel member in a third control position for delivering a baseball in a right-sided curved direction;

FIG. 8 is an enlarged top plan view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the compressible control cogwheel member in its third control position for delivering a baseball in a right-sided curved pattern;

FIG. 9 is a side elevational view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing one of the leg struts of a tri-pod stand assembly in a collapsed configuration;

FIG. 10 is a side elevational view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing one of the leg struts of the tri-pod stand assembly in an expanded configuration;

FIG. 11 is a side elevational view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the expanded leg strut of the tri-pod stand assembly having a plurality of leg set openings for receiving a set latch button therein;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the apparatus in an assembled state and in operational use by a single batter;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of the pitching apparatus of an alternate configuration of the present invention showing the apparatus in an assembled state and in operational use by a batter and a ball feeder person; and

FIG. 14 is a schematic electrical representation of the pitching apparatus of the present invention showing the electrical circuit of the apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The automated, multifunctional and random pitching apparatus 10 and its component parts of the preferred embodiment of the present invention are represented in detail by FIGS. 1 through 14 of the patent drawings. The pitching apparatus 10 is used for batting practice by a single batter 12 swinging SW and hitting H a ball 14 by a bat 16 from a predetermined pitching pattern of a fastball F, a left-sided curve ball LC or a right-sided curve ball RC relative to the field/ground/courtyard 18, as depicted in FIGS. 12 and 13 of the drawings. It should be understood that the term ball is intended to include a baseball, a softball, a handball, a tennis ball, a squash ball, a rubber ball, a wiffle ball, a paddle ball, a hand ball and the like.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the automated pitching apparatus 10 of the present invention includes a machine housing 20 having an upper lid 22, a first steel side wall 24, a second steel side wall 26, and a base member 28 with a curved ball track member 30 being integrally attached thereto to form an interior wheel well 42. Base member 28 includes a base shaft opening 39 for receiving of an upper pivot shaft member 190 of a base pivot member 170. The upper lid 22 includes a first lid side wall 32 having a first shaft opening 34, a second lid side wall 36 having a shaft opening 38 and a curved top wall 40 being integrally connected together to form an upper section 41 of the interior wheel well 42. Each shaft opening 34 and 38 include a shaft bearing ring 44 and 46 attached thereto, respectively. The pitching apparatus 10 further includes a motor 50 having a motor shaft 52 thereon for driving and rotating a pitching rubber wheel member 54. Pitching rubber wheel member 54 includes a pair of wheel axle members 55a and 55b on opposing sides 53 and 57 of the rubber wheel member 54, as depicted in FIG. 2 of the drawings. Pitching rubber wheel member 54 also includes a wheel shaft opening 56 for receiving the motor shaft 52 of motor 50 therethrough. The motor shaft 52 of motor 50 is also received within each of the shaft bearing rings 44 and 46 of shaft openings 34 and 38, respectively, of upper lid 22. The pitching rubber wheel member 54 is also received within the interior wheel well 42 of upper lid 22, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. The motor 50 also includes a control box member 60 having an on/off power switch 62, a speed control knob 64 for adjusting the speed of rubber wheel member 54 and a plug 66 for electrically connecting motor 50 to a power source P. Control box member 60 is used for controlling the power and rotation rate (rpm) of rubber wheel member 54 which rotates in a clockwise rotation R.

When the baseball 14 is inserted into a space S between the rubber wheel member 54 and the curved ball track 30 of base member 28, the ball 14 will be squeezed and spinned forward towards the batter 12, as shown in FIGS. 12 and 13. Each of the steel side walls 24 and 26 of housing 20 include handle openings 72 and 74 being curved-shaped for receiving each of the positioning handles 76 and 78, respectively, therein, such that the positioning handles 76 and 78 can adjust the space S between the rubber wheel member 54 and the curved ball track 30 in order to allow different space S positions for receiving different size balls 14, such as a baseball, softball or tennis ball and the like. In addition, lid side walls 32 and 36 of upper lid 22 also include threaded handle openings 82 and 84 for receiving positioning handles 76 and 78, respectively, therein. Further, each of the steel side walls 24 and 26 include wheel axle openings 73 and 75 being kidney-shaped for receiving each of the wheel axle members 55a and 55b, respectively, therethrough of pitching rubber wheel member 54.

The pitching apparatus 10 also includes a tri-pod stand assembly 100, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, having an upper stand platform 102 with three leg strut openings 104, 106 and 108 for receiving leg struts 110, 112 and 1 14, respectively, therein. Each leg strut 110, 112 and 114 as shown in FIGS. 9, 10 and 11, includes an upper strut member 116, a lower strut member 118 and a floor base cap member 120. The upper strut member 116 includes a plurality of leg set openings 122a, 122b, 122c and 122d for expanding the upper strut member 116 away from the lower strut member 118. The lower strut member 118 includes a compressible set latch button 124 thereon. The set latch button 124 is detachably received within one of the leg set openings 122a to 122d for expanding the length of the upper strut member 116 from the lower strut member 118 of each leg strut 110, 112 and 114, respectively, as depicted in FIGS. 10 and 11 of the drawings. The upper stand platform 102 includes a front platform wall 132, and a top platform wall 134. The upper stand platform 102 is used in conjunction with a pitching control sub-assembly. 160, as shown in FIG. 1. The front platform wall 132 includes an axle opening 136 for receiving of an axle plug member 168 therein. The top platform wall 134 includes a rectangularly-shaped opening 138 for receiving of a cogwheel locking member 164 therein, a first platform shaft-opening 140 for receiving a motor shaft 188 of cogwheel motor 166, and a second platform shaft-opening 142 for receiving a lower pivot shaft member 192 of a base pivot member 170.

The pitching apparatus 10 further includes a pitching control assembly 160 having a compressible control cogwheel member 162, a cogwheel locking member 164, a cogwheel motor 166, an axle plug member 168 and a base pivot member 170. The compressible control cogwheel member 162 is substantially triangular in shape having sides 163a, 163b and 163c (equilateral triangle), as shown in FIGS. 4, 6 and 8 of the drawings, and is used for the lateral movement of the base member 28 of housing 20. The cogwheel member 162 includes a centrally located pivot opening 172 for receiving of a rotatable pivot member 174 therein. The rotatable pivot member 174 includes an upper pivot member 175 connected to a hollow pivot shaft member 176 having lock bolt opening 178 for receiving a lock rod member 180 therein. The upper pivot member 175 is integrally attached to the hollow pivot shaft member 176, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 2A of the drawings. The hollow pivot shaft member 176 includes a pivot shaft opening 177 for receiving a motor shaft member 188 of cogwheel motor 166 therein. The length from the median point M (rotatable pivot member 174) to the angle point A is custom character and the length from the median point M to a back side 163b of control cogwheel member 162 is custom character, wherein custom character is equal to 1.6 custom character and custom character is greater than custom character(custom character>custom character), as shown in FIG. 4. Thus, as custom character is greater than custom character, the confined area under the base member 28 and the control cogwheel member 162 will be compressed as the control cogwheel member 162 revolves under the base member 28, such that when angle point A turns to the left side of base member 28 the entire housing 20 will shift slightly to the left, as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 of the drawings, in order to produce a left-sided curve ball LC; or conversely, such that when angle A turns to the right side of base member 28 the entire housing 20 will shift slightly to the right, as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8 of the drawings, in order to produce a right-sided curve ball RC. The cogwheel locking member 164 includes an upper (bearing ring) locking member 182 being integrally attached to an attachment element 184 having an attachment opening 186 for receiving the axle plug member 168 therein for locking the cogwheel locking member 164 in position. The cogwheel motor 166 includes a motor shaft member 188 being attached to cogwheel motor 166, and on/off power switch 196 connected to center box 60. The motor shaft member 188 includes a lock bolt opening 189 for receiving the lock rod member 180 therein. The base pivot member 170 includes an upper pivot shaft member 190, a lower pivot shaft member 192 and a central pivot disc member 194 having each of the pivot shaft members 190 and 192 positioned on opposing sides 193 and 195 of the pivot disc member 194, as shown in FIG. 2 of the drawings.

In addition, the pitching apparatus 10, as shown in FIGS. 1, 2 and 12, further includes a detachable ball hopper member 200 for holding a plurality of balls 14 therein. The ball hopper member 200 includes an upper funnel-type compartment 202 connected to a curved ball chute connector 204 which allows a single ball 14 to be funneled into the space S between the rubber wheel member 54 and the curved ball track 30 of base member 38. It is understood that the ball hopper member 200 can be optionally used, such that when not in use, as shown in FIG. 13, a ball feeder person 13 can individually feed a single ball 14 into the space S section of housing 20.

OPERATION OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

In assembly, the pitching apparatus 10, as shown in FIGS. 2, 12 and 13 of the drawings, the user can optionally attach the ball hopper member 200 to housing 20 of apparatus 10. The ball chute connector 204 of ball hopper member 200 is detachably connected to housing 20 wherein a single ball 14 is allowed to be funneled into the space S between the rubber wheel member 54 and the curved ball track 30 of base member 38. The upper funnel-type compartment 202 is now loaded with baseballs 14, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 12 of the drawings. The stack of balls 14 will now be singularly funneled into the ball chute connector 204 because of the connector's tilted angle. The user concurrently adjusts the positioning handles 76 and 78 to a proper height adjustment within each of the curved-shaped handle openings 72 and 74, respectively, which then adjusts the space S between the rubber wheel member 54 and the curved ball track 30 in order to allow the correct sized ball to pass through space S, such as a baseball 14. The pitching control assembly 160 is then actuated which allows the compressible control cogwheel member 162 to move to the various random pitching movements of a fastball F, a left-sided curve ball LC or a right-sided curve ball RC as ball 14 is released from housing 20, as depicted in FIG. 12. The pitching apparatus 10 is now ready for operational use by a batter 12.

In operation, the pitching apparatus 10, as shown in FIGS. 3, 5, 7 and 12, is then turned on via power switch 62 of control box member 60 by user 12. The user 12 then adjusts the speed control knob 64 for controlling the power and rotation rate (rpm) of rubber wheel member 54 which rotates in a clockwise rotation R. As shown in FIG. 12, the ball 14 is then squeezed forward through the rotating rubber wheel member 54 and curved ball track 30 of housing 20 which allows the batter 12 to swing at the spinning ball 14 being pitched. Depending upon the position of the control cogwheel member 162 of pitching control sub-assembly 160 the batter 12 could see a fastball F (see FIG. 3), a left-sided curve ball LC (see FIG. 5) or a right-sided curve ball RC (see FIG. 7) being thrown towards him or her while standing in the batter's box at home plate. After swinging at the pitch the batter 12 is now ready to swing at the next pitch until all of the balls 14 are removed from the ball hopper member 200 and the apparatus 10 is then switched to the off position via power switch 62 on control box member 60. The ball hopper member 200 can be re-loaded with baseballs 14 and the apparatus 10 can be re-started again to throw more pitches at batter 12.

ADVANTAGES OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

Accordingly, an advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a multifunctional and random pitching apparatus having a novel delivery mechanism for automatically delivering a ball in a predetermined pitching pattern in order to allow a batter to practice hitting swings for batting the ball for a particular type of pitch.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that has the delivery mechanism capable of delivering a baseball in a predetermined pattern, such as a left-handed curve ball, a right-handed curve ball, a slider, a screw ball, a splitter, a knuckle ball, a sinker, a fastball and the like, by adjusting a control box that includes control means for actuating the height, speed and/or direction of the baseball being pitched.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that has a pair of positioning handles for adjusting the space between the rubber wheel and the base member for accommodating different size balls being used in the apparatus, such as a baseball, a hardball, a softball, a tennis ball, a squash ball, a rubber ball and the like.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that has a plurality of adjustable legs for adjusting the height of the apparatus in order to allow the batter to adjust the ball projectile based upon personal preference in his or her attempt to hit the ball for a particular-type of pitch while in the batter's box.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that has the ability to provide benefits to a hitter by changing the speeds on the various pitches that are simulated in a game situation, where a “real-live” pitcher throws pitches at different speeds in or out of the strike zone to disrupt the timing of the hitter.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that has the ability of the user (hitter) to adjust the pitching apparatus to work on hitter weaknesses, such as a hitting a curve ball, a slider, a knuckle ball or a change up (hitters in high school and college have a tougher time adjusting to professional level pitching because the pitchers have a better command of their breaking and off-speed pitches).

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that has the ability to deliver pitches at greater speeds and/or breaking pitches thus helping a hitter see more quality pitches than a “real-live” pitcher who may be throwing batting practice to the user (hitter).

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that is a benefit to players in cold weather climates in order to have players work in the off season and in-doors (during the winter months) for preparation of the forthcoming baseball season.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that is simple to use, requires only a limited space, is easy to maintain, and is capable of withstanding everyday wear and tear.

A still further advantage of the preset invention is that it provides for a pitching apparatus that can be mass produced in an automated and economical manner and is readily affordable by the consumer.

A latitude of modification, change, and substitution is intended in the foregoing disclosure, and in some instances, some features of the invention will be employed without a corresponding use of other features. Accordingly, it is appropriate that the appended claims be construed broadly and in a manner consistent with the spirit and scope of the invention herein.