Title:
Baseball/softball batter training device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A practice device for training baseball players, softball players, and umpires. The device trains batters to help the batter identify when to swing or not swing at a pitched based on a combination of what the ball-strike count is on the batter and where the pitched ball will pass through the strike zone for that batter.



Inventors:
Edmondson, James Duane (Saint Charles, MO, US)
Application Number:
12/592111
Publication Date:
03/25/2010
Filing Date:
11/19/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/451, 473/456
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KLAYMAN, AMIR ARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
The Law Office of Douglas E. Warren, LLC (Steelville, MO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A training device comprising: a backstop frame; a plurality of colored hitting zone indicators disposed on the backstop frame wherein the plurality of colored hitting zone indicators denotes a specific hitting zone; a simulated bat handle; a simulated ball; and a scoring device disposed on the backstop frame that assists in keeping score of at least one of either a good hitting decision or a bad hitting decision.

2. The training device of claim 1 wherein at least one of either the good hitting decision or the bad hitting decision includes using the simulated bat handle to one of either swing or not swing at the simulated ball when the simulated ball is thrown against the plurality of colored indicators.

3. The training device of claim 2 wherein the at least one of either the good hitting decision or the bad hitting decision includes correlating the decision to either swing or not swing the simulated bat handle with a simulated ball-strike count on a batter.

4. The training device of claim 3 wherein the primary backstop frame includes a home plate frame that is operatively disposed from a lower edge of the primary backstop frame in a manner that allows the home plate frame to pivot upward toward the primary backstop frame.

5. The training device of claim 4 further comprising a home plate that is disposed on the home plate frame such that the orientation of the home plate is similar to the orientation of a home plate as used on a standard baseball field.

6. The training device of claim 5 wherein the primary backstop frame includes a back frame brace that generally retains the primary backstop frame in an substantially upright position wherein the back frame brace is pivotally attached to the primary backstop frame.

7. The training device of claim 6 wherein one of the plurality of colored hitting zone indicators is a backstop panel that is dark-colored and is attached to the primary backstop frame.

8. The training device of claim 7 wherein the backstop panel is generally attached to the primary backstop frame by stretching the backstop panel within an backstop panel opening of the primary backstop frame and attaching the backstop panel to the primary backstop frame with a plurality of resilient attachment devices.

9. The training device of claim 8 further comprising at least one alignment strip mounted vertically to the backstop panel.

10. The training device of claim 9 wherein at least one of the plurality of colored hitting zone indicators is a red panel.

11. The training device of claim 10 wherein at least one of the plurality of colored hitting zone indicators is a green panel.

12. The training device of claim 11 wherein at least one of the plurality of colored hitting zone indicators is a yellow panel.

13. The training device of claim 12 wherein the backstop panel, the yellow panel, the green panel, and the red panel include hook and loop elements that allow each of those panels to be removably located and positioned on any of the other of those panels.

14. The training device of claim 13 wherein the red panel has a height of about 8 inches and a width of about 11 inches, wherein the green panel has a width equal to about the width of the strike zone under standard baseball rules and a height of sufficient to match an official strike zone as determined by the physical size and shape of the batter, and wherein the yellow panel has a height that is at least one baseball diameter greater than the height of the green panel and a width that is at least one baseball diameter greater than width of the green panel.

15. The training device of claim 14 wherein the simulated bat handle is substantially shorter than a standard bat and include a weight disposed in the bat.

16. The training device of claim 15 wherein the simulated ball include hook and loop elements that allow the simulated ball to be retained into a contact position when the simulated ball contacts at least one of either the backstop panel, the yellow panel, the green panel, or the red panel.

17. The training device of claim 16 wherein the scoring device disposed on the backstop frame comprises a horizontal member upon which a plurality of tally rings reside.

18. A training device comprising: a backstop frame having a primary backstop frame, a home plate frame, and a back brace frame wherein the primary backstop frame includes a backstop opening made from a lightweight material and wherein the back brace frame biases the primary backstop frame toward a substantially upright position; a dark-colored primary backstop panel having a yellow hitting zone panel, a green hitting zone panel, a red hitting zone panel, and at least one alignment strip disposed on the dark-colored primary backstop panel; a practice ball; a simulated bat; a scoring device comprising a horizontal member upon which a plurality of tally rings reside.

19. The training device of claim 18 wherein the backstop frame, the primary backstop frame, the home plate frame, and the back brace frame are made from a lightweight material.

20. The training device of claim 19 wherein the dark-colored primary backstop panel, the yellow hitting zone panel, the green hitting zone panel, the red hitting zone panel, the at least one alignment strip, and the practice ball comprise hook and loop elements that allow the practice ball to be retained on at least one of either the dark-colored primary backstop panel, the yellow hitting zone panel, the green hitting zone panel, or the red hitting zone panel when the practice ball is thrown toward the dark-colored primary backstop panel.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of all applicable priority, including the application filing date, from Nonprovisional application Ser. No. 11/764,521 filed on Jun. 18, 2007, and that application is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety for all purposes.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a training device for improving the visual and mental skills of a batter attempting to hit a baseball or softball. Alternatively, this device may also be used by pitchers for the purpose of enhancing the skill of the pitcher at throwing a baseball or softball into a specific area, and by umpires who can increase their visual skills at quickly determining whether a pitched baseball or softball is within the strike zone.

Although other prior art inventions exist for use in training athletes to better determine the location of a pitched baseball or softball, the prior art does not offer certain advantages offered by certain embodiments of the present invention. For example, some prior art inventions do not teach a batter when to hit or swing at a ball when the pitched baseball passes near the batter while the baseball passes through specific designated hitting zones. This is to say, while teaching a batter to hit a ball that has been pitched, the strategy used of in baseball requires much more than just being able to hit a baseball. For example, there are times when the batter should swing at balls that may not be exactly in the strike zone. Yet, there are other times when a batter should not swing at a ball at all—regardless of where the ball is pitched. This type of “zone hitting” is not disclosed or suggested in the prior art.

Zone hitting is the skill of seeing a pitched ball and determining whether or not to swing at the ball depending on what zone the pitched ball is passing through, as well as what the ball-strike count is on the batter. Thus, what is needed is a training device capable of helping a batter learn what hitting zone a pitched ball will be passing through and when to swing and not swing at the pitched ball.

While certain other prior art inventions may use defined targets for determining the general location of a pitched ball, the strike zone designated by that prior art is designed for training a baseball pitcher how to throw a ball—not for teaching an athlete how to hit a pitched ball at the appropriate time in a game. In fact, most prior art is not equipped with the larger number of color coded and well-defined hitting zones that are considered necessary for training a batter to take good quality at bats. Nor is the prior art equipped with an attached home plate that folds down and extends out in front of the trainer to keep the home plate consistently and precisely in a designated strike zone. When fully reviewed, it is understood that prior art inventions fail to understand or address the fact that it is vital that the batter have a repeatable, fixed accurate point of home plate reference that easily assists the batter in taking an appropriate batting stance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a training device that offers a batter the ability to observe when a ball is passing through various hitting zones. More specifically, various embodiments of the present invention provide a pitching backstop that will generally capture and retain a simulated ball. The batter training device includes various color markings that identify certain zones that instruct the athlete to either swing at a pitched ball or not swing at a pitched ball. The captured simulated baseball will reside within one of the color designated hitting zones and will thus train the batter to swing at pitched balls only when the pitched ball is passing through specific hitting zones.

The embodiments of the present invention were developed through years of coaching and observing little league batters and their inability to take good quality “at bats” in game situations. There has long existed a need among batters for a new type of batting practice apparatus that works well as a visual aid for both the player and the coach, and that overcomes many of the shortcomings of the prior art.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the accompanying drawings which form part of the specification:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of one embodiment of the present training device invention.

FIG. 2 is a rear perspective view of one embodiment of the present training device invention.

FIG. 3 is a front view of an alternate embodiment of the present invention that can be used to train umpires to more accurately determine if a pitched ball is either a ball or a strike under the standard rules of baseball.

FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention that can be utilized as a recreational game similar to throwing darts.

Corresponding reference numerals indicate corresponding steps or parts throughout the several figures of the drawings.

While specific embodiments of the present invention are illustrated in the above referenced drawings and in the following description, it is understood that the embodiments shown are merely some examples of various preferred embodiments and are offered for the purpose of illustration only and that various changes in construction may be resorted to in the course of manufacture in order that the present invention may be utilized to the best advantage according to circumstances which may arise, without in any way departing from the spirit and intention of the present invention, which is to be limited only in accordance with the claims contained herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to FIG. 1 and FIG. 2, one embodiment of the batter training device A is shown. In that embodiment, a backstop frame 1 includes a primary backstop frame 2, a home plate frame 3, and a back brace frame 4 (FIG. 2). The components of the primary backstop frame form a substantially rectangular opening 2A that is surrounded on four sides by the components of the primary backstop frame. While this embodiment includes the use of PVC tubing and fittings in the construction of all the structural components of the backstop frame 1, the home plate frame 3, and the back frame brace 4, it is understood that other materials may also be used as long as the material selected is generally lightweight and is durable enough to maintain the general rigidity of the batter training device A when operating in wet or dry, and hot or cold ambient environments.

The home plate frame 3 is operatively disposed from a lower edge 8 of the primary backstop frame 1 and is mounted to the primary backstop frame in a manner that allows the home plate frame 3 to pivot upward toward the primary backstop frame by pivoting around the lower edge at two pivot points 9 where the home plate frame is connected to the lower edge. In one embodiment of the invention that uses PVC frame components, the two pivot points 9 are tees that are loosely fitted along the lower edge 8 of the primary backstop frame 1. In alternative embodiments, various types of pivoting configurations may also be used as long as the pivoting configuration selected allows the home plate frame 3 to operate as described herein.

A home plate 10 is mounted onto the home plate frame 3 such that the orientation of the home plate is similar to the orientation of a home plate as used in a standard baseball field. Alternatively, the home plate 10 can be oriented in any other manner as long as the home plate remains fixed in that orientation as disposed on the home plate frame 3.

The purpose of the back frame brace 4 is to generally retain the batter training device A in its upright operable position while still remaining capable of rotating the back frame brace against the back of the primary backstop frame 1 for storage and transportation. Therefore, similar to the home plate frame 3, the back frame brace 4 is pivotally attached to the primary backstop frame 1. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2 that utilizes PVC frame components, six tee fittings 11 are used to allow the back frame brace 4 to pivot. More specifically, two couplings 12 are removably mounted onto four straight members 13. When the back brace frame 4 needs to be pivoted against the primary backstop frame 1, the two couplings 12 are removed from each of four straight members 13. The removal of the two couplings 12 and the pivoting aspect of the six tee fitting 11 allow the back brace frame 4 to exist as two pivotable sections that can then be rotated against the back portion of the primary backstop frame 1. The procedure is reversed when the training device A is being setup for operation as described below.

A backstop panel 14 is attached to the primary back stop frame 2. The backstop panel 14 is generally attached to the primary back stop frame 2 by stretching the backstop panel 14 within the opening 2A of the primary back stop frame and then attaching the backstop panel to the primary back stop frame with a plurality of attachment devices 5. In the present embodiment, the plurality of attachment devices 5 are elastomeric bungee cords that are passed though a plurality of openings 6 in the backstop panel 14. When assembled, the backstop panel 14 is stretched taut within the primary backstop frame 2 and forms a backstop surface 8.

In alternative embodiments, the plurality of attachment openings 6 can include a reinforcement 7 placed into each of the plurality of openings 6 to strengthen the opening against possible damage when the backstop panel 14 is stretched across the primary back stop frame 2. In yet other embodiments, the plurality of attachment devices can be wire or metal devices. In fact any type of attachment device can be used to attached the backstop panel 14 within the primary backstop frame 2 as long as the backstop panel can be readily removed and the attachment device being used allows the backstop panel to be stretched within the opening 2A of the primary backstop panel.

It is understood that the batter training device A includes a simulated, weighted bat handle 21 and a practice ball 15. The simulated practice ball 15 includes hook and loop elements and is constructed in a manner that allows the simulated practice ball to remain removably attached to the backstop panel 14 when the simulated practice ball is pitched against the backstop panel 14. This is to say, the combination of the material used to make the backstop panel 14 and practice ball 15 result in a hook and loop combination of materials that allow the practice ball 15 to stick to the backstop panel at the point where the pitched practice ball first comes into contact with the backstop panel. In that manner, the location of the pitched practice ball 15 is determined by the observance of the position of the practice ball as it is held in place against the backstop panel 14 by the hook and loop interconnection.

In certain embodiments of the present invention, the primary backstop frame 1 can include an additional member 16 at a location at the top of the primary backstop frame structure as shown in FIG. 1. Although the material used for the additional member 16 is usually the same material as used in the primary backstop frame 1, the additional member can be made of different materials and still remain within the intended scope of the present invention.

The purpose of the additional member 16 is to allow for a method of scoring the results of the batter when using the batter training device A to develop the batter's hitting skills. More specifically, a plurality of tally rings 17 can be slideably installed around the additional member 16 such that the plurality of tally rings can slide along the longitudinal axis of the additional member. The use of the tally rings 17 for keeping track of the batter's efforts is more fully described in the operations section below.

It will be appreciated that the backstop panel 14 operates as noted above to catch and retain the practice ball 15 pitched against the backstop panel. In preferred embodiments of the present invention, additional hitting zone panels can be mounted to the surface of the backstop panel 14 for the purpose of determining which hitting zone the practice ball 15 passed through. More specifically, FIG. 1 shows a yellow panel 18, a green panel 19, and a red panel 20 that are mounted onto the backstop panel 14. At least one alignment strip 22 is also disposed on the surface of the backstop panel 14 and are sized, configured, and located on the backstop panel in a manner that provides a means of consistently mounting the three panels 18, 19, and 20 onto the surface of the backstop panel as noted in the operation section below.

Those of skill in the art of training devices appreciate the fact that the use of different colored panels to denote different hitting zones is a unique way of allowing a batter or a scorer to quickly determine when the batter has made a good or bad hitting decision. This is to say, rather than requiring the batter or scorer to carefully examine the target areas to assess the success of the batter, the batter and scorer can instead simply look for the correct color panel to quickly determine whether the practice ball 15 has landed in the correct hitting zone for the designated ball-strike count on the batter who either did or did not swing at the pitched practice ball.

As shown in FIG. 1, each of the panels has a different size with the yellow panel 18 being larger than the green panel 19, and the green panel 19 being larger than the red panel 20. It is also noted that in this embodiment, each of the panels 18, 19, and 20 are generally rectangular in shape. The significance of the sized and color of each of the three panels 18, 19, and 20 is also further defined in the operation section below.

It is understood that the size of the yellow panel 18 is related to the size of the green panel 19. More specifically, the yellow panel 18 is larger on all four sides than the green panel 19 by an amount equal to the diameter of the ball being pitched. This relationship in most preferred embodiments is maintained in the training device A for the reasons stated in the operations section below. Thus, in some embodiments of the present invention, the yellow panel 18 can be affixed to the green panel 19 such that vertical adjustment of the green panel will result in a generally commensurate vertical adjustment of the yellow panel. This substantially fixed relationship between the yellow panel 18 and the green panel 19 provides for ease in the adjustment of the yellow panel and the green panel to the official strike zone of the batter that intends to use the training device A. This adjustment is more specifically disclosed below in the operations paragraphs.

It is understood that the backstop panel 14, the three panels 18, 19, and 20, and the alignment strip 22 are made from a material consistent with the operation of a hook and loop fastening device. That is, the material used for those components allows the practice ball 15 to be captured against the materials used for the backstop panel 14, the three panels 18, 19, and 20, and the alignment strip 22, will permit the practice ball to be held in place by operation of the hook and loop connectability. One goal of constructing the three panels 18, 19, and 20 to be removable and replaceable at different locations is to allow a user of the training device A to located those components on the backstop panel 14 as needed to match the height of the batter who is using the batter training device A to practice hitting a ball.

As those of skill in the art are aware, the standard “strike zone” as understood in the official baseball rules is based on certain physical elements on the batter's body such as the athlete's knees and chest area. Because batters have varying body shapes and varying body heights, the adjustability of the three panels 18, 19, and 20 permit the components of the batter training device A to be adjusted as necessary to match the physical characteristics of each athlete. For this same reason, in some embodiments of the present invention, the yellow panel 18 and the green panel 19 are divided into two equal parts for the purpose of overlapping those panels horizontally to shrink the overall areas of those two components to match the height of the batter using the training device A.

It is understood that in certain other embodiments of the present invention, the three panels 18, 19, and 20, as well as the alignment strip 22 can be attached to the surface of the backstop panel 14 by sewing those components to the backstop panel. In yet other alternative embodiments, the three panels 18, 19, and 20, and the alignment strip 22 include material on their back surfaces that allow those components to be attached to the backstop panel 14 using the hook and loop method.

While the batter training device A has the purpose increasing the hitting skills of a batter, other embodiments of the present invention have the purpose of increasing the skills of an umpire in identifying a pitched ball as either a “strike” or a “ball” as understood under the rules of baseball. In this alternative embodiment, the general construction is the same as the embodiments as described above, however, the yellow panel 19 and the red panel 20 are not used. Only the green panel 18 is used because the size and shape of that panel as installed onto the backstop panel 14 need only identify the area officially designated as the “strike” zone. Thus, repeated use of the training device A can train the umpire to readily detect when a pitched ball hits the backstop panel 14 within the officially designated “strike” zone area.

It will be appreciated by those of skill in the art that the batter training device A and the use, size, color, and placement of the three panels 18, 19, and 20 can be easily combined to generate a backstop that can be used as either a game or as some other type of device capable of increasing the skill of a user at determining when a pitched ball or other object passes through a specifically identified zone to strike the backstop panel 14.

Theory of Operation

When playing the game of baseball, it is very important for a batter to possess the mental and visual skills needed to be a productive batter. The batter must know whether to swing or take the pitch, depending on all of the different ball and strike counts he or she might have in a real game. It is also important to know which areas of the strike zone to cover for each one of those ball and strike situations.

The yellow panel 18, the green panel 19, and the red panel 20 are used to identify three distinct locations within and around the strike zone. One goal of the batter training device A is to train a batter to swing only at designated areas of the strike zone in accordance with the various ball or strike counts that can occur in real game situations.

The following are the three defined hitting zone target areas the batter training device A uses to teach a batter to become a more skilled hitter.

1. The Red Hitting Zone. The red panel 20 denotes the most preferred are that a batter prefers to swing at a ball. In most instances, the red spot identifies the hitting zone that will allow the batter to be most productive in contacting a pitched ball to get on base. This is the smallest of the three targets denoted by the three panels 18, 19, and 20. The batter is taught to swing at all pitches that hit and adhere to the red panel 20 with one exception. When in an actual baseball game situation, the batter has a ball-strike count of three balls and zero strikes, the batter is taught to take any pitched ball that the batter believes will land on the red panel 20. Thus, the red panel designates the ideal area for a batter to receive a pitched ball because it is understood that any pitched ball that is thrown in the hitting zone that results in the pitched ball landing on the red panel 20 will increase the batter's chances of hitting the pitched ball in a manner that will allow the batter to make a base hit or other successful contact with the pitched ball.

2. The Green Hitting Zone. The green panel 19 designates official strike zone as determined by the official rules of baseball. The batter practices swinging at all pitched balls when the batter believes the pitched ball will land on either the red panel 20 or the green panel 19—but only when that batter has any one-strike count, with one exception. When the ball-strike count on the batter is three balls and one strike, the batter should only swing at pitched balls only if the batter believes the pitched ball will land on the red panel 20.

3. The Yellow Hitting Zone. It is noted that the size of the yellow panel 18 is larger than the size of the green panel 19 on all four sides of the yellow panel and is larger by an amount equal to the diameter of the ball being pitched. The batter practices swinging at pitched balls that the batter believes will land on either the yellow pane 18, the green panel 19, or the red panel 20, but only when the ball-strike count on the batter includes two strikes. The purpose of training the batter to swing at pitched balls under that rule is to teach the batter to expand the batter's official strike zone when the number of strikes on the batter increases. This is known in the game of baseball as “protecting the plate.”

Setting Up One Preferred Embodiment of the Present Invention

It is understood that the batter training device A must first be set up and then adjusted for the particular batter who will be using the batter training device. The device can then be used to train the batter. Therefore, before most preferred embodiments of the present invention can be used, the batter training device A should be assembled as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. It is understood that the batter training device A can be positioned in most embodiments such that the home plate 10 points in the general direction of the pitcher that will be throwing the pitched balls toward the batter training device A.

The components of the batter training device A must also be adjusted to match the physical characteristics of the batter that will be using the training device A. More specifically, the yellow panel 18, the red panel 19, and the green panel 20 of the batter training device A must first be adjusted to match the formal strike zone of the batter to be trained.

To adjust the yellow panel 18 and the green panel 19, one portion of the green panel 19 should be adjusted such that the bottom edge of one portion of the green panel is horizontally aligned with the batter's knees. The top edge of another portion of the green panel 19 is adjusted such that the top edge of the other portion of the green panel is generally horizontally aligned with the batters chest—otherwise know as “the letters,” meaning the area of the shirt on a player's baseball uniform where the player's team name or player number is affixed.

As noted above, in some preferred embodiments, the yellow panel 18 is generally affixed to the back of the green panel 19 to retain the relationship between the yellow panel and the green panel that allows the yellow panel to extend beyond the edges of the green panel by a dimension equal to about the diameter of the ball being pitched. It is understood that the green panel 19 and the yellow panel 18 of the present embodiment are sewn together to make one single panel. In other embodiments, the yellow panel 18 is not affixed to the green panel 19 and the yellow panel must be adjusted after the green panel has been located to represent the official strike zone of the batter. The desired position of the green panel 18 is maintained by the hook and loop relationship between the green panel, the yellow panel 18, the alignment strip 22, and the backstop panel 14.

To adjust the red panel 20, it must first be understood that the red panel represents the batter's favorite hitting zone and thus the red panel can be situated anywhere the batter wants the red panel to be placed. Therefore, after the yellow panel 18 and the green panel 19 have been adjusted and located as noted above, the red panel is then positioned onto the combined yellow and green panels in the area that designates the pitches most preferred by the batter when hitting the pitched ball.

Operation of One Embodiment of the Present Invention

As described and suggested in the above embodiments of the present invention, the batter training device A operates to train a batter to detect when a pitched object passes through a specifically designated zone.

In a preferred embodiment, the batter training device A is used to train an athlete to swing, or not to swing, a baseball bat at a pitched ball when the pitched ball passes through at least one of those specifically designated area. The following paragraphs describe some preferred uses of the batter training device A and suggested scoring when used for that purpose.

After the batter training device A has been set up and adjusted for the batter as described above, the batter takes a hitting position near the home plate 10 and looks toward the pitcher who will be throwing the practice ball 15. The batter takes a stance just in front of the batter training device A in a location that allows the batter to swing the simulated bat handle 21 across the home plate 10 located on the home plate frame 3. It is understood that the batter will be holding the simulated bat handle 21 when swinging or not swinging at the pitched balls. However, it is also understood that it is not generally intended that, in some preferred embodiments, that the batter actually hit the pitched ball. This is one reason that the simulated bat handle 21 is not a full length bat, but is instead a shortened bat handle that is weighted. The batter is instructed to swing and hit the ball on the imaginary sweet spot of the bat. Nevertheless, some batters may find a way to hit the practice ball 15 even when using the simulate bat handle 21. To reduce the chance of this occurring, it is suggested that the batter “choke up” on the bat handle by positioning the players hands further away from the bottom end of the simulated bat handle 21 so that none of the top of the simulated bat handle is visible.

A pitcher stands an appropriate distance away from the backstop panel 14 of the batter training device A. The pitcher throws the practice ball 15 toward the batter training device A in a manner that will allow the practice ball to contact the backstop panel 14 of the batter training device A. When the practice ball 15 contacts the backstop panel 14, the hook and loop interaction between the practice ball material and the material used to make the backstop panel, and the three panels, 18, 19, and 20 capture and retain the practice ball onto the surface of the backstop panel. The batter works to only swing the simulated bat handle 21 if the batter believes the practice ball 15 will be passing through a specifically designated colored hitting zone in combination with a specific ball-strike count.

After the pitch is made and the practice ball 15 is captured on the surface of the backstop panel 14, or one of the three panels 18, 19, and 20, the batter looks at the batter training device A to see where the practice ball 15 landed to determine if the batter made the correct decision to either swing or not swing at the practice ball.

During a typical practice session, a series of balls are pitched toward the backstop panel 14 of the batter training device A and the batter chooses to either swing or not swing at the pitched practice ball 15 depending on which hitting zone the batter believes the practice ball will land. Normally, each ball will be pitched and scored before another pitch is made. This prevents a second pitched practice ball 15 from striking and relocating a first pitched practice (when more than one ball is pitched in a series before scoring) and not revealing the initial location of the pitch.

During the series of pitches, the batter simulates a swing as closely a possible to the swing the batter would make during a real game situation. That means the batter should take the same batting stance and make the same preparatory and swinging motions the batter would normally take during an actual game. Once the practice ball 15 is pitched toward the batter training device A, the batter should not swing late, but should swing when the batter believes the pitched practice ball is crossing the home plate 10.

In some preferred embodiment, score is kept to determine if the batter is appropriately either swinging or not swinging at pitched balls. Scoring requires the batter to know the ball-strike count and then combining that information with the colored hitting zone toward which the pitched practice ball 15 appears to be moving as determined by the batter. The numerical score of the batter is determined by the number of tally rings 17 that have accumulated on the batter training device A as described below. Those of skill in the art will appreciate that the ball-strike count on a batter in an actual ball game has a significant impact on whether a batter should swing or not swing at a pitched ball. The following scoring method depicts one type of scoring of a batter using the batter training device A where the scoring includes consideration of the simulated ball-strike count on the batter and location of where the pitched practice ball 15 lands in the colored hitting zones of the training device A.

1. Simulated Ball Strike Count Includes Zero Strikes.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the left end of the additional member 16 (signifying a good hitting decision by the batter) if the batter swings at a pitched practice ball that lands on the red panel 20, or swings when the practice ball lands at a point that touches both the green panel 19 and the red panel 20.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the left end of the additional member 16 (signifying a good hitting decision by the batter) if the batter does NOT swing when the practice ball 15 does NOT land on the red panel 20, or when the practice ball does NOT land at a point that touches both the green panel 19 and the red panel 20.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the right end of the additional member 16 (signifying a bad hitting decision by the batter) if the batter swings when the practice ball 15 does NOT land on the red panel 20, or when the practice ball does NOT land at a point that touches both the green panel 19 and the red panel 20.

Three tally rings 17 are moved to the right end of the additional member 16 (signifying a very bad hitting decision by the batter) if the batter does NOT swing when the practice ball 15 lands on the red panel 20, or when the practice ball lands at a point that touches both the green panel 19 and the red panel 20.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the right end of the additional member 16 (signifying a bad hitting decision by the batter) if the batter swings when the practice ball 15 does NOT land anywhere on the training device A. If the pitched practice ball 15 does not land anywhere on the training device A and the batter does not swing, then the pitch does not count as either good or bad and the pitch is not scored.

One embodiment can include two exceptions to this scoring. First, when the ball-strike count is three balls and zero strikes, or if the batter takes the first pitch thrown to the batter regardless of the hitting zone location, a tally ring 17 is moved to the left end of the additional member 16 (signifying a good hitting decision by the batter).

2. Simulated Ball Strike Count Includes One Strike.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the left end of the additional member 16 (signifying a good hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count on the batter includes a count of one strike on the batter, and the batter swings at a pitched practice ball that lands on either the red panel 20 or the green panel 19, or the batter does NOT swing at a pitched practice ball 15 that does NOT lands in either green yellow 19 or the red panel 20.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the right of the additional member 16 (signifying a bad hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count on the batter includes a count of one strike on the batter, and the batter swings at a pitched practice ball that does NOT land on either the red panel 20 or the green panel 19, or the batter does NOT swing at a pitched practice ball 15 that lands in the green panel 19.

Three tally rings 17 are moved to the right of the additional member 16 (signifying a very bad hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count on the batter includes a count of one strike on the batter, and the batter does not swing at a pitched practice ball that lands on the red panel 20.

One embodiment can include one exception to this scoring. In that embodiment, one tally ring 17 should be moved to the right of the additional member 16 (signifying a bad hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count is three balls and one strike the batter swings at a pitched practice balls that does not land on the red panel 20.

3. Simulated Ball Strike Count Includes Two Strikes.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the left of the additional member 16 (signifying a good hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count on the batter includes a count of two strikes on the batter, and the batter swings at a pitched practice ball that lands on either the yellow panel 18, the green panel 19, or the red panel 20.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the right of the additional member 16 (signifying a bad hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count on the batter includes a count of two strikes on the batter, and the batter swings at a pitched practice ball that does NOT land on either the yellow panel 18, the green panel 19, or the red panel 20.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the left of the additional member 16 (signifying a good hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count on the batter includes a count of two strikes on the batter, and the batter does NOT swing at a pitched practice ball that does NOT land on either the yellow panel 18, the green panel 19, or the red panel 20.

One tally ring 17 is moved to the right of the additional member 16 (signifying a bad hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count on the batter includes a count of two strikes on the batter, and the batter does NOT swing at a pitched practice ball that lands on either the yellow panel 18 or the green panel 19.

Three tally rings 17 is moved to the right of the additional member 16 (signifying a very bad hitting decision by the batter) when the ball-strike count on the batter includes a count of two strikes on the batter, and the batter does NOT swing at a pitched practice ball that lands on the red panel 20.

FIG. 3 shows an alternate embodiment of the present invention that can be used to train umpires to more accurately determined whether a pitched ball is either a “ball” or a “strike” under the standard rules of baseball. In that embodiment, the green panels 20 are positioned on the backstop panel 14 to achieve an areas that is the size and configuration of a standard strike zone. The simulated ball 15 is pitched at the training device A where the simulated ball is held in place on the green panel 19 or the backstop panel 14. The umpire can then review the accuracy of his calls by checking the position of the captured simulated ball 15 to see if the pitch was a “strike” or a “ball.” In a preferred embodiment, the umpire should have a batter taking a stance in front of the training device A with the strike zone be adjusted to fit the physical size and shape of the batter.

FIG. 4 shows yet another alternate embodiment where the simulated ball is thrown against the backstop panel 14 in a game that is substantially similar to a dart game with various points being awarded when the simulated ball 15 lands in one of the ringed portions 41 of the bull's eye target 42.

While the above description describes various embodiments of the present invention, it will be clear that the present invention may be otherwise easily adapted to fit any configuration where a baseball/softball strike zone trainer for batters is required. Additionally, as various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is also intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. The scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents, rather than by the examples given.