Title:
Training baseball bat
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A baseball or softball bat is provided for use by a batter during drills or practice. The training bat comprises a wooden or nylon composite barrel attached to an elongated aluminum handle or shaft, wherein the barrel has a significantly greater diameter than the handle. The bat feels like a traditional bat, while the barrel resembles the barrel and “sweet spot” of a traditional bat and performs similarly when used to strike a ball. Depending on whether the ball is struck by the sweet spot or some other portion of the bat, the batter is provided with differing feedback. This feedback is similar to that experienced during a typical game situation, but is accentuated by the configuration of the bat and teaches a repeatable swing that consistently places the sweet spot in contact with the ball.



Inventors:
Stoffel, Josh (Campbellsport, WI, US)
Haase, Dean (Germantown, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/298270
Publication Date:
06/14/2007
Filing Date:
12/08/2005
Assignee:
Badger Bat Company LLC
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
COOK ALEX LTD (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A bat for use in practice and training exercises, comprising: an elongated, generally cylindrical handle having a proximal end portion, a distal end portion, and a handle cross-sectional area, wherein said handle is substantially comprised of a first material; and a generally cylindrical barrel at said distal end portion of the handle, wherein the barrel has a cross-sectional area which is larger than the handle cross-sectional area, wherein said barrel is substantially comprised of a second material, and wherein the first material is different from the second material.

2. The bat of claim 1, wherein said first material is a metal.

3. The bat of claim 2, wherein said metal is aluminum.

4. The bat of claim 2, wherein said metal is airplane grade aluminum.

5. The bat of claim 2, wherein said second material is wood.

6. The bat of claim 2, wherein said second material is a nylon composite.

7. The bat of claim 1, wherein the barrel includes a generally hollow central opening for receiving said distal end portion of the handle.

8. The bat of claim 1, wherein the bat has weight and balance characteristics substantially identical to a bat with a barrel substantially comprised of the first material.

9. The bat of claim 1, wherein the cross-sectional area of said handle is generally uniform between said proximal end of the handle and said barrel.

10. The bat of claim 1, further comprising a knob at a distal end of the barrel, wherein the knob has a larger cross-sectional area than the handle.

11. The bat of claim 1, further comprising coverings at a proximal end and a distal end of the barrel, wherein the coverings are substantially comprised of a third material, and wherein the third material is different from the first material and the second material.

12. The bat of claim 1, further comprising means for securing the barrel to the handle.

13. A bat for use in practice and training exercises comprising: an elongated, generally cylindrical handle having a proximal end and a distal end; and a generally cylindrical barrel having a distal end and a proximal end, said barrel being located at said distal end of said handle, wherein said barrel is slightly tapered downward at the proximal end and sharply tapered at the distal end.

14. The bat of claim 13, wherein said handle is substantially comprised of a first material, wherein said barrel is substantially comprised of a second material, and wherein said first material is different from said second material.

15. The bat of claim 14, wherein said first material is a metal.

16. The bat of claim 15, wherein said second material is wood.

17. The bat of claim 15, wherein said second material is a nylon composite.

18. The bat of claim 13, wherein the barrel includes a generally hollow central opening for receiving said distal end portion of the handle.

19. The bat of claim 13, wherein the cross-sectional area of said handle is generally uniform between said proximal end of the handle and said barrel.

20. The bat of claim 13, further comprising a knob at a distal end of the barrel, wherein the knob has a larger cross-sectional area than the handle.

21. The bat of claim 20, further comprising coverings at a proximal end and a distal end of the barrel, wherein the coverings are substantially comprised of a third material, and wherein the third material is different from the first material and the second material.

22. The bat of claim 14, further comprising means for securing the barrel to the handle.

23. A bat for use in practice and training exercises comprising: an elongated, generally cylindrical, non-tapered handle having a proximal end, a distal end, and a handle cross-sectional area; and a generally cylindrical, non-tapered barrel, said barrel being located between said proximal end and said distal end of said handle, wherein a barrel cross-sectional area is larger than said handle cross-sectional area.

24. The bat of claim 23, wherein said handle is substantially comprised of a first material, wherein said barrel is substantially comprised of a second material, and wherein said first material is different from said second material.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a training tool for baseball or softball. In particular, the present invention is directed to a training bat that is beneficial for improving hitting for baseball or softball.

DESCRIPTION OF RELATED ART

In baseball or softball, it is important for a hitter to hit the ball with the “sweet spot” portion of the bat. In general, the sweet spot is considered the location of the center of percussion of the bat or the location that produces the greatest batted ball speed. While the exact location of the sweet spot depends on the characteristics of the bat, it is in general approximately six inches from the end of the barrel of the bat. The sweet spot is recognized by batters as the location that produces the least swing resistance and bat vibration, as well as the greatest power and control, when hitting the ball. Therefore, it is important for the batter to recognize the sweet spot on the bat and have a swing which consistently hits the ball with the sweet spot on the bat.

To learn to recognize the sweet spot and to consistently produce such a swing, a player needs to continually practice his/her swing. Such practice creates a muscle memory which will enable the player to recreate this swing when actually batting during a game. In addition, such practice is also necessary if a batter has a flaw in his/her swing or needs to improve his/her swing. Typical drills which batters work on to improve their swing include soft toss, short batting practice, hitting off a tee, etc. However, it is important when doing such drills and practicing his/her swing, that the batter receive feedback that he/she is performing a correct swing and hitting the ball with the sweet spot of the bat.

There are a variety of known training bats which aim to teach a sweet swing. Many training bats, such as the one disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,010,415 are weighted in order to develop faster bat speed, but such bats do not help the batter to develop a repeatable swing that consistently strikes the ball with the sweet spot. Some bats have been suggested for the purpose of teaching such a repeatable swing. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,565,462; U.S. Pat. No. 6,923,737; U.S. patent application Publication No. 2005/0124442; and the Torpedo® training bat from Jas. D. Easton, Inc. all provide training bats which allegedly teach a batter to strike the ball with the sweet spot of the bat. For example, the Torpedo® training bat has a thin handle which stretches from a lower end to an oversized portion, the alleged sweet spot portion, near an upper end of the bat. The Torpedo® training bat, however, is entirely made of aluminum, which results in a number of problems, such as an oversized sweet spot. Further, this bat does not provide the desired performance feedback. This bat also has a relatively low bat weight.

A problem to be addressed is to provide a training bat for use during drills and practice that teaches a repeatable swing that consistently strikes the ball with the sweet spot portion, while providing the batter with instant feedback during such drills and practice regarding whether the batter is hitting the ball with the sweet spot of the bat.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, a training bat is provided which delivers instant feedback to the hitter with regard to whether the batter is hitting the ball with the sweet spot on the bat. In a preferred embodiment, the training bat comprises a barrel attached to an elongated aluminum handle or shaft, wherein the barrel has a significantly greater diameter than the handle and is comprised of a non-metallic material. The bat has the weight and feel of a traditional aluminum bat, while the barrel resembles the size, shape, and location of the barrel and sweet spot of a traditional bat and performs similarly when used to strike a ball.

Depending on whether the ball is struck by the sweet spot, the barrel, or some other portion of the bat, the batter is provided with differing feedback. For example, when the handle strikes the ball, the batter will hear a metallic “ping” sound caused by contact between the ball and the aluminum, feel a buzz or sting in his/her hands due to the vibration of the bat, and see the ball struck weakly. In contrast, when the ball is struck by the non-metallic sweet spot, the batter will hear the “crack” of the bat against the ball, feel little or no resistance and vibration, and see the ball struck solidly. This feedback is similar to that experienced during a typical game situation, but is accentuated by the configuration of the bat and teaches a repeatable swing that consistently places the sweet spot in contact with the ball.

In a further preferred embodiment, the barrel is made of wood or a nylon composite while the handle is made of an airplane grade aluminum. Furthermore, the bat may be provided in an assortment of lengths, weights, and weight distributions to simulate different types and sizes of baseball and softball bats.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side view of the full length of a bat according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a close-up view of the barrel of the bat of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a drawing of a snap ring which can be used to connect the barrel to the handle of the bat of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a close up view of the end of the handle of the bat of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a close up view of the barrel end of a bat according to another embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 6 is a close-up view of a logo section of the bat of FIG. 5; and

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of a connecting location between the barrel and handle of a bat according to the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In FIG. 1, an embodiment of a bat 10 according to the present invention is shown. Bat 10 includes a barrel 12, a handle 14, a knob 16 located at a proximal end of handle 14, a knob 18 located at a distal end of barrel 12 and a grip 20 located around a lower portion of handle 14. When used herein, the terms “proximal” and “lower” are generally interchangeable and refer to a portion of the bat closer to knob 16 than a “distal” or “upper” portion of the bat. In a preferred embodiment, the barrel 12 is generally tubular, with a hollow center through which the handle 14 may extend, as shown in FIG. 7. Preferably, the handle 14 extends substantially from a proximal end adjacent to the knob 16, through the hollow center of the barrel 12, to a distal end generally adjacent to knob 18. Alternatively, the barrel 12 may have a substantially solid construction, in which case the handle 14 extends upward to a proximal end of the barrel 12. As illustrated, the handle 14 has a generally constant cross-sectional area between knob 16 and barrel 12, which area is relatively small compared to the cross-sectional areas of the barrel 12 and the knob 16.

Preferably, the barrel 12 is made of a different material than the handle 14 and, in a further preferred embodiment, comprises a wood or nylon composite construction. The barrel 12 is configured to replicate the shape and location of the barrel of a traditional bat. FIG. 5 illustrates another embodiment of bat 10 with an alternative barrel 12a that has a distal end 23 with a greater taper than the barrel 12 of FIGS. 1 and 2. Preferably, the barrel 12 of both embodiments has a generally tubular configuration, which allows the handle 14 to pass through a hollow central opening. The barrel 12 may be provided with a substantially solid construction, but a generally tubular configuration is preferred because it promotes an overall rigid construction and aids in aligning the various elements of the bat 10. It is also contemplated that other materials could be used for the barrel, but wood or nylon composite are most preferable because they produce a “crack” sound when striking a ball, which is clearly distinguishable from the “ping” sound of a ball struck by a handle 14 having a metallic construction. Furthermore, the different barrel material, such as wood or a nylon composite, is also preferable for safety reasons as a batted ball off a bat of the present invention will travel more slowly than a ball struck by a barrel having a metallic construction, which reduces the chance of a batted ball hitting the pitcher or another player.

The barrel 12 is most preferably made of a nylon composite, because it is more durable than wood and easily provided in team colors or the like. When using wood, the barrel 12 is preferably made of maple. While other types of wood, such as ash, could be used, maple has been found to provide good feedback for letting the batter know whether he/she is hitting the ball with the sweet spot on the bat 10.

In a further preferred embodiment, the barrel 12 is approximately 6½ inches long and has a diameter of approximately 2½ inches. In a most preferred embodiment, the barrel 12 is approximately 4 inches long and has a diameter of 2⅛ inches, which is slightly smaller than the barrel of a typical bat. The decreased size makes it more difficult to successfully strike a ball, which is useful for training purposes. However, it is contemplated that barrels having other sizes would also fall within the scope of the present invention. For example, a larger barrel may be used with a larger bat or a smaller barrel which is more difficult to strike the ball with may be used by more experienced batters to further develop their swing.

Preferably, knob 18, which is located at a distal end of barrel 12, is made of rubber. However, other materials such as plastic or metal could also be used. As shown in FIG. 2, knob 18 has a cylindrical body, with a generally hemispherical or convex endcap 19. It will be seen that the cylindrical body of knob 18 has a greater cross-sectional area than handle 14 and less than the exposed portion of barrel 12. Hence, knob 18 provides a region of intermediate cross-sectional area, with respect to barrel 12 and handle 14.

As described above, the sweet spot of a bat is typically around six inches from the distal end of the bat, represented in FIG. 2 as a region 28, centered between the proximal and distal ends of the barrel 12 in a preferred embodiment. Of course, the length and location of barrel 12 may be varied, such that the sweet spot region 28 accounts for a greater or smaller portion of the barrel 12 or is moved away from the center of barrel 12. In one embodiment, barrel 12 is configured such that its boundaries coincide with the boundaries of the sweet spot region 28, i.e., barrel 12 is the sweet spot.

While the region of a traditional bat between the sweet spot and the distal end of the bat, generally shown in broken lines in FIG. 5 at 30, may be used to strike a ball, such a hit will result in discomfort in the hands due to bat vibration and the ball will be hit with diminished power and control. Accordingly, bat 10 of the present invention mimics this phenomenon by providing knob 18 which cannot be used to successfully strike a ball and which generates different feedback, compared to the feedback from the sweet spot 28. This provides the batter with immediate feedback that his/her swing is missing the sweet spot of the bat. Alternatively, bat 10 may be provided without knob 18, but it is preferable to include knob 18 for training purposes, as well as for securing the barrel 12 and for aesthetic purposes. Further, endcap 19 of knob 18 also protects the barrel 12 from damage and wear if the distal end of the bat 10 contacts the ground or any other surface.

As shown in FIGS. 1, 2 and 5, in one embodiment, barrel 12 is fastened to the other portions of the bat 10 at a lower end and an upper end, generally corresponding to the location of coverings 24. Preferably, the barrel 12 is permanently affixed with an adhesive, such as an epoxy, but it may instead be fastened to handle 14 and knob 18 by mechanical means, such as a plurality of snap rings 22, which can be seen in FIG. 7. Preferably, snap rings 22 are made of steel or another type of metal. Plastic or rubber could also be used. More preferably, snap rings 22 are made of a low carbon steel. An example of such a ring is shown in FIG. 3. The ring in FIG. 3 has a ⅞ inch shaft and is distributed by Endries Fastener & Supply in Wisconsin. Similar snap-rings can be found elsewhere, even at most local hardware stores. Other types of fastening mechanisms can also be used to fasten the barrel 12 to the handle 14.

The ends of barrel 12 and adhesive or snap rings 22 are preferably covered by a covering 24. Preferably, covering 24 has an accordion shape and is made of rubber or plastic.

In the embodiment of FIG. 5, barrel 12a is tapered downward at region 23 on the distal end of the barrel towards covering 24. This provides the batter with further feedback on hitting the sweet spot of the bat. In particular, if the batter hits the ball at region 23, he will feel and hear the ball hit the nylon composite material or wood in an odd manner. He will not hear and feel the same thing as if he hit the sweet spot. As a result, the batter will know he is hitting the ball too close to the end of the bat. The proximal end of the barrel 12a is slightly tapered, but not nearly as much as the distal end, so as to better approximate the feel of a bat and so that the batter will be able to tell when he is hitting the ball with the distal end of the barrel or the proximal end. It is more desirable to miss the sweet spot and hit with proximal end of the barrel than the distal end as the proximal end will produce greater power and control.

Preferably, handle 14 is made of aluminum, though other metals can also be used. In the preferred embodiment, handle 14 is made of an airplane grade aluminum that provides the bat 10 with the balance and feel of a traditional aluminum bat. A specification for an example of such an aluminum which can be used for the handle 14 of the bat 10 of the present application is attached as Table 1. Baseball bats and softball bats are balanced differently, so the weight distribution of the handle 14 may vary in order to reproduce the proper feel. In one embodiment, the diameter of the handle 14 is approximately ⅞ inch, but can be larger or smaller depending on the size of the bat 10.

A traditional bat has a tapered region between the handle and barrel, which region is shown in broken lines in FIG. 5 at 36. While this region may be used to strike a ball, it will result in discomfort in the hands due to bat vibration, the ball will be hit with diminished power and control, and there is the possibility that it could break, splinter or crack the bat. As a result, it is undesirable to hit the ball with this portion of the bat. In order to emphasize this, bat 10 mimics and magnifies this problem by providing an elongated handle 14 which cannot be used to successfully strike a ball and which generates different feedback, compared to the feedback from the sweet spot 28 of the bat. Additionally, aluminum bats are stronger than wood bats, and a ball which is struck by the tapered region 36 of an aluminum bat can often result in a successful hit, whereas a ball striking a wooden bat in a similar location will frequently shatter the bat. As a result, it is difficult for many players to make the transition from aluminum to wooden bats, because they can no longer rely on the tapered region 36 to successfully strike the ball. Bat 10 of the present invention essentially removes the tapered region 36, thereby forcing the batter to use the barrel 12 of the bat to successfully strike the ball. While the illustrated handle 14 has a generally constant cross-sectional diameter between knob 16 and barrel 12, it may instead be provided with a varying cross-sectional diameter. However, as explained above, it is preferred to provide this exposed portion of handle 14 with a generally uniform, relatively narrow profile in order to maximize the usefulness of the bat 10 for practice and training exercises.

Knob 16 is preferably made of the same material as handle 14 and preferably welded to the end of handle 14. Knob 16 is not limited to being made of aluminum but could also be made, for example, of plastic, rubber or other types of metal. Other ways of attaching the knob to the handle are also contemplated as being within the scope of the invention.

Preferably, handle 14 has a grip 20 covering at least the proximal end of the handle 14. Such a grip is well known in the industry and can be made of a synthetic leather or other material that is typical in the industry.

A logo 26 can be located on the handle 14, preferably between the grip 20 and the barrel 12a, as illustrated in FIG. 6.

In use, a batter grasps the handle 14 of the bat 10 at a location along the grip 20. The batter then swings the bat 10 at a thrown or stationary ball and, when contact is made, a variety of possible feedback results. One possible outcome is that the ball may be struck by the handle 14, in which case the batter will feel a sensation in his/her hands due to the vibration of the bat 10, hear the “ping” sound of the ball striking the metal, and see the ball hit with poor power and control.

If the ball is instead struck with covering 24, then different feedback will be produced. In particular, the batter will feel a sensation in his/her hands which is less intense than the sensation resulting from striking the ball with the handle 14, hear a dull sound of the ball striking the rubber or plastic, and see the ball hit with poor power and control. Feedback of this nature informs the batter that his/her swing was not successful, but did place the barrel 12 of the bat 10 in the vicinity of the ball. Accordingly, the batter will be signaled to adjust his/her swing.

If knob 18 is provided, then feedback similar to handle 14 will be produced if it is used to strike a ball. However, the resulting sound will differ depending on the construction of the knob 18. It should be noted that knob 18 provides bat 10 with an outwardly stepped, intermediate cross-sectional area at a distal end of the inwardly tapered covering 24 of barrel 12. Such a profile is preferred to a distal end that continues to taper inwardly, because the generally opposing taper angles cause a struck ball to travel in different directions, thereby providing clearly distinct visual feedback. For example, a ball struck with covering 24 will tend to be hit to the “opposite field,” i.e., in the direction that the batter's body is facing, whereas a ball struck with knob 18 will tend to be “pulled,” i.e., it will travel in the direction that the bat is being swung. Feedback of this nature informs the batter that his/her swing was not successful and did not place the barrel 12 or sweet spot 28 of the bat 10 in the vicinity of the ball. Accordingly, the batter will be signaled to adjust his/her swing in order to be successful.

Another possible result is that the ball can be struck by the barrel 12 at a location away from the sweet spot 28, such as at tapered region 23 of FIG. 5. In such case, the batter will feel a light sensation in his/her hands which is less intense than the sensation resulting from striking the ball with the covering 24, hear the “crack” sound of the ball striking the barrel 12, and see the ball hit with improved power and control. Feedback of this nature informs the batter that his/her swing placed the barrel 12 of the bat 10 in the vicinity of the ball, but did not cause the sweet spot 28 to strike the ball. Accordingly, the batter will be signaled to adjust his/her swing slightly.

Finally, if the batter strikes the ball with the sweet spot region 28 of the bat 10, then another type of feedback will result. In particular, the ball will provide no noticeable resistance and the bat 10 will not noticeably vibrate, so the swing through the ball will feel effortless to the batter. Also, the contact between the sweet spot region 28 and the ball will produce a “crack” sound which is louder than the sound resulting from any other location on the barrel 12 and the batter will see the ball hit with maximum power and control. This informs the batter that his/her swing brought the sweet spot 28 of the bat 10 into contact with the ball and should be repeated for future success.

It will be understood that the embodiments of the present invention which have been described are illustrative of some of the applications of the principles of the present invention. Numerous modifications may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention, including those combinations of features that are individually disclosed or claimed herein. For example, wood may be used in the handle. In such an embodiment, the bat may be configured to mimic the balance and feel of a wooden bat for training a batter to use a wooden bat in a game situation. For these reasons, the scope of the invention is not limited to the above description, but is as set forth in the following claims.





 
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