Title:
SWING TRAINER DEVICE, SYSTEM AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A device, system, and method for training a user to hit a ball with a ball bat. The device and system including a main section having a light source for emitting a light energy, and an upper portion extending from the main section and configured to be received on at least a portion of a knob of the ball bat. The device may be received onto the knob, such that the light energy is generally emitted collinear with or parallel to a longitudinal axis of the ball bat. As such, a user can obtain an indication of the user's body and ball bat position. For instance, the user can hold the ball bat in a first position, projecting the light energy at a position behind the user. Further, the user can transition the ball bat to a second position, projecting of light energy in front of the user.



Inventors:
Mcclure, Justin (Wichita, KS, US)
Application Number:
13/938924
Publication Date:
01/16/2014
Filing Date:
07/10/2013
Assignee:
MCCLURE ENTERPRISES, LLC
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/422
International Classes:
A63B69/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DAVISON, LAURA L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kutak Rock LLP (Kansas City, MO, US)
Claims:
Having thus described various embodiments of the invention, what is claimed as new and desired to be protected by Letters Patent includes the following:

1. A swing training device for a ball bat, with the ball bat including a bat head, a handle, and a knob located on a portion of the handle, the swing training device comprising: a main section having a light source for emitting a directional projection of light energy; and an upper portion extending from the main section and configured to be received on at least a portion of the knob of the ball bat, wherein, with the device being received onto the knob of the ball bat, the light source is operable to emit the projection of light energy is generally collinear with or parallel to a longitudinal axis of the ball bat.

2. The swing training device from claim 1, wherein the upper portion of the device comprises an annular sleeve that is configured to grasp onto an exterior surface of the knob to secure the device to the ball bat.

3. The swing training device from claim 2, wherein the annular sleeve includes an internal-facing surface and an external-facing surface, with the internal-facing surface being shaped to interface with the exterior surface of the knob.

4. The swing training device from claim 3, wherein the internal-facing surface has a convex shape.

5. The swing training device from claim 1, with the main section further having a power source for providing power to the light source.

6. The swing training device from claim 1, wherein the light source is a laser.

7. The swing training device from claim 1, further including a manual switch for activating the light source.

8. A method of using, by a user, a swing training device for a ball bat, with the swing training device including a light source for emitting a directional projection of light energy, the method including attaching the swing training device onto a portion of a knob of the ball bat; activating the light source, such that the directional projection of light energy is emitted towards away from the knob of the ball bat; holding the ball bat in a first position, such that the projection of light energy is directed onto a ground surface at a position behind the user; transitioning the ball bat to a second position, such that the projection of light energy is directed at a position in front of the user.

9. The method of claim 11, wherein the second position is directed onto a ground surface at the position in front of the user.

10. The method of claim 11, wherein the second position is directed onto a ball that is to be hit by the user swinging the ball bat.

11. The method of claim 11, wherein the first position is used during a loading phase of the user's swing of the ball bat.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the second position is used during a launch phase of the user's swing of the ball bat.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This non-provisional patent application claims priority benefit, with regard to all common subject matter, of earlier-filed U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/670,115, filed Jul. 10, 2012, and entitled “SWING TRAINER DEVICE, SYSTEM AND METHOD.” The identified earlier-filed provisional patent application is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety into the present non-provisional application.

FIELD

Embodiments of the present invention are directed to a device, a system, and a method for training a user to hit a ball with a ball bat. In more detail, embodiments of the present invention include a swing trainer device, system, and method for improving a user's swing of a ball bat, so as to increase an accuracy and an efficiency of the user's swing.

BACKGROUND

Baseball and softball are examples of games that involve hitting a ball with a ball bat. Such games are popular amongst youth and adults in many countries. Baseball in particular is known as the national pastime of the United Sates. Baseball and softball require a high degree of inherent skill for each of the players at their respective positions. Although baseball and softball require inherent skill, certain other skills may be learned and/or improved through training. For example, a proper way to swing a ball bat is a skill that can be learned and/or improved through repetitive training.

A common fault in the swing of many baseball and/or softball players is that such players have a long swing. A long swing is one in which a head of the ball bat travels through a large arc as the players transition from a loading phase of the swing to a position where the head of the bat contacts the ball. Such a long swing results in reduced bat speed and accuracy when hitting a ball because the head of the bat has to travel a greater distance before making contact with the ball. In preferred circumstances, baseball and/or softball players should have a short and compact swing, such that the swing is as accurate and efficient as possible. A key requirement for players to have short, compact swings is for the players to maintain a proper positioning of the players' body and the ball bat during a loading phase and through impact with the ball. However, it is difficult for such players to practice proper positioning throughout their swing because the players cannot generally see their body and/or bat positioning while training and/or practicing.

SUMMARY

Embodiments of the present invention include a swing training device for a ball bat. Ball bats for use with the swing training device may include a bat head, a handle, and a knob located on a portion of the handle. The swing training device comprises a main section having a light source for emitting a directional projection of light energy, and an upper portion extending from the main section and configured to be received on at least a portion of the knob of the ball bat. The swing training device may be received onto the knob of the ball bat, such that the light source is capable of emitting the projection of light energy generally collinear with or parallel to a longitudinal axis of the ball bat.

Embodiments of the present invention may additionally include a method of using, by a user, a swing training device for a ball bat, with the swing training device including a light source for emitting a directional projection of light energy. The method may include the steps of: attaching the swing training device onto a portion of a knob of the ball bat; activating the light source, such that the directional projection of light energy is emitted towards away from the knob of the ball bat; holding the ball bat in a first position, such that the projection of light energy is directed onto a ground surface at a position behind the user; and transitioning the ball bat to a second position, such that the projection of light energy is directed at a position in front of the user.

Embodiments of the present invention additionally includes a swing training system for a ball bat, with the ball bat including a bat head, a handle, and a knob located on a portion of the handle. The swing training system comprises a swing training device configured to be received on at least a portion of the knob of the ball bat, with the swing training device including a light source for emitting a directional projection of light energy. The swing training system additionally includes a target mat including one or more target areas for receiving the projection of light energy.

This summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the detailed description. This summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended to be used to limit the scope of the claimed subject matter. Other aspects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following detailed description of the embodiments and the accompanying drawing figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

Embodiments of the present invention are described in detail below with reference to the attached drawing figures, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a swing training device secured to a knob of a ball bat, with a handle of the ball bat shown in a partial perspective view;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the swing training device from FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of a cross-section of the swing training device from FIGS. 1-2;

FIG. 4 is a bottom perspective view from of cross-section of the swing training device from FIGS. 1-3;

FIG. 5 is a bottom elevational view from of the swing training device from FIGS. 1-4;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of cross-section of the swing training device from FIGS. 1-5, with the swing training device secured to the knob of the ball bat from FIG. 1, with the handle of the ball bat shown in a partial perspective view;

FIG. 7 is a front elevational view of a cross-section of the swing training device from FIGS. 1-6, with the swing training device secured to the knob of the ball bat from FIGS. 1 and 6, with the handle of the ball bat shown in a partial front elevational view;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a ring fit adjuster according to embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 9 front elevational view of a cross-section of the ring fit adjuster from FIG. 8, with the ring fit adjuster secured to the knob of the ball bat from FIGS. 1 and 6, with the handle of the ball bat shown in a partial front elevational view;

FIG. 10 front elevational view of a cross-section of the ring fit adjuster from FIG. 8 and the swing training device from FIGS. 1-7, with the ring fit adjuster secured to the knob of the ball bat from FIGS. 1 and 6, and the swing training device secured to the ring fit adjuster, and with the handle of the ball bat shown in a partial front elevational view;

FIG. 11 is a flow chart of a method of using the swing training device from FIGS. 1-7 according to embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 12 is a plan view of a target mat according to embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 13(a) is a plan view of a target indicator according to embodiments of the present invention; and

FIG. 13(b) is a side elevational view of the target indicator from FIG. 13(b).

The drawing figures do not limit the present invention to the specific embodiments disclosed and described herein. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

The following detailed description of the invention references the accompanying drawings that illustrate specific embodiments in which the invention can be practiced. The embodiments are intended to describe aspects of the invention in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. Other embodiments can be utilized and changes can be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. The following detailed description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense. The scope of the present invention is defined only by the appended claims, along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled.

In this description, references to “one embodiment,” “an embodiment,” or “embodiments” mean that the feature or features being referred to are included in at least one embodiment of the technology. Separate references to “one embodiment,” “an embodiment,” or “embodiments” in this description do not necessarily refer to the same embodiment and are also not mutually exclusive unless so stated and/or except as will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art from the description. For example, a feature, structure, act, etc. described in one embodiment may also be included in other embodiments, but is not necessarily included. Thus, the present technology can include a variety of combinations and/or integrations of the embodiments described herein.

Turning to the drawings, FIG. 1 illustrates a swing training device 10 according to embodiments of the present invention. The swing training device 10 comprises a hollowed cylindrical main section 12 that operates as a housing for a plurality of electrical components; an upper portion 14 extending from the main section and configured to be received on at least a portion of a handle of a ball bat 16; and a light source 18 for emitting a directional projection of light energy (hereinafter referred to as a beam of light) from a bottom end of the swing training device. As will be discussed in more detail below, the swing training device 10 can be secured to a ball bat 16 by positioning the upper portion 14 on a knob of the ball bat. Once secured thereto, the beam of light may be projected in a direction that is generally parallel with a longitudinal axis of the ball bat 16, such that the swing training device 10 provides an indication of the position and/or orientation of the ball bat. As such, a user of embodiments of the present invention can use the swing training device 10 as a training tool to facilitate proper ball bat positioning to ensure a proper swing of the ball bat. As used herein, direction or relational terms such as “upper,” “lower,” “top,” and “bottom” are used as an aid to the reader in place of less visual terms such as “first” and “second.” Terms such as “upper,” “lower,” “top,” and “bottom” are used in the context of a user viewing embodiments of the present invention from a standpoint of the ball bat 16 in an upright position with the swing training aid 10 attached thereto. Thus, with reference to FIG. 1 for example, the “lower” or “bottom” portions of embodiments of the present invention and of the ball bat 16 are presented on the left side of the figure, while the “upper” or “top” portions are presented on the right side of the figure.

As shown in FIG. 2, the main section 12 of the swing training device includes a cylindrical side wall 20 and bottom wall 22 that present a generally hollow interior. The hollow interior may be sized appropriately for housing the plurality of electronic components associated with and including the light source 18, which will be discussed in more detail below. The main section 12 may be formed from a structurally solid material, such as polymers, rubbers, metals, or any other material suitable to support and protect the electronic components.

The electronic components may include any type of components necessary for the light source 18 to operate according to embodiments of the present invention. In certain embodiments, such as illustrated in the FIGS. 3-4, the electrical components may include the light source 18; a power source 30 for providing electrical power to the light source; a switch 32 for selectively allowing for power to be provided from the power source to the light source; and a circuit board 34 for directing power from the power source to the battery. The light source 18 may be selected from any type of light source that provides for the generation of a generally narrow beam of visible light energy. For instance, the light source 18 may include a laser diode capable of emitting a coherent low-powered laser beam of light. Embodiments of the present invention may include laser diodes that emit various wavelengths of light, such as laser diodes that emit red, blue, green, violet, or any other visible color of laser light. In additional embodiments, the light source 18 may include more traditional sources of light, such as a light emitting diode, a lamp, or the like.

As illustrated in FIGS. 3-4, the light source 18 may be positioned generally near a bottom portion of the main section 12, such that the beam of light can be emitted from the bottom wall 22 of the main section. In certain embodiments, and as best illustrated by FIGS. 1-2, the bottom wall 22 may include an aperture formed near its center. Embodiments thus provide for the light source 18 to emit the beam of light through the aperture formed in the bottom wall 22. In certain embodiments, the center of the bottom wall 22 may be aligned with a longitudinal centerline of the swing training device 10, such that the aperture is similarly aligned with the longitudinal centerline of the swing training device. In other embodiments, the aperture may alternatively be positioned through the bottom wall 22 at a location other than at its center, such as being offset from the center. As will be discussed in more detail below, the swing training device 10 is secured to a ball bat in such a manner that the longitudinal centerline of the swing training device is generally aligned with the longitudinal axis of the ball bat 16. Thus, if the aperture is positioned at the center of the bottom wall 22, then the beam of light will be emitted by the light source 18 generally collinearly with the longitudinal axis of the ball bat 16. Alternatively, if the aperture is positioned offset from the bottom wall's 22 center, the beam of light emitted by the light source will generally be parallel with the ball bat's 22 longitudinal axis.

The light source 18 may be powered by electrical power provided by the power source 30. In certain embodiments, the power source 30 may include simple disposable-type batteries, such as zinc-carbon batteries, alkaline batteries, or the like. In certain other embodiments, the power source 30 may include rechargeable batteries, such that the batteries may be replenished with electrical power, once the power source has been depleted of electrical power. In still further embodiments, the light source 18 may be powered directly from an AC power source, such as a standard 110 VAC wall outlets. In such embodiments, the electrical components may further include an AC adapter that is operable to convert the 110 VAC to a DC source that is required to operate the light source 18. Embodiments of the present invention may further include the necessary structural components with which to hold and secure the power source 30 within the main section 12. For instance, as illustrated by FIGS. 3-4, embodiments may include one or more battery clips 36 that operate to hold the power source 30 in place.

The switch 32 is operable to selectively allow for electrical power to be provided from the power source 30 to the light source 18. In certain embodiments, the switch 32 may be a simple mechanical on/off switch, such as a spring compression switch, a push-button switch, a lever switch, or the like. In certain embodiments, such as illustrated in the drawings, the switch 32 may extend out from the interior of the main section 12 through the bottom wall 22. In other embodiments, the switch 32 may be positioned elsewhere, such as extending through the side wall 20 of the main section 12. In certain embodiments, the switch 32 may include a light indicator within the switch that is operable to activate when the switch is in a closed position. The light indicator may provide an independent indication for a user to know when electrical power is being supplied to the light source 18 without the user being required to directly observe of the light source. Such an embodiment may be beneficial when the light source 18 is a laser diode that should not be directed into a human eye.

The circuit board 34 may be any type of circuit board, such as a printed circuit board, that is operable to mechanically support and electrically connect each of the other electrical components. For instance, the circuit board 34 may mechanically support the power supply 30, the light source 18, and the switch 32. Furthermore, the circuit board 34 may include necessary conductive pathways to electrically connect such electrical components. For example, the circuit board 34 may include the necessary conductive pathways for the power source 30 to provide electrical power to the light source 18 when the switch 32 is activated in a closed position. Embodiments of the present invention provide for the circuit board 34 to be secured within the main section 12 of the swing training device 10 via various method of securement, such as adhesives, heat welding, screw-type fasteners, or the like.

Embodiments of the present invention may also provide for the swing training device 10 to include certain additional types of electrical switches that provide for activation/deactivation of the light source 18. For example, embodiments may include a tilt-switch (not shown) that is operable to deactivate the light source 18 upon the swing training device 10 being positioned at an angle that exceeds a threshold angle. For instance, if the swing training device 10 is positioned such that the beam of light is directed at an angle that approaches or exceeds a horizontal angle, then the tilt-switch may operate to deactivate the light source 18. Such a tilt-switch may include, for instance, a mercury switch, electromechanical tilt switch, or the like. The tilt-switch may act as a safety feature to cause the light source 18 to be deactivated when the beam of light is aimed at a level near or above the horizontal where the beam of light may be likely to be directed at a human eye.

Furthermore, as illustrated by FIG. 5, embodiments of the present invention may provide for the swing training device 10 to include an electronic component cover 38 that is positioned between the main section 12 and the upper portion 14. The electronic component cover 38 may be formed from a plastic, rubber, or any other material and operates as a physical barrier to protect the electronic components from physical impacts and other ambient conditions, such as excessive moisture.

Returning to FIGS. 3-4, the upper portion 14 of embodiments of the present invention may be formed as an annular sleeve that extends from the main section 12. The annular sleeve includes a bottom end 40 that is formed adjacent to the main section 12 and a top end 42 that is formed furthest away from the main section. The annular sleeve may have an exterior-facing surface 44 and an interior-facing surface 46. The exterior-facing surface 44 may generally be aligned with an exterior surface of the side wall 20 of the main section 12, such that from an exterior view, the main section and the annular sleeve have the appearance of a continuous, solid structure. In certain embodiments, the main section 12 and the annular sleeve may be formed from a single piece of material, such that the main section and the annular sleeve form a solid structure. In other embodiments, the main section 12 and the annular sleeve may be formed from different pieces and secured together, such as via an adhesive, heat welding, fasteners, or the like.

The interior-facing surface 46 of the annular sleeve may have a portion that has a concave shape. In certain embodiments, the concave-shaped portion of the interior-facing surface 46 may extend along an entire length of the annular sleeve, with such length herein generally defined as a distance from the bottom end 40 of the annular sleeve to the top end 42. Because the interior-facing surface 46 of the annular sleeve has a concave-shaped portion, an inner diameter of the sleeve is greater near a mid-section of the concave-shaped portion of the interior-facing surface 16 than an inner diameter of the sleeve at any other portion of the interior-facing surface. As used herein, the term inner diameter is generally defined as a distance from opposing points of the interior-facing surface 46 of the sleeve, with such a distance intersecting with the longitudinal centerline of the swing training device 10. As will be described in more detail below, the annular sleeve may be formed so as to be positioned over and secured to a knob of a handle of a ball bat. Thus, the annular sleeve may be formed from a flexible and elastic material, such as a polymer, a rubber, or the like, which is pliant enough to be expanded around the knob of the ball bat, yet elastic enough to grasp the knob after the annular sleeve has been placed over the knob.

Embodiments of the present invention may provide for the interior-facing surface 46 to have shapes other than concave. For instance, the interior-facing surface 46 may be formed in a notch shape. In such embodiments, the top end 42 of the annular sleeve may have a flange component that acts as a lip to secure the swing training device 10 to a knob of a ball bat. Furthermore, the interior-facing surface 46 may be generally flat or, contrastingly, may have a plurality of ribs extending therefrom. In additional embodiments of the present invention, such as illustrated in FIGS. 3-5, the annular sleeve may include one or more notches 48 formed through a thickness of the annular sleeve, with the notches extending from the top end 42 of the sleeve down a portion of the annular sleeve's length. In certain embodiments, the notches 48 may extend down an entire length of the sleeve to the bottom end 40 of the sleeve. The notches may provide for additional flexibility for the sleeve, such that the sleeve can be positioned over large-sized knobs of ball bats.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, the swing training device 10 may be secured to the handle of a ball bat 16 by having the upper end 14 received onto the knob (not shown in FIG. 1) of the ball bat. Embodiments of the present invention contemplate that the swing training device 10 may be secured to generally any type of ball bat, such as a baseball bat or a softball bat. Such ball bats may be formed from wood, aluminum, or any other material generally used to form the ball bats. As illustrated in FIGS. 6-7, the ball bat 16 may generally include a handle 60 located at a lower end of the ball bat and a head (not shown) located at an upper end of the ball bat. Generally, a user of the ball bat 16 will grasp the ball bat at the handle 60 and swing the ball bat such that the head of the ball bat will make contact with a ball. The ball bat 16 will also generally include a knob 62 located at a lowermost portion of the handle 60 of the ball bat. The knob 62 provides support for the user's hands, so as to prevent the ball bat 16 from slipping out of the user's grasp when swinging the ball bat. The knob 62 generally includes an annular convex-shaped outer surface that extends across a thickness of the knob. An apex of the convex-shaped outer surface of the knob 62 is generally located near a center of the thickness of the knob. As such, a diameter of the knob is generally greatest at its apex and is generally smallest near its uppermost and lowermost portions.

As illustrated by FIGS. 6-7, the swing training device 10 may be secured to the ball bat 16 by positioning the annular sleeve onto the knob 62 of the ball bat. As previously described, the annular sleeve of the swing training device 10 may be made from a flexible, yet elastic, material, such that the annular sleeve may flex to fit around the knob 62 and then grasp onto the knob to secure the swing training device to the ball bat 16. In certain embodiments, as was previously described, the swing training device 10 is secured to the ball bat 16, such that the longitudinal centerline of the swing training device is collinear with the longitudinal centerline of the ball bat. In certain embodiments, the length of the annular sleeve of the swing training device 10 may generally be equal to or slightly greater than the thickness of the knob 62 of the ball bat. In other embodiments, however, the length of the annular sleeve may equal about one-half of the thickness of the knob 62 (i.e., about equal to a distance extending from the bottommost portion of the knob to the apex of the knob). In embodiments in which the length of the annular sleeve is generally equal to or greater than the thickness of the knob 62, the concave-shaped portion of the interior-facing surface 46 of the annular sleeve may be aligned with the convex-shaped portion of the knob, such that the surfaces of the annular sleeve and of the knob interface with each other. In such embodiments, the diameter of the interior-facing surface 46, along each portion of the length of the annular sleeve, may generally be the same, or slightly greater, than the diameter of the knob 62 along each corresponding portion of the thickness of the knob. In other embodiments, the diameter of the interior-facing surface 46 may be less than the diameter of the knob 62, such that the annular sleeve can securely grasp onto the knob. In still other embodiments, the diameter of the interior-facing surface 46 may be greater than the diameter of the knob 62, such that the annular sleeve may fit more easily and grasp onto the knob. In other embodiments, particularly in embodiments in which an elastic material is utilized for the annular sleeve, the diameter of the interior-facing surface 46 may be slightly less than the diameter of the knob 62, so as to allow the annular sleeve to securely clamp around and grasp the knob.

Certain embodiments of the present invention may additionally include a ring fit adapter 64, such as illustrated in FIG. 8. The ring fit adapter 64 may be implemented with the swing training device 10, such that the ring training device may be secured to ball bats of various shapes and sizes. The ring fit adapter 64 comprises a generally ring-shaped piece of rigid or semi-rigid material, such as plastic, rubber, metal, or the like. The ring fit adapter 64 may be formed with an interior-facing surface 66 that is similar the interior-facing surface 46 of the annular sleeve. As such, the ring fit adapter 64 can be secured to a knob 62 of a ball bat 16, such as illustrated by FIG. 9. The ring fit adapter 64 further includes an exterior-facing surface 68 that has a shape similar to that of the exterior surface of the knob 62 of ball bat. As such, the sleeve of the swing training device 10 can be secured to the ring fit adapter 64 similar to as was described above for the swing training device being secured to the knob 62 of the ball bat 16. Thus, as illustrated in FIG. 10, the ring fit adapter 64 can be secured to the knob 62 of the ball bat 16, and the swing training device 10 can be secured to the ring fit adapter and thus to the ball bat. Such an embodiment provides for the upper portion 14 of the swing training device 10 to be oversized compared to knobs of ball bats. By implementing one or more ring fit adapters 64 of various sizes, the ring fit adapters may be used with a plurality ball bats (and knobs) of various shapes and sizes, such that a single swing training device 10 with an oversized upper portion 14 can be used with the plurality of ball bats of various sizes.

In other embodiments, the swing training device may be secured to the handle 60 and/or the knob 62 of the ball bat 16 by other methods of securement. For instance, the swing training device 10 may include one or more straps with fasteners thereon for securing the swing training device to the ball bat 16. Examples of fasteners may include straps with hook-and-loop fasteners, button-loop fasteners, buckle fasteners, or the like. As such, certain embodiments of the swing training device 10 may provide for the swing training device 10 to be secured and unsecured to the ball bat 16 via such fasteners.

Once the swing training device 10 has been secured to the ball bat 16, a user can implement embodiments of the present invention to indicate proper positioning of the ball bat as required for accurate and efficient swings. If the swing training device 10 is secured to the ball bat 16 such that the longitudinal axes of the swing training device and the ball bat are aligned (e.g., FIGS. 1 and 6-7), then embodiments of the present invention provide for the light source 18 to emit a beam of light that is generally parallel with such longitudinal axes. In certain embodiments in which the aperture on the bottom wall 22 of the main section 14 of the swing training device 10 is located at the center of the bottom wall, the beam of light is collinear with such longitudinal axes. As such, when a user closes the switch 32, so as to activate the light source 18, the swing training device 10 will emit the beam of light in a manner that indicates the position and/or orientation of the ball bat 16, as the ball bat is being held in the user's hands. Thus, the user can hold the ball bat 16 in a plurality of hitting positions, and the swing training device 10 will provide an indication of such hitting positions. Furthermore, the swing training device 10 may provide an indication of the movement of the ball bat 16, such that as the user performs a swinging motion, the swing training device will provide an indication of the position and/or orientation of the ball bat during the swinging motion.

For example, consider a user that is holding the ball bat 16 with the swing training device 10 attached to the ball bat's knob 62. Furthermore, consider the user to be standing in a stance in which the user is prepared to swing the ball bat 16 at a ball thrown by a pitcher or a pitching device. Such a stance generally includes the user's feet spread shoulder-width apart, with a side of the user's body facing the pitcher. For right-handed users, a left side of the user's body generally faces the pitcher, while for left-handed users, a right side of the user's body generally faces the pitcher. Although embodiments of the present invention work equally well with regard to left or right-handed users, for clarity, the following description will be provided only with respect to right-handed users, with the understanding that the description can equally be applied to left-handed users.

As such, with the swing training device 10 secured to the ball bat 16 and the light source 18 activated, the user may hold the ball bat in a first position such that the light source emits a beam of light at a ground surface location that is behind the user. Because the user is right-handed, the phrase “behind the user” is understood to mean behind a back foot (i.e., a right foot) of the user, with such back foot being furthest away from the pitcher. As will be described, it is preferable for the user's hands to remain relatively close to the user's body while holding the ball bat in the first position. As such, the ground surface location at which the beam of light is emitted for the first position may be less than about one foot, less than about three feet, or less than about five feet from the user's back foot. Aiming the beam of light too far behind the user's back foot is an indication of the user's hands being too far away from the user's body to provide for a proper short and compact swing. The first position may be used as a load position for the user to prepare the user's body and the ball bat 16 to swing at and hit a ball thrown by the pitcher. The first position provides for hands of the user, which are grasping the handle 60 of the ball bat 16, to be close to the user's body, such that when the user is prepared to swing, the required swing will be short, compact, and efficient through the ball. Furthermore, by requiring that the beam of light be directed behind the user's back foot, the ball bat 16 is angled such that the head of the ball bat is located above the user's back shoulder (i.e., right shoulder) and/or head, which is a proper position to provide for a short, compact, and efficient swing through the ball.

The user may also hold the ball bat in one or more second positions, with such second positions being such that the light source 18 emits a beam of light at a ground surface location that is in front of the user. Because the user is right-handed the phrase “in front of the user” is understood to mean in front of a front foot (i.e., a left foot) of the user, which is closest to the pitcher. As with the first position, it is preferable for the user's hands to remain relatively close to the user's body while holding the ball bat 16 in the second position. As such, the ground surface location at which the beam of light is emitted for the second position may be less than about one foot, less than about three feet, or less than about five feet from the user's front foot. Aiming the beam of light too far in front of the user's front foot is an indication of the user's hands being too far away from the user's body to provide for a proper short and compact swing. Such second positions may be used as launch positions for the user during a user's swing to properly align the user's body and the ball bat 16 to hit the ball thrown by the pitcher. The second positions provide for hands of the user, which are grasping the handle 60 of the ball bat 16, to remain close to the user's body, such that when the user swings at the ball, the user's swing remains short, compact, and efficient through the ball. Furthermore, by requiring that the beam of light be directed in front the user's front foot, the ball bat 16 is angled such that the head of the ball bat is located in an ideal position to provide for a short, compact, and efficient swing through the ball.

In addition to embodiments of the present invention providing for an indication of the position and/or orientation of the ball bat 16 during hitting positions, embodiments further provide for an indication of the position and/or orientation of the ball bat during transitions between hitting positions (i.e., during a swing of the ball bat). Thus, for instance, as a user transitions from the first position to the second position, the beam of light emitted by the swing training aid provides a visual indication of the position and/or orientation of the ball bat 16 during the transition. As previously described, a preferred swing is one in which a user has a short, compact swing through the ball. As such, during the user's transition from the first position to the second position, the user's hands should remain close to the user's body, such that the beam of light travels in an arcuate swing path from the ground surface location behind the user's back foot (i.e., the user holding the ball bat 16 in the first position) to the ground surface location in front of the user's front foot (i.e., the user holding the ball bat 16 in the second position). As such, a distance from the user to the arcuate swing path may be less than about one foot, less than about three feet, or less than about five feet for each point of the arcuate swing path. Aiming the beam of light such that the arcuate swing path is too far away from the user is an indication of the user's hands being too far away from the user's body, such that the user will not have a proper short and compact swing.

In certain other embodiments, some of the second positions may require that the user aim the beam of light well in front of the user's front foot. For instance, certain second positions may require that the beam of light be directed at a ball that has been thrown by the pitcher. Thus, certain of the second positions may include the beam of light being directed well in front of the user's feet, such that the beam of light is aimed at an incoming ball. Further, certain embodiments may provide for the swing training device 10 to be used during training with a ball being supported by a t-ball tee. In such embodiments, it may preferable for the user to aim the ball bat 16 in a second position that includes the beam of light being aimed at the ball resting on the t-ball tee. In even further embodiments, the present invention may be used as indications for other types of hitting styles, such as bunting, slap shots, or directional hitting. Such embodiments may require specific aiming of the beam of light at positions other than the ground lactations previously described for the first and second positions.

Thus embodiments of the present invention may include a method 1100 for using the swing training device 10 with the ball bat 16 to swing at a ball. The method 1100 may include an initial Step 1110 of attaching the swing training device 10 onto a portion of the knob 62 of the ball bat 16. Next, Step 1120 may require activating the light source 18 of the swing training device 10, such that the beam of light is emitted towards away from the knob 62 of the ball bat 16. A next Step 1130 includes holding the ball bat 16 in a first position, such that the beam of light is directed onto a ground surface at a position behind the user. A final Step 1140 may require transitioning the ball bat 16 to a second position, such that the beam of light is directed at a position in front of the user. Such a method 1100 may provide for a user of embodiments of the present invention to maintain proper body and ball bat 16 positioning throughout a swing, such that the user's swing is accurate and efficient.

Embodiments of the present invention may also include a target mat 70, such as illustrated by FIG. 12, which assists a user in determining whether the user is in one or more proper hitting positions. The target mat 70 may include a depiction of home plate 72 flanked on either side by a depiction of a right-handed batter's box 74 and a left-handed batter's box 76. The target mat 70 may include a plurality of target areas positioned around the mat. The target areas present targets for a user of embodiments of the present invention to aim the light beam emitted from the light source 18 of the swing training device 10. For example, the target mat 70 may include a first target area 78 that is positioned behind the home plate 72. The first target area 78 may correspond to the first position, which as described above, includes the user positioning the user's body and holding the ball bat 16 in the load position. The first target area 78 may be used as a target for a user to aim the beam of light such that user can be properly positioned in the first position (i.e., the beam of light being on a ground surface behind the user). The target map 70 may additionally include one or more second target areas 80 positioned in front of or adjacent to the home plate 72. The second target areas 80 may correspond to each of the one or more second positions for the user to position the user's body and to hold and orientate the ball bat 16 in the launch positions. Thus, the second target areas 80 may be used as targets for a user to aim the beam of light such that user can be properly positioned in the second positions (i.e., the beam of light being projected in front of the user). The second target areas 80 may include areas to the front, to the left-side, to the center, and to the right-side of the home plate 72. Such target areas may correspond to appropriate launch positions for a ball pitched from a pitcher across the left-side, the center, and the right-side of the home plate 72. In addition, and in certain embodiments, the target mat 70 may include one or more target arcs 80, which provide a reference for a proper arcuate swing path during a transition from the first position (i.e, target area 78) to one of the second positions (i.e., target area 80).

Embodiments of the present invention may additionally provide for the target mat 70 to include certain electronic components that may be used to indicate when the beam of light from the swing training device 10 is incident upon the target areas 78,80. For instance, the target mat 70 may include one or more light sensors, such as photo-resistors, photovoltaic cells, photodiodes, or the like. The target mat 70 may additionally include various types of sound and light indicators, such that the target mat may provide and audible or visual indication when the beam of light from the swing training device 10 is incident upon a target area 78,80. The target mat 70 may include its own power source, such as a battery or power adapter for an AC or DC power source. Embodiments may, in certain instances, provide for the power source 30 of the swing training device 10 to be the same as the power source for the target mat 70.

Further embodiments of the present invention may additionally include target indicators 84, such as illustrated in FIG. 13(a)-(b), to be placed on the target map 70. The target indicators 84 may include therein light sensors, a power source, and audible and/or visual indicators. Such target indicators 84 may be placed over the target areas 78,80 of the target mat 70, such that when the beam of light is incident upon the target indicators 84, the target indicators provide an audible and/or visual alert. As such, the target map 70 and/or the target indicators 84 allow for users to be provided with indications when they have positioned their bodies and the ball bats in preferred hitting positions, such as the first position (i.e., load position) and second positions (i.e., launch positions), for instance.

Although the invention has been described with reference to the embodiments illustrated in the attached drawing figures, it is noted that equivalents may be employed and substitutions made herein without departing from the scope of the invention as recited in the claims.