Title:
AIR BATTING TEE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An air tee apparatus includes a frusto-conical housing forming an air nozzle having an opening along an axis of the frusto-conical housing. An axial fan is located within the frusto-conical housing and along the axis of the frusto-conical housing. The axial fan creates a flow of air within the frusto-conical housing, the flow of air being discharged through the air nozzle to support a ball in midair above the frusto-conical housing.



Inventors:
Binder, Raymond (Cleveland Hts., OH, US)
Erholm, Scott A. (Moreland Hills, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/774805
Publication Date:
01/10/2008
Filing Date:
07/09/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/451
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PEARNE & GORDON LLP (CLEVELAND, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An air tee apparatus, comprising: a frusto-conical housing forming an air nozzle having an opening along an axis of the frusto-conical housing; and an axial fan located within the frusto-conical housing and along the axis of the frusto-conical housing, wherein the axial fan creates a flow of air within the frusto-conical housing, the flow of air being discharged through the air nozzle to support a ball in midair above the frusto-conical housing.

2. The air tee apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a rechargeable battery for powering the axial fan.

3. The air tee apparatus of claim 1, wherein the frusto-conical housing comprises a thermoplastic material.

4. The air tee apparatus of claim 1, wherein the axial fan has an airflow rating of at least 130 cubic feet per minute.

5. The air tee apparatus of claim 1, wherein the axial fan includes: a fan housing; a motor located within the fan housing; and a plurality of fins located within the fan housing for fixedly positioning the motor within the fan housing.

6. The air tee apparatus of claim 5, wherein the discharged flow of air forms a vortex.

7. The air tee apparatus of claim 5, further comprising an elastomeric coupling for coupling the fan housing to an interior surface of the frusto-conical housing.

8. The air tee apparatus of claim 7, wherein the frusto-conical housing includes a plurality of air intake openings spaced circumferentially around the frusto-conical housing.

9. An air tee apparatus, comprising: a thermoplastic frusto-conical housing forming an air nozzle having an opening along an axis of the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing and having a plurality of air intake openings spaced circumferentially around the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing; an axial fan located within the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing and along the axis of the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing, wherein the axial fan includes: a fan housing; a DC motor located within the fan housing; and a plurality of fins located within the fan housing for fixedly positioning the DC motor within the fan housing; and an elastomeric coupling for coupling the fan housing to an interior surface of the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing; a rechargeable battery for powering the DC motor; and a battery tray connected to the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing for supporting the rechargeable battery; wherein the axial fan creates a flow of air within the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing, the flow of air being discharged through the air nozzle to support a ball in midair above the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing.

10. A method for suspending a ball in midair, comprising the steps of: providing a traffic cone; providing a fan; installing the fan within the traffic cone; powering the fan to create a flow of air within the traffic cone, the flow of air being discharged through an upper opening in the traffic cone; and supporting the ball in midair upon the discharged flow of air above the traffic cone.

11. The method of claim 10, further comprising the steps of: creating the upper opening in the traffic cone by removing an upper portion of the traffic cone; and cutting an air intake opening into a lower portion of the traffic cone.

12. The method of claim 10, further comprising the step of installing a battery within the traffic cone for powering the fan.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein the fan is an axial fan having an airflow rating of at least 130 cubic feet per minute.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein the fan is an axial fan that includes a fan housing, and further wherein the step of installing the fan includes the step of installing an elastomeric coupling onto the fan housing to couple the fan housing to an interior surface of the traffic cone.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein the fan includes a DC motor located within the fan housing and a plurality of fins located within the fan housing for fixedly positioning the DC motor within the fan housing.

16. The method of claim 14, wherein the step of installing the fan includes the step of installing the fan along the vertical axis of the traffic cone.

17. A method for suspending a ball in midair, comprising the steps of: providing a frusto-conical housing; providing an axial fan; installing the axial fan within the frusto-conical housing and along an axis of the frusto-conical housing; powering the axial fan to create a flow of air within the frusto-conical housing, the flow of air being discharged through an air nozzle in the frusto-conical housing; and supporting the ball in midair upon the discharged flow of air above the frusto-conical housing.

18. The method of claim 17, further comprising the step of installing a battery within the frusto-conical housing for powering the axial fan.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the axial fan includes: a fan housing; a DC motor located within the fan housing; and a plurality of fins located with the fan housing for fixedly positioning the DC motor within the fan housing.

20. The air tee apparatus of claim 19, wherein the discharged flow of air forms a vortex.

21. The method of claim 18, wherein the axial fan includes a fan housing, and further wherein the step of installing the axial fan includes the step of installing an elastomeric coupling onto the fan housing to couple the fan housing to an interior surface of the frusto-conical housing.

22. The method of claim 21, wherein the axial fan includes a DC motor located within the fan housing and a plurality of fins located with the fan housing for fixedly positioning the DC motor within the fan housing.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/806,875 filed Jul. 10, 2006, is hereby claimed and the disclosure incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to batting tees, and more particularly to air batting tees for supporting a ball using a stream of air.

2. Description of Related Art

It is known to provide a practice tee that supports a ball on a column of air. However, such tees are required to be plugged into an external source of electrical power and are tethered to the power source while in use. Furthermore, such tees do not resemble the shape of a conventional batting tee. Conventional batting tees include an irregular pentagonal base, shaped as a so-called home plate as used in the game of baseball, and a column projecting from the base for supporting a ball. It would be desirable to provide a practice tee that supports a ball on a column of air, resembles a conventional batting tee, and includes a self-contained power source.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, provided is an air tee apparatus. The air tee apparatus includes a frusto-conical housing forming an air nozzle having an opening along an axis of the frusto-conical housing. An axial fan is located within the frusto-conical housing and along the axis of the frusto-conical housing. The axial fan creates a flow of air within the frusto-conical housing, the flow of air being discharged through the air nozzle to support a ball in midair above the frusto-conical housing.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, provided is an air tee apparatus having a thermoplastic frusto-conical housing. The thermoplastic frusto-conical housing forms an air nozzle having an opening along an axis of the housing and includes a plurality of air intake openings spaced circumferentially around the housing. An axial fan is located within the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing and along the axis of the housing. The axial fan includes a fan housing, a DC motor located within the fan housing, and a plurality of fins located within the fan housing for fixedly positioning the DC motor within the fan housing. An elastomeric coupling couples the fan housing to an interior surface of the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing. A rechargeable battery powers the DC motor. A battery tray is connected to the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing and supports the rechargeable battery. The axial fan creates a flow of air within the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing, the flow of air being discharged through the air nozzle to support a ball in midair above the thermoplastic frusto-conical housing.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, provided is a method for suspending a ball in midair. The method includes the steps of providing a traffic cone and providing a fan. The fan is installed within the traffic cone and powered to create a flow of air within the traffic cone, the flow of air being discharged through an upper opening in the traffic cone. The ball is supported in midair upon the discharged flow of air above the traffic cone.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, provided is a method for suspending a ball in midair. The method includes the steps of providing a frusto-conical housing and providing an axial fan. The axial fan is installed within the frusto-conical housing and along an axis of the frusto-conical housing. The axial fan is powered to create a flow of air within the frusto-conical housing, the flow of air being discharged through an air nozzle in the frusto-conical housing. The ball is supported in midair upon the discharged flow of air above the frusto-conical housing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an air batting tee in use;

FIG. 2 is an elevation view of the air batting tee; and

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an axial fan.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an air batting tee 1 (hereinafter, “the tee”) in use. The tee 1 generates a flow of air, which is discharged through an air nozzle at the top of the tee 1. A ball 2 is supported in midair on the discharged flow of air from the tee. While supported in midair, the ball 2 can be batted or otherwise struck by a player. Example balls include foam balls and nylon covered foam balls (i.e., so-called splash balls).

FIG. 2 is an elevation view of the tee 1. The tee 1 includes a frusto-conical housing 10 having a generally vertical axis 11. The frusto-conical housing 10 forms an air nozzle at the top of the housing having a generally horizontally planar opening located along the axis 11 of the frusto-conical housing 10. In an example embodiment, the opening is approximately 2.25 inches in diameter. The air nozzle 12 can be formed by removing an upper portion of the housing material, to obtain an opening of a desired diameter.

The frusto-conical housing 10 further includes one or more air intake openings 13, which can be spaced circumferentially around the housing 10 at a lower portion of the housing 10. The air intake openings 13 can be covered with a screen, to prevent the ingress of debris into the housing 10. The air intake openings 13 can be formed by cutting them from the housing material.

In an embodiment, the frusto-conical housing 10 is formed from a traffic cone, for example, a thermoplastic traffic cone, such as a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) traffic cone. An example traffic cone is initially 18 inches high, prior to removing an upper portion to form the air nozzle 12. A frusto-conical housing 10 formed from a traffic cone may withstand repeated strikes from a baseball bat and still assume its initial shape.

A fan, for example, an axial fan 14, is located within the frusto-conical housing 10 to generate the flow of air that supports the ball in midair. In an embodiment, the axial fan 14 is located along the axis 11 of the frusto-conical housing, so as to form an approximately 4 inch high lift chamber above the fan within the frusto-conical housing 10. That is, the top of the axial fan 14 is mounted approximately 4 inches beneath the opening of the nozzle 12. In an embodiment, the axial fan 14 has an airflow rating of at least 130 cubic feet per minute. In an embodiment, the tee creates a rotating flow of air. or a vortex, to stably support the ball in midair at relatively low air flow rates.

The axial fan 14 is shown in detail in the perspective view of FIG. 3. The axial fan 14 includes a fan housing 30. A motor 31 is located within the fan housing 30 for driving the fan blades 32. The motor 31 can be an AC motor or a DC motor, for example, a 12 VDC motor. The axial fan 14 includes a plurality of fins 33 located within the fan housing 30. The fins 33 fixedly position the motor 31 and the motor/fan blade assembly within the fan housing 30. The fins 33 further serve to direct the airflow from the fan blades 32 through the fan housing 30. The fins 33 can be curved and/or cupped to help create the vortex for supporting the ball in midair. An example axial fan 14 is RULE® 3-inch diameter in-line blower, model number 140, manufactured by ITT Corporation of White Plains, N.Y. The axial fan 14 can include screens 34 that cover either end of the fan housing 30, to protect the fan from debris.

As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, an elastomeric coupling 15 is placed onto the fan housing of the axial fan 14, to couple the fan housing to an interior surface of the frusto-conical housing 10. Adhesive is applied to the outer surface of the elastomeric coupling 15, and the axial fan 14 and coupling 15 are pressed into the frusto-conical housing 10. The elastomeric coupling 15 can be formed from neoprene or other elastomeric materials, such as rubber, for example. An example elastomeric coupling 15 is a 3-inch diameter “no-hub” coupling. No-hub couplings without their associated metal shields and hose clamps can be used as the elastomeric coupling 15. An example no-hub coupling is model number RNH 75 manufactured by American Valve, Inc. of Greensboro, N.C.

In an embodiment, the motor of the axial fan 14 is an AC motor, and the tee 1 includes a cord and plug for plugging into a source of electrical power. In another embodiment, the motor of the axial fan 14 is a DC motor, and the tee 1 includes a battery 16, such as a rechargeable 12 VDC or 24 VDC battery, for powering the fan. A battery tray 17 can be mounted within or attached to the bottom of the frusto-conical housing 10, for supporting the battery 16. If the battery 16 is a rechargeable battery, the tee 1 can include a charge connector 18 for connecting the battery 14 to a battery charger (not shown). A power switch 19 that is mounted to the frusto-conical housing 10 controls electrical current flow to the axial fan's motor. An fuse (not shown) protects power circuit conductors that connect the battery 16 to the motor.

In an embodiment, the tee includes a baseball home plate 20. The frusto-conical housing 10 extends from and, optionally, through the home plate 20. The frusto-conical housing 10 and home plate 20 together resemble a conventional batting tee. However, it is to be appreciated that the tee is capable of supporting a ball in midair without the presence of the home plate 20.

Turning again to FIG. 1, in the operation of the tee 1, the ball can be placed onto the frusto-conical housing prior to turning on the axial fan. When the axial fan is turned on, the ball 2 is lifted from the frusto-conical housing to a midair position by the discharged flow of air. Alternatively, the ball 2 can be placed directly into the discharged flow of air by hand, for support by the flow of air.

It should be evident that this disclosure is by way of example and that various changes may be made by adding, modifying or eliminating details without departing from the fair scope of the teaching contained in this disclosure. The invention is therefore not limited to particular details of this disclosure except to the extent that the following claims are necessarily so limited.





 
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