Patent application title: BASEBALL TRAINING DEVICES, SYSTEMS AND METHODS
Juan C. Rodriguez (Wellington, FL, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63B6900FI
Class name: Practice or training device for game in which play involves base running (e.g., for baseball, cricket, etc.) practice bat
Publication date: 2016-05-26
Patent application number: 20160144255
A system and methods for training an athlete to improve performance and
swinging a baseball bat includes using several devices, looting a rolling
force training bat, a swinging force training bat, variable weight
training bat, a shoulder posture training device, a swinging posture
training device and a hamstring tension device. The various training
devices may be used alone or in combination with others to identify and
correct at athletes posture, stamps and motion.
2. A training bat for improving an athlete's swing comprising a barrel, a handle and a knob; wherein the handle has a distal ends attached to the barrel and tapers inward toward its proximal end; wherein the knob is located at the proximal end of the handle; wherein the barrel is cylindrical and has a wall at its proximal end where it is attached to the handle and an opening at its distal end; and, wherein the barrel houses one or more balls and its opening has an interior lip that prevents the one or more balls from exiting the opening unless a predetermined minimum amount of centrifugal force is applied to the ball.
3. The training bat of claim 1 wherein the one or more balls comprise one or more baseballs.
4. The training bat of claim 1 wherein the interior lip comprises one or more interchangeable interior lips having different sizes for changing the predetermined minimum amount of centrifugal force that must be applied to a ball in order for it to exit the barrel.
5. The training bat of claim 4 wherein the one or more balls comprise one or more baseballs.
6. A method for improving a baseball batter's swing comprising: providing a training bat having a barrel, a handle and a knob; wherein the handle has a distal ends attached to the barrel and tapers inward toward its proximal end; wherein the knob is located at the proximal end of the handle; wherein the barrel is cylindrical and has a wall at its proximal end where it is attached to the handle and an opening at its distal end; and wherein the barrel houses one or more balls and its opening has an interior lip that prevents the one or more balls from exiting the opening unless a predetermined minimum amount of centrifugal force is applied to the ball; gripping the training bat by the handle such that the knob is proximal to the batter and the barrel is distal to the batter; swinging the training bat to apply sufficient centrifugal force to cause one of the one or more balls to exit the barrel at a predetermined point in the batter's swing; repeating the step of swinging the training bat, adjusting the form of the swing if necessary, until the batter causes the one or more balls to exit the barrel at the predetermined point in the swing on a substantially consistent basis.
7. The method of improving an athlete's swing of claim 6 wherein the interior lip at the opening of the barrel comprises one or more interchangeable lips and the method further includes the step of continuing to swing the training bat after an initial interior lip is replaced with an alternative interior lip.
8. A training ball for improving an athlete's throw comprising; a standard size baseball having a first opening and a second opening on opposite sides of the ball; a rod extending through the center of the ball and having a first end protruding from the first opening and a second end protruding from the second opening; a first end cap at the first end of the rod having a width sufficient to prevent it from entering the opening from which the first end protrudes; a second end cap at the second end of the rod having a with sufficient to prevent it from entering the opening from which the second end protrudes; wherein the rod slidingly translates between a first position where the first end cap abuts the against the ball and a second position where the second end cap abuts against the ball.
9. the training ball of claim 8 wherein the first end further comprises a weight.
10. the training ball of claim 9 wherein the weight comprises a plurality of interchangeable weights.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/939,707 filed on Feb. 13, 2014, the contents of which are hereby incorporated in their entirety.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 Not Applicable.
NAMES OF PARTIES TO A JOINT RESEARCH AGREEMENT
 Not Applicable
REFERENCE TO SEQUENCE LISTING, A TABLE, OR A COMPUTER PROGRAM LISTING APPENDIX SUBMITTED ON A COMPACT DISC AND INCORPORATION-BY-REFERENCE OF THE MATERIAL
 Not Applicable.
 Not Applicable
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of Endeavor
 The present invention relates to systems and methods for training athletes. More particularly, the invention relates to devices, systems and methods to assist in improving strength, flexibility and endurance for baseball.
 2. Background Information
 Many devices and techniques have been developed to improve athletic performance of baseball players. Bat swing practice means of various kinds have been conventionally proposed and used. For example, there is known a bat swing practice means in which a weight having a predetermined weight value is slidably placed on a bat-shape shaft body to be swung.
 In the past, a variety of exercise or warm-up devices have been provided for use by baseball players. Persons who play baseball, softball, and similar sports, often use various devices and methods to improve their batting skills. For example, players may utilize a plurality of bats, a single bat with weighted collars or clamps and the like attached thereto, permanently weighted bats (e.g. hollowed out bats with solid or flowable weight materials included therewithin), or a bat with attached vanes or the like to effect aerodynamic drag. Such devices and methods are employed to facilitate general warming-up, stretching muscles, and developing the muscles used for batting, as well as to improve a player's bat speed, reaction skill, bat control, and the like. Swinging a plurality of bats can be awkward, and there is a limit as to how many bats a person can swing safely and/or comfortably.
 Unlike power hitting, in which a bat is swung at a ball with immediate acceleration for high speed so as to gain maximum momentum and great impact upon contact with a pitched ball, contact hitting requires a more controlled swing in which the bat is drawn more slowly toward contact with the ball, with minimal acceleration, and the wrists of the batter are turned just prior to making contact with the ball so as quickly to accelerate, or "snap", the bat for accurate placement of the hit ball. While many training devices have been proposed for increasing proficiency in power hitting, these devices are not suited to learning the controlled swing necessary in contact hitting, and especially in connection with hitting in soft ball play.
 Further, none of these existing devices assist an athlete and/or trainer in identifying problems with an athletes bat swing such as, for example, the amount of twisting done to the bat during a swing, or whether a wrist is actuated at the proper time and to the proper extent to optimize performance.
 Further, none of the existing devices assist an athlete in learning to naturally assume proper stance and posture, or to maintain proper stance and posture while simultaneously minimizing negative twisting, or rolling of the bat during a swing.
 In view of the foregoing, there is a need to provide means by which and athlete and trainer may isolate and identify many distinct aspects of an athlete's posture, stance and kinetics as they relate to baseball performance.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 Accordingly, the primary object of the present invention is a plurality of devices, methods and a system for training an athlete to improve performance playing baseball and other sports.
 In greater detail, the present invention includes a rolling force training bat, a swing force training bat, variable weight training bats having sliding handles, swing tension training device, a wrist tension training device, a stance training device, a shoulder stance training device and a hamstring tension training device, all of which may be used successively and/or in combination with each other.
 In another embodiment, the present invention includes modified baseballs for use in training athletes and improving their athletic abilities. In another embodiment, an alternative training bat may be used to improve and athletes baseball or other swing. In another embodiment, a stance training bar may assist an athlete in improving a baseball swing or swing of another sports item.
 It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a system and method for utilizing a plurality of training devices to improve athletic performance.
 These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from a reading of the attached specification and appended claims. There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 A more complete understanding of the present invention, and the attendant advantages and features thereof, will be more readily understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein:
 FIG. 1 is a top plan view of a rolling force training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 3 is a top plan view of a swing force training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a swing force training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 5 is an exploded view of a variable weight training bat in accordance with principles of the invention;
 FIG. 6 is an exploded view of a variable weight training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 7 is a top plan view of a variable weight training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 8 is an exploded view of a variable weight training that in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 9 is an environmental view of a resistance bat swing training device in accordance with principles of the invention;
 FIG. 10 is another environmental view of a resistance bat swing training device in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 11 is an environmental view of a wrist tension training device in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 12 is an environmental view of a wrist tension training device in use combined with a rolling force training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 13 is an environmental view of a resistance tension stance training device in use combined with a rolling force training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 14 is an environmental view of a shoulder stance training device in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 15 is an environmental view of a hamstring tension training device in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 16 is a side cross-sectional view of an alternative embodiment of a training bat in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 17 is a side view of a training ball in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 18 is a side view of an alternative embodiment of a training ball in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 19 is a side view of a stance training bar in accordance with the principles of the invention;
 FIG. 20 is an environmental view of a stance training bar being used by an athlete in accordance with the principles of the invention.
 Before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.
 FIG. 1 shows a rolling force training bat 10 in accordance with the principles of the invention. The training bat 10 has a handle 12 which an athlete may grasp. Training bat 10 may also include a Rod 16 held in place by bracket 18. Rod 16 may be substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of training that 10. Rod 16 may include a stop 22. Shuttle 20 may be fitted about Rod 16 and capable of freely sliding along the length of Rod 16 from bracket 18 to stop 22. In this embodiment, Rod 16 may be substantially cylindrical and shuttle 20 may also be substantially cylindrical. Optionally, the Rod 16 may have a different geometric configuration. For example, Rod 16 may have a square, rectangular, hexagonal or other cross-sectional shape. Shuttle 20 may have an interior circumference conforming to the shape of the Rod 16. Shuttle 20 may be freely. Slidable along the length of Rod 16. Optionally, shuttle 20 and Rod 16 may be modified to provide resistance to the sliding of shuttle 20 along Rod 16. Optionally, such resistance may be adjustable. For example, shuttle 20 may fit snugly about Rod 16 such that a predetermined amount of force may be required for shuttle 22 verse the length of Rod 16.
 During training, when an athlete swings bat 10, the movement of shuttle 20 along Rod 16 may serve to indicate the degree to which the athlete rolls the bat 10 during the swing. The inventor has determined that inadvertence or unwanted rolling of the bat may negatively alter the direction and speed of a ball contacted by the bat 10 during a swing. Thus, an athlete may use training bat 10 to identify the amount of rolling force he or she applies to a bat when swinging. By adjusting this role, an athlete may improve his or her performance.
 FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of the rolling force training bat 10. As may be seen, the rolling force bat 10 is a typical baseball bat that has been modified by retrofitting a bracket 18, Rod 16, stop 22 and shuttle 22. It about halfway along the length of the bat. It may be desirable to place bracket 18 and Rod 16 at different points along the length of the bat. It may also be desirable to adjust the angle at which Rod 16 protrudes. That is, it may be desirable for the Rod 16 to be placed at an angle other than 90°. Any suitable materials may be used to form the components including bracket 18, Rod 16, shuttle 20 and stop 22. These components may be retrofitted to an existing bat. Optionally, a rolling force training bat may be formed with a Rod 16. Integral to a unitary body comprising the bat and the Rod. Optionally, stop 22 may also be an integral part of a unitary body.
 FIGS. 3 and 4 show a swing force training bat 28 in accordance with principles of the invention. Swing force training bat 28 may be comprised of a Rod 30 and a handle 32. Training balls 34 may be of a toroidal design having a hole through their middle. Training balls 34 may be constructed from tennis balls that it had opposing sides, cut away.
 During training, and athlete may place a training ball 34 onto Rod 30 and slide it down to the top of the handle 32. Will when the athlete swings, training ball 34 will fly off the bat due to centrifugal force. The direction, distance and speed of the training ball 34 may allow an athlete and trainer to identify whether the athlete is swinging a bat in the proper manner. As other baseball trainers have noted, the "flick of the wrist" during the swing of a bat may be very important to the efficacy of an athlete in baseball. In FIG. 4, three Training balls 34 have been placed upon Rod 30. It may be desirable to load more than one training ball 34 onto a training bat 28 during training. However, generally a single training ball may be used to provide much information regarding the athletes proper form.
 FIG. 5 shows an adjustable weight training bat 40 in accordance with the principles of the invention. Training bat 40 may be comprised of a beam 42 having a handle 44 and a weight 46. Beam 42 may be substantially cylindrical with an outwardly tapered, conical head 43. An interior threaded rod 48 may extend upward from the conical head 43. A weight 46 may have a threaded for corresponding to the threaded Rod 48 to allow weight 46 to attached to beam 42. Optionally, additional weights, such as youth weight 50 and adult weight 52 may be used interchangeably with weight 46 to adjust the weight of the training bat 40.
 Handle 44 of adjustable weight training bat 40 may be freely. Slidable along the length of beam 42, as shown by directional arrow 54. By allowing the handle 44 to slide along beam 42, and athlete may better identify whether or not he or she is holding the bat in the proper manner, and whether he or she is flicking his or her wrist at the proper time.
 FIG. 6 shows an alternative embodiment of an adjustable weight training bat 60 in accordance with the principles of the invention. Adjustable weight training bat 60 may be comprised of a metal rod 62. A handle 68 may be placed upon Rod 62 and be slidable thereon. A detachable top 66 may be placed at a desired point along the length of the Rod 62 while a detachable weight 64 may be placed above the detachable top 66 and on the end of Rod 62. Optionally, detachable weight 64 may come in a variety of different ways. Similarly, detachable top 66 may calm and alternate configurations of different size.
 FIG. 7 shows an alternative embodiment of an adjustable weight training bat 70 in accordance with the principles of the invention. Adjustable weight training bat 70 may be comprised of a Rod 76 having a conical top 78. An adjustable weight 80 may be removably attached to the conical top 78. Handle 72 may be slidable along the Rod 76.
 FIG. 8 shows an alternative embodiment of an adjustable weight training bat 90 in accordance with the principles of the invention. Training bat 90 is substantially similar to training bat 70 of FIG. 7. That 90 may be comprised of a metal rod 92, a detachable top 94 and one or more detachable weight 98. Handle 96 may slide along the length of the Rod 92 from one end to the detachable top 94. In this embodiment, Rod 92 is metal. However, other materials may be used, such as for example, plastic, carbon fiber, alloys, would, and the like.
 FIG. 9 shows a resistance bat swing training device 100 being used by an athlete 101. Resistance bat swing training device 100 includes a handle 102 that may be substantially similar to a handle on an average baseball bat. Handle 102 may be connected to a poll 104 by a pivot joint 106. The distal end of post 104 may be attached to a stationary anchoring structure by means of a biasing mechanism, such as for example a spring or bungee cord.
 FIG. 10 shows the resistance bat swing training device 100 being used by an athlete 101 from a different perspective. Biasing mechanism 108 may be seen here attached to the distal end of pole 104. An athlete 101 may grasp the handle 102 and mimic the swinging of a baseball bat. As the athlete 101 swings, the biasing mechanism 108 provides resistance. In this embodiment, biasing mechanism 108 is a spring.
 FIG. 11 shows a wrist tension training device 111. Wrist tension training device 111 includes a strap 116 that is fitted about the hand, and arm strapped 114 about the upper arm and a biasing cord 118. The biasing cord 118. Causes of the hand to be pulled inward. An athlete wearing a wrist tension training device 111 last contracts is extensor muscles on the outer side of his or her forearms in order to pull his hands straight. An athlete may wear a wrist tension training device 111 while practicing swinging a baseball bat. This may allow an athlete to strengthen the muscles needed to properly hold and swing a baseball bat.
 FIG. 12 shows a wrist tension training device 111 used in conjunction with a rolling force training bat 10. By combining these 2 devices, and athlete may train his body to hold and swing a bat properly while also monitoring the amount of rolling force he or she applies to a bat. The plurality of different training devices in the presence this closure are intended to be used both independently and in combination to improve athletes overall performance.
 FIG. 13 shows a resistance tension stance training device 130. Training device 130 includes a strap 132 that is fitted about the lower torso of athlete and has a biasing mechanism 134 extending from the lateral side and may be attached to an anchoring structure or optionally held by a trainer. An athlete may position his feet. In a stance appropriate for a batter in a baseball game. As the athlete practices a swing, he or she may twist his or her body. As the swing is followed through. The stance training device 130 may be used to strengthen and tone the muscles needed for proper form and stance in baseball.
 FIG. 14 shows a shoulder stance training device 150. Shoulder stance training device 150 may include to shoulder straps 152 fitted about the shoulder joint and connected by one or more chest straps 154. Optionally shoulder stance training device 150 may include one or more back straps, not shown, connecting the chest straps across the back of the athlete. This device may assist in training the athlete to maintain proper posture when swinging a bat. As may be seen, the shoulder stance training device 150 may be easily used in conjunction with a rolling force training bat 10.
 FIG. 15 shows a hamstring tension training device 160. The hamstring tension training device 160 includes a belt 164 that may be looped around and athletes torso. Device 160 may also include a foot platform 162 that may be substantially rigid and planar. The center of platform 162 may be attached to belt 164 by a biasing mechanism 166 that may include a spring, bungee cord or the like. When an athlete places the belt 164 about his or her torso and fully extends his legs while placing his feet on platform 162, the biasing mechanism 166 may stretch the hamstring and back muscles of the athlete to improve flexibility.
 FIG. 16 shows a training bat 180 for use in improving and athletes swing of a baseball bat. The training bat 180 may include a barrel 186, a handle 182 and a knob 184. In this embodiment, the handle 182 tapers from its distal end attached to the barrel 186 toward its proximal end at the knob 184. The handle 182 may optionally be cylindrical, or may optionally be concave. The handle 186 may also include a textured surface or a coating to facilitate gripping.
 The barrel 186 may include a wall 188 at its proximal end, and may have an opening 190 at its distal end. The barrel 186 may be substantially cylindrical and may house one or more balls 192. The opening 190 may optionally include an interior lip 194 that extends around the entire opening 190 or may optionally extend only partially about the opening 190.
 During use, an operator may grip the training bat 180 by the handle 182 and practice a typical baseball swing. As the bat 180 is swung, centrifugal force may be exerted upon the balls 192, shown as arrow 196, representing the vector of centrifugal force. Depending on the manner and style of the swing, one or more balls 192 may be projected through opening 190. The direction, force and trajectory of the balls 192 as they exit the opening 190 may allow an athlete and/or a coach to better understand the correctness of the swing and may provide guidance on how a swing may be improved.
 It may be desirable for the opening 192 include a lip 194, which may prevent a ball 192 from exiting the barrel 186, when a swing fails to generate centrifugal force greater than a desired minimum. The lip 194 may be removable and a training bat 180 may also optionally include interchangeable lips 194 of different sizes. Optionally the lips 194 may be adjustable. In order to adjust the minimum force required for a ball 192 to pass through the lip 194 and exit the opening 190.
 The training bat 180 of FIG. 16 may be primarily intended for use in training baseball players. However, it may be used for training athletes in a variety of sports that require a participant to swing and objects. These other sports may include crickets, tennis, golf, polo and other sports.
 FIGS. 17 and 18 show training balls 200 and 220, respectively. Training balls 200 and 220 may be used to improve an athlete's throw or pitch of a baseball. Training ball 200 may include a standard sized baseball 210 that may have a rod 202 extending through the center of the ball 210. The ball 210 may include cuffs 212 surrounding the openings through which the rod 202 extends. The cuffs 212 may reduce the friction experienced by the rod 202 while sliding longitudinally along axis 211. The rod 202 may include end caps 204 that may prevent the rod 202 from sliding out of the baseball 210.
 One end of the rod 202 may include a weight 208. The weight 208 may be interchangeable with other weight of different size. The rod 202 may also optionally include a weight stopper 206. In this embodiment, the weight stopper 206 is an annular ring. However, the weight stopper or may optionally be a ridge, a linchpin, a shoulder along the rod 202 or other impediments that may prevent the weight 208 from sliding along the rod 202.
 In use, the training ball 220 is held such that the end of the rod 202 having the weight extends between the operators forefinger and index finger and the rod 202 is slid along the axis 211 such that the weight substantially abuts the ball 210. When an operator practices throwing the ball 200, centrifugal force imparted to the weight 208 causes the rod to slide through the ball until the weight 208 is at its farthest possible position from the ball 200. By observing when and how fast the rod 202 slides as a result of the motion of a practice throw, an operator and/or a coach may be able to identify and correct and incorrect components of an athlete's throw.
 FIG. 18 shows an alternative embodiment of a training ball 220. Training ball 220 includes a typical baseball 222 having a rod 224. Cuff 226 surrounds the rod 224 at its point of attachment to the ball 222. The rod 224 also includes an endcap 228. A weight 230 may be slidably attached to the rod 224 such that it may freely slide in the direction shown by arrow 332. The ends To 28 may optionally be removable such that the weight 230 may be replaced by other interchangeable weights.
 During use, an operator grips the ball 220 such that the rod 224 extends outward between his or her forefinger and index finger. As an operator performs a mock throw, the weight 230 may slide along the rod 224. As with the training ball shown in FIG. 17, the location of an operator's hands when the weight 230 translates across the rod may be indicative of correct or incorrect components of the mock throw. In addition to identifying proper form when throwing a ball, the use of the training balls shown in FIGS. 17 and 18 may provide exercise to an athlete in order to improve his or her throw.
 FIGS. 19 and 20 show a stance training bar 250. The stance training bar 250 includes a bar 252 having a first end cap 254 and a second in the 256. The second in 256 includes an adapter on its side opposite to the bar 252. The adapter 258 may have a slide rod 260 removably attached to it. The slide rod to 60 may include an endcap 262 and a weighted slider 266 capable of sliding along slide rod to 60 longitudinally in the directions of arrow 264. The sliding rod to 60 may be detached from the adapter 258 in order to replace the weighted slider 266 with an alternative slider having greater or lesser weight. Other components of the device may optionally be detachable as well. The bar 252 and its end caps 256 and 254 may be padded to improve comfort.
 FIG. 20 shows a stance training bar 250 during use. An operator 270 holds the stance training bar 250 against his or her back and in the crux of his or her elbows. As the operator twists to mimic the motion of a baseball batters swing, the stance training bar 250 will turn with the operator's body. By observing the position and motion of the stance bar and the sliding weight 266 during a mock swing, an operator and/or a coach may better analyze and operator's form in order to improve upon it.
 Whereas, the present invention has been described in relation to the drawings attached hereto, it should be understood that other and further modifications, apart from those shown or suggested herein, may be made within the spirit and scope of this invention. Descriptions of the embodiments shown in the drawings should not be construed as limiting or defining the ordinary and plain meanings of the terms of the claims unless such is explicitly indicated.
 As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.