Title:
SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR CONTROLLING BASEBALL BAT SWING
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and methods for controlling a baseball bat swing are disclosed. A system in accordance with a particular embodiment includes an upper arm portion, a lower arm portion, a light source, and a pinch gear. The upper arm portion can be pivotably connected to the lower arm portion and a pinch gear can adjust an angle between the upper arm portion and the lower arm portion. A mounting device can releasably secure the upper arm portion to a user's arm. The system can be employed to train the user to achieve a consistent baseball bat swing.



Inventors:
Johnson, Kristopher A. (Seattle, WA, US)
Application Number:
13/745002
Publication Date:
08/01/2013
Filing Date:
01/18/2013
Assignee:
JOHNSON KRISTOPHER A.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Foreign References:
WO2011003142A12011-01-13
Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PERKINS COIE LLP - SEA General (SEATTLE, WA, US)
Claims:
I/we claim:

1. A system for controlling a user's baseball bat swing, comprising: an arm-mounted device having an upper arm portion, a lower arm portion, a light source, and a pinch gear, the upper arm portion pivotably connected to the lower arm portion, the pinch gear positioned to adjust an angle between the upper arm portion and the lower arm portion, and the light source positioned to emit a light beam; and a mounting device having a sleeve, a patch and a strap, the patch and the strap positioned to secure the arm mounted device to the user's arm.

2. An arm-mounted device for controlling a user's baseball bat swing, the device comprising: an upper arm portion; and a lower arm portion pivotably connected to the upper arm portion; an adjustable element operatively coupled to the upper arm portion and the lower arm portion, the adjustable element having a pinch gear to control an angle between the upper arm portion and the lower arm portion; and a light source carried by the arm-mounted device, the light source having a rotatable cover and an aperture, the rotatable cover and the aperture adjustable relative to the arm-mounted device.

3. A system for controlling a user's baseball bat swing, the system comprising: an arm-mounted device having an upper arm portion, a lower arm portion, and a light source, the upper arm portion and the lower arm portion pivotally connected by a hinge having a pinch gear; and a stowable pad positionable relative to the arm-mounted device to receive light from the light source, the stowable pad having: a home plate indicator; a foot location indicator that is movable relative to the home plate indicator; a swing line indicator; a set indicator that is movable along the swing line indicator; a load indicator that is movable along the swing line indicator; a throw indicator that is movable along the swing line indicator; a plurality of array elements positioned to receive light from the light source; and an audio device positioned to emit sound in response to the receipt of light by at least one individual array element.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application 61/589,208 filed Jan. 20, 2012, and incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure is directed generally to systems and methods for controlling the bat swing of a baseball player.

BACKGROUND

Baseball players, professional and amateur, wish to execute a strong bat swing in a consistent manner. Several aspects of the embodiments disclosed herein can facilitate these aspects of the player's performance.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a device worn by a batter in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.

FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate further embodiments of devices having different widths in accordance with additional embodiments of the disclosure.

FIG. 3 is a partially schematic, isometric illustration of a device configured in accordance with still a further embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 4 is a partially schematic, isometric illustration of a device having a stop engaged by the batter's arm in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 5 is a partially schematic, isometric illustration of a device that may be attached to a batter's forearm and upper arm in accordance with another embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 6 is a schematic illustration of a device configured to restrain a batter's arm motion relative to the batter's body in accordance with another embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 7 is a schematic illustration illustrating further aspects of an embodiment of the device shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a partially schematic, isometric illustration of a system that includes an arm-mounted device and a light source configured in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 9 is a schematic, isometric illustration of a portion of the system shown in FIG. 8, further illustrating a pad configured in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 10A is a partially schematic, isometric illustration of an embodiment of the pad shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 10B is a partially schematic illustration of an array element suitable for use with an embodiment of the pad shown in FIG. 10A.

FIG. 10C is a schematic illustration of an array element and an audio device configured in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 11 illustrates representative light paths that may be indicated during use of a pad in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 12 is an isometric illustration of an arm-mounted device configured in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 13 is a partially exploded isometric view of the arm-mounted device of FIG. 12.

FIGS. 14A and 14B are isometric illustrations of a mounting device configured in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 15 is an isometric illustration of an arm-mounted device secured with a mounting device configured in accordance with yet another embodiment of the disclosure.

FIGS. 16A and 16B are front and rear isometric illustrations, respectively, of an arm-mounted device configured in accordance with another embodiment of the disclosure.

FIGS. 17A and 17B are side views of an arm-mounted device configured in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure.

FIGS. 18A and 18B are photographs of an arm-mounted device, a light source and a mounting strap configured in accordance with another embodiment of the disclosure.

FIG. 19 is an isometric illustration of an arm-mounted device configured in accordance with another embodiment of the disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Aspects of the present disclosure are directed to fixed or adjustable, proprioceptive training devices that can facilitate a player's development of a repeatable, accurate and/or quick baseball bat swing.

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a device 100 (e.g., an arm-mounted device) configured in accordance with an embodiment of the disclosure. The device 100 is viewed from above and is worn by a user whose arm (in FIG. 1) is bent in a generally horizontal plane. In one aspect of this embodiment, the device 100 includes an upper arm portion 101 that is attached to the user's upper arm 150 with an attachment device 121 which, in a particular embodiment, includes one or more releasable straps 109. The device 100 can further include a lower arm portion 102 that is not attached to the user's forearm 151, but which acts as a proprioceptive surface against which the user can rest the forearm 151 when preparing to take a swing with a baseball bat. Accordingly, during the course of the swing, the user's forearm 151 can open and move away from the lower arm portion 102.

The device 100 can further include an intermediate portion 103 positioned between the upper arm portion 101 and the lower arm portion 102. In a particular embodiment, the intermediate portion 103 can set the included angle A between the upper arm portion 101 and the lower arm portion 102. In an embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the intermediate portion 103 can be adjustable, allowing the user to selectively adjust the included angle A to a desired value. Accordingly, the intermediate portion 103 can include an adjustment element 130 that the user can manipulate to select a desired included angle A. In one embodiment, the adjustment element 130 includes a first element 104 attached to the lower arm portion 102, and a second element 105 attached to the upper arm portion 101. The first and second elements 104, 105 can be movable relative to each other about a pivot axis or hinge 110, allowing the user to change the included angle A. In a particular embodiment, the first element 104 can include a post 107 that slides in a circumferential slot 106 carried by the second element 105. The adjustment element 130 can further include a locking knob 108 that allows the user to lock the motion of the first element 104 relative to the second element 105 at a selected angle. The adjustment element 130 can include a scale 111 that identifies angular values. In this manner, the user can try several different values of the included angle A, track batting performance at each angle, and when a desirable or optimal angle is obtained, consistently configure the device 100 at that angle. In one embodiment, the device 100 can accommodate included angles A having a value of from about 70° to about 150°. In a further particular embodiment, included angle A can be varied over a range of from about 90° to about 135°, and in a further particular embodiment, the range for the included angle A can be from about 90° to about 110°. In still further embodiments described later, the device 100 can have a fixed included angle A, set at a particular value in the foregoing ranges.

In a representative method of use, a right-handed batter attaches the device 100 to the left bicep or upper arm 150. Left-handed batters attach the device 100 to the right arm. The batter chooses a desired included angle A, e.g., in the range of about 90°-135°. The batter moves to a load position, maintaining contact between the forearm 151 and the lower arm portion 102 of the device 100. The load in a baseball swing is the movement (generally away from the pitcher) which puts the batter into the correct or ideal launch position, e.g., the point from which to start the forward swing. The load involves a stretching or tensing of muscles, preparing them to move the bat forward quickly. The device 100 can train the batter to develop a reproducible load so that they swing from the same point for each swing. In many cases, a reproducible load position is important in order to deliver the bat to the hitting zone in a direct line (as opposed to, e.g., dropping the bat and delivering a “roundhouse” or “drag” swing). In addition, the timing with which the batter delivers the bat improves when the batter starts from the same point on successive swings.

When the forearm 151 is in contact with the lower arm portion 102, the backward movement of the forearm 151 stops because of light tension in the left tricep. The left elbow is kept in close proximity to the torso. This can improve the batter's ability to obtain the correct bat angle. As seen from the pitcher's view of the batter, the correct bat angle is generally obtained when the plane containing the barrel of bat passes through the batter's ear.

The device 100 can help create an improved or optimal “slot” in which to start the swing in a manner that keeps the batter's hands inside the baseball. In addition, embodiments of the device 100 can make this move simple to teach, as all the batter has to do is to move his or her left elbow back toward the pitcher.

The ability to stop the load in the desired (e.g., optimal) position, as well as start the swing in the slot or with an inside move is often very difficult to teach. Embodiments of the device 100 can develop this move in a matter of minutes. This can greatly improve the performance of batters who otherwise never develop this move and for whom the game becomes too fast and difficult.

Bat swing timing is typically very important, as the bat needs to be delivered to the hitting zone at the precise time that the ball is in the zone. A common mistake is that the unaided batter sets the angle between the upper arm and the forearm to be too obtuse. The batter then develops a swing in which the bat is dragged in an indirect path through the hitting zone. This results in a slow, less efficient swing. Embodiments of the device 100 can improve the batter's swing. For example, most baseball players start their swing with a move of their arms and hands generally away from the pitcher into their “load” position. This move produces a tensing or stretching of the muscles which start the swing via the left bicep/core muscles, legs, etc. With the aid of the device 100, the player can be trained to consistently place his or her body in the same position and at the same launch point for each swing, a feature that embodiments of the present disclosure can facilitate.

From this position the player can move the bat in a direct line to the hitting zone. The device 100 can accordingly create a reproducible point in space from which to start the swing. The correct launch point is often difficult to develop and reproduce, particularly in the young player, but also in accomplished players. Embodiments of the device 100 described above can train the player to consistently start the swing at the same launch point. Other embodiments that can obtain the same and/or further benefits are described below.

FIG. 2A is a schematic, isometric illustration of a device 200a configured in accordance with another embodiment of the disclosure. The device 200a can include an upper arm portion 201a attached to the batter's arm with straps 209 or another attachment device, a lower arm portion 202a, and an intermediate portion 203a. In an embodiment shown in FIG. 2A, the portions 201a, 202a, 203a can be fixed relative to each other. In another embodiment, the device 200a can include a hinge 210 that allows the upper arm portion 201a to move relative to the lower arm portion 202a. Accordingly, in such an embodiment, the intermediate portion 203a can have features (e.g., similar to those described above with reference to FIG. 1) that facilitate movement of the upper arm portion 201 and the lower arm portion 202a relative to each other. In one aspect of an embodiment shown in FIG. 2A, the overall width W of the device 200a can be relatively broad, to provide a significant amount of surface contact between the device 200a and the batter's arms. In another embodiment shown in FIG. 2B, a device 200b can include narrower upper arm portion 201b, a narrower lower arm portion 202b, and a narrower intermediate portion 203b. Accordingly, the overall width W of the device 200b shown in

FIG. 2B can be relatively small. The particular width of a device selected by a batter can depend upon the batter's size and physiology. For example, in some cases, female batters may prefer the narrower device 200b shown in FIG. 2B to avoid contact between the device and the batter's breast. This feature may also be associated with embodiments described later with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5.

FIG. 3 is a partially schematic, isometric illustration of a device 300 that has an upper arm portion 301 with straps 309, a lower arm portion 302, and no intermediate portion. Instead, the device 300 can include a hinge 310 that has a sufficient internal resistance to remain in a selected position, once the batter selects a desired included angle A. In a particular embodiment, the hinge 310 can include an arrangement of detents that allow the batter to move the upper arm portion 301 and the lower arm portion 302 relative to each other, but that also restrict accidental movement once the batter has selected a desired position. In a particular embodiment, the detents can be closely spaced and can allow the batter to select the included angle A in increments of about 2°. In other embodiments, this increment can have other values. In any of these embodiments, the resistance provided by the hinge 310 is great enough to prevent the batter from inadvertently changing the included angle A when positioning his or her arms in the load position. At the same time, the hinge 310 can allow the user to deliberately change the included angle when desired.

As shown in FIG. 3, the upper arm portion 301 and the lower arm portion 302 can each have a thickness or thickness extent T and a width or lateral extent W that is larger than the thickness extent T. The hinge 310 can allow the upper and lower arm portions 301, 302 to pivot relative to each other about a pivot axis 322 that is generally parallel with the lateral extent or width W of the upper arm portion 301 and/or the lower arm portion 302. In other embodiments, the pivot axis can have the opposite orientation, as will be described further with reference to FIG. 4.

In several of the embodiments described above, the device is placed in the crook of the batter's arm, directly opposite the elbow. In other embodiments, the device can be placed on top of the batter's arm and/or below the batter's arm. For example, in an embodiment shown in FIG. 4, a device 400 can include an upper arm portion 401 that is attached to the upper surface of the batter's upper arm 150 with straps 409. The device 400 can further include a lower arm portion 402 that rests on the upper surface of the batter's forearm 151. The batter can selectively adjust the included angle A using a hinge 410 that operates in a manner generally similar to that described above with reference to FIG. 3. The lower arm portion 402 can include a stop 412 against which the batter presses the forearm 151 when in the load position. As the batter swings, the forearm 151 can swing outwardly away from the stop 412.

As shown in FIG. 4, the upper arm portion 401 and the lower arm portion 402 can each have a lateral extent or width W that is greater than a corresponding thickness extent T. The hinge 410 can allow the upper arm portion 401 and the lower arm portion 402 to pivot relative to each other about a pivot axis 422 that is generally parallel to the thickness extent T, rather than the lateral extent W. This arrangement differs from the arrangement described above with reference to FIG. 3 and results from the placement of the device on top of the batter's arm or below the batter's arm, rather than in the crook of the batter's arm.

FIG. 5 is a partially schematic, isometric illustration of a device 500 having an upper arm portion 501 that is releasably attached to the batter's upper arm 150 with straps 509, and a lower arm portion 502 that is releasably attached to the batter's forearm 151 with additional straps 509. The device 500 can further include a hinge 510 that allows the user to selectively adjust the included angle A. In addition, the hinge 510 can include an adjustable internal stop that prevents the included angle A from being less than a selected value (e.g., a value in the range of from about 70° to about 150°). However, the hinge 510 can allow the lower arm portion 502 to move freely relative to the upper arm portion 501 in the opposite, outward direction, as indicated by arrow B. Accordingly, the batter can select a desired included angle A, move the forearm 151 toward the upper arm 150 until the hinge 510 prevents further inward movement, and then freely move the forearm 151 as the batter swings the bat.

In any of the foregoing embodiments, the components of the device can be selected to provide sufficient rigidity, while still facilitating for the batter's comfort. For example, the device can be made from suitable plastics, metals, woods, and/or other materials. These materials can be selected to be strong enough so as not to be crushed during normal use. In particular embodiments, portions of the device (e.g., the upper arm portion and/or the lower arm portion) can include padding to provide for the batter's comfort. The padding can be compliant enough to feel comfortable against the batter's skin, but not so compliant as to interfere with the batter's ability to consistently place his or her arm at the proper included angle A.

Devices in accordance with other embodiments of the present disclosure can control other aspects of the batter's swing, in addition to or in lieu of the aspects described above. For example, a device 600 shown in FIG. 6 can be configured to train the batter to have a “tight” or “closed” swing, in which the batter's elbow remains close to the batter's torso through much of the swing. In a particular aspect of this embodiment, the device 600 can include a belt 613 worn around the batter's torso, a strap 609 worn on the batter's forearm 151, and a motion restrictor 616 connected between the strap 609 and the belt 613. In a particular embodiment, the belt 613 can include a slot 606 that receives a portion of the motion restrictor 616 to both guide and constrain the motion of the batter's arm relative to the batter's torso. In a particular embodiment, the slot 606 can include a constraining portion 614 that restricts the motion of the batter's arm during an initial part of the swing, and a release portion 615 that allows the batter's arm to move further away from the torso toward the end of the swing.

In a particular example shown in FIG. 7, the motion restrictor 616 can include an inelastic portion (e.g., an inelastic line 617) and an elastic portion (e.g., an elastic line 619). A ball 618 or other captured device is located between the inelastic line 617 and the elastic line 619. The position of the ball 618 can be adjusted along the inelastic line 617, as indicated by arrow L. The inelastic line 617 can be attached to the strap 609, also in an adjustable manner, as indicated by arrow L. The opposite end of the motion restrictor 616 includes an attachment device 620 that is attached to the interior of the slot 606 shown in FIG. 6.

During use, the batter stows the elastic line 619 in the slot 606, and slides the ball 618 into the slot 606 at the release portion 615. When the batter assumes the load position, the ball 618 travels upwardly and to the left in the slot 606. As the batter swings, the ball 618 rides in the slot 606, and the inelastic line 617 keeps the batter from moving his or her elbow by more than a preset distance away from the torso. In a particular embodiment, the present distance (established by the position of the ball 618 along the line 617) can be about four inches, but this value can be adjusted depending on the size and/or other characteristics of the batter. As the batter completes the swing, the ball 618 reaches the release portion 615 of the slot 606, and exits the slot 606, allowing the batter to open up and move his or her arm away from the torso. At the same time, the presence of the elastic line 619 attached to the interior of the slot 606 can prevent the ball 618 from swinging about in an uncontrolled manner and interfering with the batter. In a particular embodiment, the ball 618 and the slot 606 can be constructed from metal or metalized components to reduce sliding friction as these components move relative to each other. In other embodiments, these components can be manufactured from other materials.

FIGS. 8-19 illustrate systems in accordance with several embodiments of the disclosure that include both an arm-mounted device to control the player's load position, and a tracking device to track the player's swing. FIG. 8 is a partially schematic, isometric illustration of a system 890 that includes an arm-mounted device 800 and a light source 840. The arm-mounted device 800 can include features generally similar to those of any of the foregoing embodiments described above with reference to FIGS. 1-5. In a particular embodiment, the arm-mounted device 800 includes an upper arm portion 801 attached to the user's upper arm 150 with an attachment device 821. In a particular embodiment, the attachment device 821 includes multiple straps 809. In other embodiments, the attachment device 821 can include other arrangements. The upper arm portion 801 can be pivotably connected to a lower arm portion 802 at a hinge 810. The arm-mounted device 800 can further include an adjustment element 830 operatively coupled to the upper arm portion 801 and the lower arm portion 802 to allow the user to change or adjust the included angle A between the upper arm portion 801 and the lower arm portion 802. In a particular embodiment, the adjustment element 830 can include a post 807 depending from a first element 804 and received in a slot 806 positioned in a overlapping second element 805. The adjustment element 830 can further include a knob 808 that is threadably or otherwise engaged with the post 807 to secure the first and second elements 804, 805 relative to each other in a selected position corresponding to a desired included angle A.

The system 890 can further include a light source 840 that is carried by the arm-mounted device 800. In a particular embodiment, the light source 840 can include a laser or other focused light source that emits a light beam 841 along a light emission axis 842. The light source 840 can be attached to the arm-mounted device 800 at a joint 843. In one embodiment, the joint 843 can be fixed and in another embodiment, the joint 843 can be adjustable. For example, the joint 843 can include a ball and socket arrangement that allows the light source 840 to be pivoted about two perpendicular axes (as indicated by arrows R1 and R2) relative to the arm-mounted device 800, thus allowing the user to select a particular orientation of the light emission axis 842 relative to the arm-mounted device. The light source 840 can be positioned at the outside of the user's arm, as shown in FIG. 8, or at other locations (e.g., the inside of the user's arm) in other embodiments. The light source 840 can include a battery or other suitable power supply.

FIG. 9 illustrates a further embodiment of the system 890 in which a user 853 holding a bat 860 stands on or adjacent to a pad 870 while using the arm-mounted device 800 and the light source 840. The pad 870 can include a home plate indicator 874, a set indicator 879, a load indicator 872 and a throw indicator 873. The pad 870 can further include a swing line indicator 871 extending away from the home plate indicator 874 (e.g., toward a virtual pitcher's mound). The set indicator 879 corresponds to the position of the user's arms when in a set position prior to moving to the load position. The load indicator 872 corresponds to the position of the user's arms when in the load position, and the throw indicator 873 corresponds to the position of the user's arms when the user has completed the majority of the rotation of his body and begins to push the arms away from the body.

In a particular embodiment, the pad 870 can be very simple and can include an unrolled sheet of paper upon which the user 853 or an assistant marks the home plate indicator 874, the set indicator 879, the load indicator 872, the throw indicator 873, and the swing line indicator 871. In another embodiment, the pad 870 can have a more sophisticated arrangement and can include a mat that may be repeatedly rolled and unrolled between a stowed configuration and a deployed configuration. For example, the pad 870 can include a pliable plastic material that can be rolled and unrolled over and over again. In other embodiments, the pad 870 can include other materials. In any of these embodiments, the pad 870 can include a permanent home plate indicator 874 and swing line indicator 871. The pad 870 can further include a set indicator 879, a load indicator 872 and a throw indicator 873 that (in at least some embodiments) are adjustable to facilitate use with players of different sizes, as will be discussed in greater detail below with reference to FIG. 10A.

In use, the player or other user 853 can position the arms in the set position, with the user's upper arm 150 and lower or forearm 151 both contacting the arm-mounted device 800 in the manner described above with reference to FIG. 1. The user 853 or an assistant can adjust the orientation of the light source 840 and/or the set indicator 879 so that the light emission axis 842 intersects the set indicator 879 when the user's arms are in the set position. The location of the load indicator 872 and the throw indicator 873 can also be adjusted to coincide with the light emission axis 842 at the desired point. The user 853 then moves his arms from the set position to the load position which shifts the light emission axis 842 from the set indicator 879 to the load indicator 872. The user 853 then rotates his body to swing the bat 860 from the load position to the throw position and the light emission axis 842 tracks along the pad 870 from the load indicator 872 to the throw indicator 873. The user 853 or an assistant can simultaneously watch the impingement of the light beam 841 as it tracks along the pad 870 and observe any deviations from the swing line indicator 871 and/or from the load indicator 872 and the throw indicator 873. The user 853 can then adjust the swing so that the path of the light beam 841 aligns with (e.g., overlays) the swing line indicator 871 and/or the load indicator 872 and the throw indicator 873. In a particular embodiment, the user 853 can conduct this exercise slowly at first to obtain the proper alignment, and then more quickly to emulate an actual bat swing. The user 853 can repeat this motion over and over again until it becomes more natural (e.g., second nature). For example, the user 853 can swing the bat 860 in this manner for a minimum of 20 times in a row, without adjusting either the arm-mounted device 800 or the light source 840, once the proper orientation of these devices has been selected. In another embodiment, the user 853 can swing the bat 860 up to or over 100 times in a row during a given session without adjusting the arm-mounted device 800 or the light source 840 to facilitate the proper swing becoming second nature (e.g., to facilitate developing the proper muscle memory).

FIG. 10A is partially schematic, plan view of the pad 870, illustrating further features associated with particular embodiments of the overall system 890. For example, in one embodiment, the swing line indicator 871 can include a slot, and the set indicator 879, the load indicator 872 and the throw indicator 873 can each be movable along the slot relative to the home plate indicator 874, as indicated by arrows I. The pad 870 can also include two foot location indicators 875, illustrated as a first foot location indicator 875a and a second foot location indicator 875b. The foot location indicators 875 can be adjusted to accommodate players of different statures. For example, each of the foot location indicators 875 can include a pin 876 that is movable in an axial adjustment slot 877a along a longitudinal axis A1. Each of the foot location indicators 875 can further include a lateral adjustment slot 877b that allows the foot location indicators 875 to move laterally back and forth along a corresponding lateral axis A2. In other embodiments, the foot location indicators 875 can be adjustable in other manners. In still further embodiments, the system 890 can include an additional foot location indicator 875, e.g., a foot location indicator forward of the two shown in FIG. 10A to aid the player in placing the forward foot during the stride portion of a swing. In any of these embodiments, the user can position the foot location indicators 875 relative to the home plate indicator 874 prior to engaging in a bat swing exercise.

The foot location indicators 875, the set indicator 879, the load indicator 872 and the throw indicator 873 can each be adjusted to a position that is determined to be correct for a particular user. For example, a coach or instructor can observe a user and ensure that each indicator is adjusted to the correct position for the user. The user can subsequently practice his swing, and the previously adjusted indicators can verify correct positioning at each point of the swing for the particular user. Repetitive practice with the adjusted indicators can improve the repeatability of a swing for the user and develop a consistent and fundamentally correct swing.

In a particular embodiment, it may be desirable to obtain a semi-permanent or permanent record of the user's swing. For example, the user may wish to use the system 890 without looking downwardly at the pad 870 to track the path of the light beam 841 (FIG. 9) on the pad 870. In another embodiment, the user's swing may be so quick that it is difficult to compare the path of the light beam 841 to the swing line indicator 871. Accordingly, in a particular embodiment, the pad 870 can include a detector/indicator array 880 or other device that detects the passage of the light beam 841 during the user's bat swing, and indicates the passage of the light beam 841 in a semi-permanent or permanent manner that allows the user to review the path of the swing after the swing has been completed. In a particular embodiment, the detector/indicator array 880 can include an array of array elements 884 that are coupled to a power source 886 (e.g., a battery or wall power) to provide a detection and indication function. A particular array element 884 is shown schematically in FIG. 10B, and can include a light detector 881 and a light indicator 883. In a particular embodiment, the light detector 881 and the light indicator 883 are discrete elements that are coupled to each other, and in another embodiment, the light detector 881 and the light indicator 883 form part of a unitary device. In either embodiment, the light detector 881 receives the incoming light beam 841, and in response to receiving the light beam 841, switches from an off state to an on state. For example, the light detector 881 can include a suitable photo detector diode, or other suitable device. In response to achieving the on state, the light detector 881 can transmit a signal along a signal path 882 to the light indicator 883. In response, the light indicator 883 can change from a first state to a second state and in the second state, can present an indication to the user. In a particular embodiment, the indication can include a visual indication. For example, the light indicator 883 can include an LED that illuminates when activated by the corresponding light detector 881. In other embodiments, the light indicator 883 can include other devices. In any of the these embodiments, the detector/indicator array 880 can provide more than an ephemeral indication of the path of the user's swing, and the user can observe this track after completing the swing and adjust his or her swing accordingly. Once the user has completed the swing and observed the corresponding indication the user can activate a reset device 885 (FIG. 10A) to reset the light indicators 883 before taking another swing.

In one embodiment, aural indications can alert the user to receipt of the light beam 841 by one or more of the array elements 884. FIG. 10C is a schematic illustration of a particular array element 884 electrically connected to an audio device 887 by a signal path 889. The audio device 887 can include a sound producing device or speaker 892. Upon receiving the light beam 841, the light detector 881 can switch from an off state to an on state and transmit a signal along the signal path 889 to the audio device 887. The audio device 887 can emit an audible indication or tone to alert the user that the array element 884 has received the light beam 841. In some embodiments, only one array element is electrically connected to the audio device 887. For example, a particular array element 884 that is electrically connected to the audio device 887 can be positioned at the load indicator 872 (FIG. 10A). In other embodiments, multiple array elements 884 can be electrically connected to the audio device 887. For example, array elements 884 at the set indicator 879, the load indicator 872, the throw indicator 873, and/or other locations on the pad 870 can be electrically connected to the audio device 887.

The audio device 887 can provide unique tones or sounds for individual array elements 884. For example, in one embodiment, the audio device 887 can provide a first tone for an array element 884 at the set indicator 879, a second tone for an array element 884 at the load indicator 872 and a third tone for an array element 884 at the throw indicator 873. In other embodiments, array elements along a preferred swing path can be electrically connected to the audio device 887 and audible signals can indicate the path of the user's swing. In another embodiment, all of the array elements 884 can be electrically connected to the audio device 887, and a preferred swing path can be indicated by particular sounds or tones. Accordingly, the system 890 can provide various indications about a user's swing without requiring the user to observe the pad 870.

FIG. 11 is a partially schematic, plan view illustrating a portion of the pad 870 along with representative light paths 845 (shown as a first light path 845a, a second light path 845b, and a third light path 845c). For purposes of simplicity, certain details of the pad 870 shown in FIG. 10A (e.g., the array 880) are not shown in FIG. 11. When the user activates the system 890 and steps to the home plate indicator 874 with the light source 840 (FIG. 9) activated, the light source 840 can form a first light impingement point 844a on the pad 870. The user can adjust the orientation of the light source 840 to align the light impingement point with the load indicator 872, as indicated by arrow L and a second light impingement point 844b. The user can then swing the bat, as described above with reference to FIG. 9. In a particular embodiment, the swing produces a first light path 845a that does not track the swing line indicator 871. Accordingly, the user can adjust his or her swing until the light path follows the swing line indicator 871, as indicated by the second light path 845b. The user can then execute multiple swings, resetting the device between each swing, at least until the user can consistently follow the swing line indicator 871.

In other embodiments, the user may use the system 890 to improve or perfect swings that may not necessarily follow the swing line indicator 871. For example, if the user wishes to specifically train on inside pitches, the user can deliberately produce the third light path 845c corresponding to a swing line that will connect with an inside pitch. The user can employ a similar technique to perfect swings for outside pitches or other types of pitches. In still further embodiments, the user can position the light source 840 to form a light path that does not lie directly on the swing line indicator 871. For example, the user can position the light source 840 so that the light path lies parallel to the swing line indicator 871 rather than overlying the swing line indicator 871. In still further embodiments, the user's optimum swing (or other desired swing) may not be along or parallel to the swing line indicator 871. In such instances, the user may establish his or her own swing line indicator to suit the idiosyncrasies of the user's swing. The user can also use embodiments of the system 890 to document and save a particular (e.g., a particularly effective) swing. For example, if a batter has just completed a number of successful at-bats, and is “in the groove,” he or she can use the same swing while tracking the swing with the system 890 to light up the associated light path. The system 890 can include a memory that permanently records the light track, and the user can later call up the light track on demand. The user can then match the desired swing by taking a few practice swings with the desired light track illuminated or otherwise indicated, while the system displays a new light track with each swing so the player can tailor his/her swing to the selected swing. In a particular embodiment, the player can follow this routine before every at-bat until the desired swing comes naturally.

FIG. 12 is an isometric illustration of an arm-mounted device 1200 configured in accordance with an embodiment of the present technology. The arm-mounted device 1200 can include features generally similar to those of any of the foregoing embodiments described above. In the illustrated embodiment, the arm-mounted device 1200 includes an upper arm portion 1201 having a light source 1240. A hinge 1210 can pivotably connect the upper arm portion 1201 to a lower arm portion 1202. The hinge 1210 can include an adjustable element 1230 to allow the user to change or adjust an angle A between the upper arm portion 1201 and the lower arm portion 1202, as will be described further below. The arm-mounted device 1200 can include angle markers 1232 to indicate a numerical value of the angle A. Although the angle markers 1232 of the illustrated embodiment include a series of numerical values indicating the measurement of the angle A (in degrees), other embodiments can include other annotations, e.g., symbols or other alphanumeric characters that represent the angle A.

In the illustrated embodiment, the light source 1240 includes a rotatable cover 1242 having an aperture 1244. A laser, a light-emitting diode (LED) or other light producing devices or combination of devices can be positioned, at least partially, within the light source 1240. The light source 1240 can emit a light beam through the aperture 1244 and a user can rotate the cover 1242 to adjust the position of the aperture 1244 and the direction of the light beam. Although the illustrated embodiment includes a generally round light source 1240 and a single aperture 1244, in other embodiments, the light source 1240 can be shaped in different manners and/or can include additional apertures. For example, the light source 1240 can include three apertures to provide varying light beams, e.g., varying positions, intensity and/or beam width. In some embodiments, the light source 1240 can produce fan beams and/or light emissions having other characteristics. In a manner generally similar to that described above with reference to the arm-mounted device 800 of FIGS. 8 and 9, the arm-mounted device 1200 and the light source 1240 can be adjusted to assist a player with a bat swinging exercise.

FIG. 13 is a partially exploded isometric view of the arm-mounted device 1200 of FIG. 12. In the illustrated embodiment, the upper arm portion 1201 includes a first cylindrical portion 1302a, and the lower arm portion 1202 includes a complementary second cylindrical portion 1302b. The first cylindrical portion 1302a and the second cylindrical portion 1302b include first and second openings 1304a and 1304b, respectively. The first opening 1304a can include internal pinch-teeth 1305 and the second opening 1304b can include internal set-teeth (not shown). The adjustable element 1230 can include a pinch-gear 1306 having a first cylinder 1308a and a second cylinder 1308b (collectively the cylinders 1308). The first cylinder 1308a can include a first button 1310a and a first pinch-gear half 1312a. The second cylinder 1308b can include a second button 1310b, a second pinch-gear half 1312b and a set-gear 1314. A spring 1316 can be positioned within the cylinders 1308.

In operation, the first cylinder 1308a partially envelops the second cylinder 1308b to form the pinch-gear 1306. The spring 1316 is contained within the pinch-gear 1306 and biases the first cylinder 1308a away from the second cylinder 1308b. The set-gear 1314 engages the set-teeth in the second opening 1304b and prevents the second pinch-gear half 1308b from rotating within the second cylindrical portion 1302b. The first pinch-gear half 1312a aligns with the second pinch-gear half 1312b so that corresponding external pinch-teeth sets 1313a, 1313b engage with the internal pinch-teeth 1305. The pinch-gear halves 1312 prevent the upper arm portion 1201 from rotating and changing the angle A (FIG. 12) between the upper arm portion 1201 and the lower arm portion 1202. To change the angle A, a user can push the buttons 1310 to move the pinch-gear halves 1312 axially so that the external pinch-teeth sets 1313a, 1313b are out of alignment with the pinch-teeth 1305. The user rotates the upper arm portion 1201 to form the desired angle A and releases the buttons 1310. The spring 1316 pushes the cylinders 1308 apart, to re-engage the external pinch-teeth sets 1313a, 1313b (carried by the pinch-gear halves 1312) with the pinch-teeth 1305 and locking the arm-mounted device 1200 at the desired angle A.

The arm-mounted device 1200 can be attached to a user's upper arm in any of a variety of suitable manners. FIGS. 14A and 14B are isometric illustrations of a mounting device 1400 configured in accordance with an embodiment of the present technology. The mounting device 1400 can include a sleeve 1402 having a patch 1404 and a strap 1406. The sleeve 1402 can be configured to be positioned around an arm of a user 1401. The patch 1404 and the strap 1406 can include hook and loop fasteners for attaching the arm-mounted device 1200 of FIGS. 12 and 13. In the illustrated embodiment, the patch 1402 includes loop fasteners 1408 and the strap 1406 includes a tab 1410 having hook fasteners 1412. The tab 1410 can include the hook fasteners 1412 on a first side 1414 and a second side (not shown) to enable a user to wrap the strap 1406 around the sleeve 1402 clockwise or counter-clockwise.

FIG. 15 is an isometric illustration of the arm-mounted device 1200 releasably secured to a user's arm with the mounting device 1400 in accordance with the present technology. Referring to FIGS. 14A-15 together, the arm-mounted device 1200 can include an adhesive patch (not visible) having hook fasteners attached to a back side of the upper-arm portion 1201. The user 1401 can slide the sleeve 1402 onto an arm and position the hook fasteners of the adhesive patch against the patch 1404 (FIG. 14A) to partially secure the arm-mounted device 1200 to the mounting device 1400. The strap 1406 can be extended across the upper-arm portion 1201 and the tab 1410 can be attached to the patch 1404, further securing the arm-mounted device 1200 to the mounting device 1400.

The mounting device 1400 can be configured in a variety of suitable sizes and colors. For example, in one embodiment, the mounting device 1400 can be constructed in different sizes for a variety of different sized users. In other embodiments, the mounting device 1400 can be constructed in only one size and can be made of suitably flexible material(s) to fit users varying in size from small children to large adults. The mounting device 1400 can be constructed of material(s) of varying colors and/or patterns to provide a user with multiple choices to match their particular preferences and/or match the design and/or color of other athletic attire or uniforms.

FIGS. 16A is an isometric front view illustration of an-arm mounted device 1600 configured in accordance with an embodiment of the present technology. Several features of the arm-mounted device 1600 of FIG. 16A are similar in structure and function to the arm-mounted device 1200 of FIGS. 12-15. The arm-mounted device 1600 includes a hinge 1610, a lower arm portion 1602 and an upper arm portion 1601 having a light source 1640. The tear drop shaped light source 1640 can be mounted in a slot 1650 and can include an on-off button 1641 and a rotatable cover 1642 having an aperture 1644. An angle marker 1632 can include a cutout 1633 and annotations to indicate a numerical value of an angle A. The arm-mounted device 1600 can function in a manner generally similar to that described above with reference to the arm-mounted devices 800, 1200.

FIG. 16B is an isometric rear view illustration of the arm-mounted device 1600 having an adjustment knob 1652. The arm-mounted device 1600 can include padded material 1654 that can be positioned against a user's arm. The padded material 1654 can include a cutout 1656. The light source 1640 can move along the slot 1650 and can be secured into a position by tightening the adjustment knob 1652. The light source 1640 can be positioned within the slot and rotated appropriately for users who swing a bat either right or left handed. By way of example, the light source 1640 can be positioned as shown in FIG. 16A for a user who swings left handed. The aperture 1644 points toward the ground when the left handed user assumes a batting stance with the arm-mounted device 1600 positioned on the left arm and the aperture 1644 positioned as shown in FIG. 16A.

FIGS. 17A and 17B are side views of an arm-mounted device 1700 configured in accordance with an embodiment of the present technology. The arm-mounted device 1700 includes an upper-arm portion 1701, a lower arm portion 1702, an adjustable element 1730 and a light source 1740. The light source 1740 can be activated in a number of manners. In the illustrated embodiment, a lever 1731 is coupled to the lower arm portion 1702. The lever 1731 is operable from a first position (A, FIG. 17A) to a second position (B, FIG. 17B). The lever 1731 can prevent the light source 1740 from activating until a user has achieved the proper position to initiate a swing. A user's forearm can be brought into contact with the lever 1731 to pivot the lever 1731 from the first position (A) to the second position (B), to effect the operation of the light source 1740.

In one embodiment, a mode switch (not shown) can be combined with the lever 1731. The mode switch can include an “on” position, an “off” position and an “automatic” position. In the off position, the light source 1740 cannot be activated. In the on position, the light source 1740 can be active, regardless of the position of the lever 1731. In the automatic position, the lever 1731 can control the activation of the light source 1740. Moving the lever from the first position (A) to the second position (B) can operate a switch (not shown) and activate the light source 1740. Although the illustrated embodiment includes a lever 1731, other embodiments can include additional and/or alternative activation features. For example, a push button, a toggle and/or other activation devices can be included in this and/or other embodiments.

Although several of the arm-mounted devices described above include hinges or other devices to adjust an angle between an upper arm portion and a lower arm portion, embodiments in accordance with the present technology can include fixed angle arm-mounted devices. For example, in one embodiment, an arm-mounted device similar to that shown in FIGS. 16A and 16B can be provided without a hinge. In such an embodiment, the arm-mounted device can be produced having any of several appropriate fixed angles. In a particular embodiment, a plurality of arm-mounted devices can be provided with each having a different fixed angle. A user can select from amongst the multiple devices the particular fixed angle that is appropriate for their particular swing or practice goals.

As described above, devices configured in accordance with embodiments described herein can be worn during swing practice to train a user proper swing technique. Devices in accordance with the present technology can also be used in a game setting. Several embodiments configured for use in a game setting can include components or parts designed to withstand an impact from a fastball and/or other high impact or forces. High impact plastics or other impact resistant materials can be included in arm-mounted devices to prevent damage and or injury. In some embodiments, rubber or other materials that are not susceptible to impact breakage can be used. For example, a relatively stiff rubber compound can be used to form the lower and/or upper arm portion of an arm-mounted device. In one embodiment, a light source can be detached from an arm-mounted device to prevent any damage that may occur in a game setting. In other embodiments, a light source is not included with the arm-mounted device and tactile indication alone is used to indicate a correct position.

A player can wear an arm-mounted device to enhance his or her game performance in a manner similar to that described above for swing practice. For example, the arm-mounted device can assist the player by providing an indication that the player has positioned her forearm against a lower arm portion of the device. The player's lower arm motion is limited as her arm is brought into contact with the lower arm portion of the arm-mounted device, and the tactile sensation indicates that she has achieved the correct position.

FIGS. 18A and 18B are photographs of an arm-mounted device 1800, a light source 1840 and a mounting strap 1805 configured in accordance with another embodiment of the present disclosure. The arm-mounted device 1800 can be similar in structure and function to the arm-mounted devices described above. The light source 1840 can be secured to the mounting strap 1805 in a variety of suitable arrangements and can function in a manner similar to the light sources described above. For example, similar to the embodiment described above with respect to FIG. 8, the light source 1840 can be positioned on the outside of a user's arm. In the illustrated embodiment, the light source 1840 is secured to the mounting strap 1805 with a fabric loop 1807. The fabric loop 1807 can include a flexible or stretchable material to secure the light source 1840. In other embodiments, other securing means can be used, including snaps, webbing and/or other fasteners.

In a manner generally similar to the mounting device 1400 described above with respect to FIG. 14, the mounting strap 1805 can secure the arm-mounted device 1800 to a user's arm (FIG. 18B). The mounting strap 1805 can be positioned to hold the light source 1840 at a chosen location with respect to the user's arm. In the illustrated embodiment, the mounting strap 1805 is positioned to hold the light source 1840 along a posterior region of a user's upper arm and generally parallel to the user's upper arm. In other embodiments, the light source 1840 can be secured in other positions and/or at an angle to a user's arm. For example, the mounting strap 1805 can include a plurality of fabric loops 1807 to provide multiple positions and/or angles for the light source 1840. In another embodiment, the light source can be attached to an adjustable mounting device that can be rotated or adjusted. The mounting device can be adjusted to direct a light beam in a desired direction, e.g., parallel to a user's arm, or at any other preferred angle.

FIG. 19 is an isometric illustration of an arm-mounted device 1900 configured in accordance with another embodiment of the present technology. The arm-mounted device 1900 includes an upper arm portion 1901 having an extension 1970. In the illustrated embodiment, the extension 1970 can wrap around the outside of a user's left arm or the inside of a user's right arm. The arm-mounted device 1900 can include a slot (not shown) similar to the slot 1650 of FIGS. 16A and 16B. The slot can extend along the upper arm portion 1901 and the extension 1970. A light source (not shown) can be moved within the slot in a manner similar to that described above with respect to FIGS. 16A and 16B. Although the illustrated embodiment includes an extension 1970 that is integral with the upper arm portion 1901, extensions to the arm-mounted devices described above can be configured in any of a variety of suitable manners. For example, in one embodiment, an extension to the upper arm portion of an arm-mounted device can be detachable. A light source can be mounted to the detachable extension and the detachable extension can be mounted to an upper arm portion. The detachable extension can be configured to be mounted to extend to the outside and/or the inside of a user's upper arm.

One feature of several of the devices configured in accordance with embodiments described above is that they can train the batter to position the forearm more tightly or closely relative to the upper arm, and thus counteract the tendency for some batters to open the forearm relative to the upper arm prior to the proper time to do so. This is unlike some existing devices and associated methods used in other sports (e.g., golf) which are constructed and used in a manner that prevents, rather than encourages, closure of the forearm relative to the upper arm. As discussed above, training with devices in accordance with the present disclosure can improve the consistency and speed of the batter's swing. In particular, a less obtuse angle between the batter's forearm and upper arm allows the batter to deliver the bat to the hitting zone faster. In addition, devices in accordance with further embodiments of the disclosure (e.g., as shown in FIGS. 6-19) can monitor and/or control the motion of the batter's arm relative to the batter's torso, again to improve the batter's swing.

Another feature of several of the devices configured in accordance with embodiments described above is that they can aid the user in developing a consistent swing by providing indications that the player is consistently achieving the correct position for each portion of his or her swing. For example, the foot position indicators 875 (FIG. 10A) and the set indicator 872 can aid the player in achieving a proper set position. Additionally, the embodiments described above can aid a user in developing a consistent swing from the set position to the load position and from the load position to the throw position, by providing feedback, e.g. direct feedback, to the user. The user can see the set position and the track of a swing in real time or with lit indicators (as described above with respect to FIGS. 9-10B), and compare the set position and the track to a desired set position and track, and make appropriate adjustments. Additionally, audible indicators (as described above with respect to FIGS. 9-10C) can be used to assist the user. The user can practice the swing over and over again, developing the muscle memory to reproduce a fundamentally sound swing.

From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that specific embodiments of the disclosure have been described herein for purposes of illustration, but that various modifications may be made without deviating from the disclosure. For example, the hinges and other components can have other configurations in other embodiments. The device can be attached to the batter's lower arm rather than the upper arm, provided it does not slide toward the wrist during a swing. The light source can be augmented or replaced by an energy source that emits energy other than light. Certain aspects of the disclosure described in the context of particular embodiments may be combined or eliminated in other embodiments. For example, in some embodiments, the elastic line 619 and attachment 620 described above can be eliminated. In other embodiments, certain aspects of any of the devices shown in FIGS. 1-5 can be combined with aspects of the devices shown in FIGS. 6-19 to provide an integrated motion control function. In still further embodiments, the system can include an arm-mounted device alone, or a tracking device that does not include an arm-mounted device specifically configured to control the user's load position. Further, while advantages associated with certain embodiments have been described in the context of those embodiments, other embodiments may also exhibit such advantages and not all embodiments need necessarily exhibit such advantages, to fall within the scope of the present disclosure. Accordingly, the disclosure can include other embodiments not expressly shown or described above.