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United States Patent Application 20170189775
Kind Code A1
Dunno, JR.; Richard E. July 6, 2017

Leg Drive Measuring and Training Apparatus for Baseball and Softball Hitters

Abstract

An apparatus for measuring a ball hitter's "leg drive" for training and coaching purposes and for developing a strong leg drive (ground force). The apparatus includes a ground engaging lower plate and an upper plate that supports the hitter's foot. The plates are slidingly secured to one another such that the upper plate is linearly moveable relative to the lower plate. A force measuring element is provided between the upper and lower plates. The apparatus is used by the hitter stepping on the upper plate and pushing while hitting, thereby linearly moving the upper plate against the lower plate and the force measuring element, which may comprise a load cell or a spring mechanism. The apparatus provides an output indicative of the hitter's leg drive (ground force) level. In some embodiments, an audible sound is generated when a preselected leg drive level is reached.


Inventors: Dunno, JR.; Richard E.; (Fort Wayne, IN)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Dunno, JR.; Richard E.

Fort Wayne

IN

US
Family ID: 1000002003526
Appl. No.: 14/985869
Filed: December 31, 2015


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A63B 69/0002 20130101; A63B 2069/0008 20130101; A63B 2208/0204 20130101
International Class: A63B 69/00 20060101 A63B069/00

Claims



1. A hitting training apparatus comprising: a ground-engageable lower plate; an upper plate supportable of a hitter's foot, said upper plate disposed in parallel to said lower plate and slidably connected to said ground plate; and a force measuring element operably disposed between and functionally attached to at least one of said lower plate and said upper plate, said force measuring element operable to indicate a force imposed between said ground lower plate and said upper plate and by which relative movement between said lower plate and said upper plate is induced.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of slides sandwiched between said upper plate and said lower plate, and wherein each of said slides is secured to each of said lower plate and said upper plate whereby said lower and upper plates are linearly movable relative to each other.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a pair of openings is provided through the upper plate, and further comprising a shoulder bolt received through each of said openings and is secured to the lower plate, whereby said upper plate and said lower plate are maintained in parallel and adjacent to one another and said relative movement is linear and limited by the size of said openings.

4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein said openings are oval shaped.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said force measuring element is a load cell from which is generated an electrical output indicative of a force imparted by the hitter's leg drive.

6. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said force measuring element generates an output indicative of a hitter's leg drive reaching a preselected force level.

7. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein said output comprises an audible sound.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said force measuring element comprises: a cylindrical shell having an axial terminal end and an axial bore extending therethrough; a plunger located in said bore and projecting beyond said shell terminal end, said plunger engaged with said upper plate; and a spring located in said bore, said plunger urged by said spring into abutting engagement with said upper plate with a spring force.

9. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein said spring force is selectively adjustable.

10. The apparatus of claim 9, further comprising a threaded fastener adjacent to said spring, said fastener adapted to engage said spring and thereby adjust a length of said spring, whereby said spring force is selectively adjustable.

11. The apparatus of claim 9, further comprising a threaded fastener adjacent to said spring, said fastener being adapted to engage said spring and thereby adjust a length of said spring, whereby said spring force is selectively adjustable.

12. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein said upper plate is brought into abutment with said shell consequent to said spring force being overcome by said imposed force.

13. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a pair of openings extends through the upper plate, and further comprising: a plurality of slides sandwiched between said lower plate and said upper plate, each of said slides secured to each of said lower and upper plates, said lower and upper plates linearly movable relative to each other through said slides; and a shoulder bolt received through each of said openings and secured to the lower plate, whereby said upper plate and said lower plate are maintained in parallel and adjacent to one another and said relative movement is linear and limited by the size of said openings.

14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said force measuring element is a load cell providing an electrical output indicative of the hitter's leg drive force level.

15. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said force measuring element comprises: a cylindrical shell having an axial terminal end and an axial bore extending therethrough; a plunger located in said bore and projecting beyond said shell terminal end, said plunger engaged with said upper plate; a spring located in said bore, said plunger urged by said spring into abutting engagement with said upper plate with a spring force; and a threaded fastener adjacent to said spring, said fastener adapted to engage said spring and thereby adjust a length of said spring, whereby said spring force is selectively adjustable; wherein an audible sound output is generated in response to said spring force being overcome by said imposed force and said upper plate is consequently brought into abutment with said shell.

16. A method of training to hit a pitched ball with a bat, said method comprising the steps of providing a ground engaging plate; providing a foot engaging plate slidingly connected to said ground engaging plate and disposed in parallel to said ground engaging plate; providing a force measuring element disposed between and functionally attached to said plates; measuring the force between plates as a user swings at a pitched ball; adjusting the hitter's stance; and repeating the adjusting and measuring steps until a desired force is measured.

17. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a pair of openings is provided through the upper plate, and further comprising: a shoulder bolt received through each of said openings and secured to the lower plate, whereby said upper and lower plates are maintained in parallel and adjacent to one another and said relative movement is linear and limited by the size of the openings.

18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein said openings are oval shaped.

19. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein said output comprises an audible sound.

20. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein said force measuring element comprises: a cylindrical shell having an axial terminal end and an axial bore extending therethrough; a plunger located in said bore and projecting beyond said shell terminal end, said plunger engaged with said upper plate; and a spring located in said bore, said plunger urged by said spring into abutting engagement with said upper plate with a spring force.

21. The apparatus of claim 20, wherein said spring force is selectively adjustable.

22. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said force measuring element comprises: a cylindrical shell having an axial terminal end and an axial bore extending therethrough; a plunger located in said bore and projecting beyond said shell terminal end, said plunger engaged with said upper plate; a spring located in said bore, said plunger urged by said spring into abutting engagement with said upper plate with a spring force; and a threaded fastener adjacent to said spring, said fastener adapted to engage said spring and thereby adjust a length of said spring, whereby said spring force is selectively adjustable; wherein an audible sound output is generated in response to said spring force being overcome by said imposed force and said upper plate is consequently brought into abutment with said shell.

23. The apparatus of claim 20, wherein said force measuring element further comprises a threaded fastener provided adjacent said spring, said fastener being adapted to engage said spring and thereby adjust a length of said spring, whereby said spring force is selectively adjustable.

24. The apparatus of claim 20, wherein said output is an audible sound generated by said upper plate hitting said shell when said spring force is overcome.

25. The apparatus of claim 17, further comprising: a plurality of slides sandwiched between said upper plate and said lower plate, each of said slides secured to each of said lower and upper plates whereby said lower and upper plates are linearly movable relative to each other.

26. The apparatus of claim 25, wherein said force measuring element comprises: a cylindrical shell having an axial terminal end and an axial bore extending therethrough; a plunger located in said bore and projecting beyond said shell terminal end, said plunger engaged with said upper plate; a spring located in said bore, said plunger urged by said spring into abutting engagement with said upper plate with a spring force; and a threaded fastener provided adjacent said spring, said fastener being adapted to engage said spring and thereby adjust a length of said spring, whereby said spring force is selectively adjustable; wherein said output is an audible sound generated by said upper plate hitting said shell when said spring force is overcome.
Description



BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates to an apparatus and method for measuring the "leg drive" or "ground force" of, for example, a baseball or softball hitter, for training and coaching purposes, and for developing a strong leg drive that ultimately increases energy that creates more power and bat speed.

[0003] 2. Background

[0004] As is well known to those familiar with the games of baseball and softball, the hitter hits a baseball thrown by a pitcher who intends to make the batter miss. It is, of course, desirable to hit the ball with as much power as possible and the longest distance. In this regard, a hitter pushes against the ground and thereby "drives" with his or her legs to propel his or her body into a rotational manner to ultimately swing the bat more forcibly. The force (Ground Force) exerted by hitters against the ground is known as the hitter's "leg drive". It has been found that the speed at which the bat is swung can be increased by increasing the hitter's leg drive force (Ground Force).

[0005] Devices for measuring "leg drive" are currently known. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,616,556 (Osmundson) discloses a method and apparatus for measuring leg drive wherein a pressure transducer element or gauge is integrated into a pitching rubber and wherein the output of the pressure gauge is used for creating a "leg drive" pressure profile. The device is useful in evaluating baseball pitchers, determining if a pitcher has recovered from injury, determining if a pitcher is tiring during a game, providing an indication of the pitchers ability to throw hard, for training and coaching purposes for developing a strong leg drive, etc. However, this apparatus cannot be used without a display device such as a computer making it generally cumbersome for use outdoors on baseball fields. Because this apparatus locates the pressure transducer element(s) along the front surface of the pitching rubber, the output is dependent on the pitcher making proper contact therewith. Accordingly, this apparatus could potentially be unreliable.

[0006] A need exists for an improved leg drive (Ground Force) measuring and training apparatus which is generally easily usable and which reliably provides a consistent output indicative of the leg drive (Ground Force).

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] In one exemplary embodiment, the hitting training apparatus of the present invention comprises a lower ground engaging plate and an upper hitter's foot supporting plate. The lower and upper plates are linearly movable relative to each other. The present invention further comprises a force measuring element provided between the upper and lower plates. When pushed by a hitter during the act of swinging, for example, a bat, the upper plate moves linearly and the force element exhibits an output indicative of the hitter's leg drive.

[0008] The present invention may further comprise a plurality of slides sandwiched between the upper and lower plates, wherein each of the slides is secured to each of the lower and upper plates whereby the lower and upper plates are linearly movable relative to each other. Further, preferably, a pair of oval holes are provided extending through the upper plate and a shoulder bolt is received through each of the holes and is secured to the lower plate, whereby the upper and lower plates are maintained in parallel adjacent to one another and the linear movement is limited by the size of the holes.

[0009] The force measuring element of the present invention may comprise a load cell providing an electrical output indicative of the hitter's leg drive (Ground Force) and the output can further include an audible sound.

[0010] The element can also comprise a spring mechanism. The spring mechanism includes a cylindrical shell having a bore extending therethrough. A plunger is located in the bore and projects beyond a terminal end of the shell. The plunger abuts the upper plate. A spring is located in the bore and urges the plunger against the upper plate with a spring force. A threaded fastener is provided adjacent the spring. The fastener is adapted to engage the spring and thereby adjust a length of the spring, whereby the spring force is selectively adjustable. The output can include an audible sound generated by the upper plate hitting the shell when the spring force is overcome.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] The above mentioned and other features and objects of this invention, and the manner of attaining them, will become more apparent and the invention itself will be better understood by reference to the following description of the embodiments of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0012] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a leg drive (Ground Force) measuring and training apparatus constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention;

[0013] FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

[0014] FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

[0015] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a leg drive measuring and training apparatus constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 4;

[0017] FIG. 6 is a side elevation view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 4;

[0018] FIG. 7 is a perspective exploded view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 4;

[0019] FIG. 8 is a top plan view of the lower ground engaging plate of the apparatus shown in FIG. 4;

[0020] FIG. 9 is a top plan view of the upper hitter's foot supporting plate of the apparatus shown in FIG. 4;

[0021] FIG. 10 is a front elevation exploded view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 4;

[0022] FIG. 11 is a side elevation exploded view of the spring force measuring and sound generating mechanism used in the embodiment of FIGS. 4-6; and

[0023] FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of an assembled mechanism shown in FIG. 11.

[0024] Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout several views. Although the exemplification set out herein illustrates embodiments of the invention, in several forms, the embodiments disclosed below are not intended to be exhaustive or to be construed as limiting the scope of the invention to the precise forms disclosed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0025] A leg drive measuring and training apparatus constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention is shown in the drawings and generally designated by the numeral 10. Apparatus 10 can be used by baseball and softball hitters and coaches for measuring leg drive (ground force), for training purposes and for increasing leg drive (ground force). Although described herein for use by baseball and softball hitters and coaches, it should be understood that the apparatus 10 can be used for measuring leg drive in other sports and other applications.

[0026] Apparatus 10 includes a ground engaging lower plate 12 and an upper plate 14 on which a hitter's foot is supported. Plates 12, 14 are preferably made of 3/16 inch thick steel which have been surface treated to prevent rust such as by painting, galvanizing, etc. Plates 12, 14 can also be made of other materials including, for example, aluminum, plastics and nylon etc. The ground engaging lower plate is rectangular having a front edge 12F, a left edge 12L, a right edge 12R and a back edge 12B. Ground engaging lower plate 12 is preferably about 15.times.17 inches. The foot supporting upper plate 14 is also rectangular having a front edge 14F, a left edge 14L, a right edge 14R and a back edge 14B. Upper plate 14 is preferably about 13.times.15 inches.

[0027] Plates 12 and 14 are slidingly secured to one another whereby, when the lower plate 12 is engaged or otherwise secured to the ground, upper plate 14 is slidingly linearly movable along a plane parallel with the plates 12, 14 and in a direction as indicated by double-headed arrow 16. In this regard, a pair of slides 18 is provided and is sandwiched and secured between the upper and lower plates 12, 14. Slides 18 can be center mount ball-bearing drawer slides having a lower slide bar 20 slidingly secured to an upper slide bar 22 in a known and customary manner Drawer slides 18 are well known, commercially available, and are commonly used for slidingly supporting cabinet drawers and other objects. It is contemplated that other slide devices, mechanisms and structures can equally be used which are capable of slidingly securing upper and lower plates 12, 14 to one another and allowing them to slide linearly relative to each other in a plane as indicated by arrow 16.

[0028] As best seen in FIGS. 7-11, the lower slide bars 20 of each of the slides 18 are secured to the lower plate 12 with spring/roll pin fasteners 24 which extend through holes (not shown) in the lower slide bars 20 and holes 26 in the lower plate 12. Similarly, the upper slide bars 22 of each of the slides 18 are secured to the upper plate 14 with spring/roll pin fasteners 24 which extend through holes 27 in the upper slide bars 22 and holes 28 in the upper plate 14. For added strength, the spring/roll pin fasteners can be tack welded in their respective holes.

[0029] The lower and upper plates 12, 14 are retained together/adjacent one another with the slides 18 sandwiched therebetween with four shoulder bolts 30. Shoulder bolts 30 include a tool engagement head 32, a central shaft 34 and a threaded terminal end 36. Shoulder bolts 30 are received through oval holes/openings 38 in the upper plate 14 and the threaded terminal ends 36 thereof threadingly engage and are secured in threaded holes 40 in the lower plate 12. The length of the central shafts 34 is such that, when the shoulder bolts 30 are securely engaged in holes 40, the tool engagement heads 32 are located a short distance/slightly above the upper plate 14. Preferably, oval openings 38 are about 0.390 inch in the short direction and about 0.465 inch in the long direction. Also preferably, the diameter of the shoulder bolt central shaft is about 0.375 inch. Accordingly, because the shoulder bolt heads 32 are larger than the oval openings 38, plates 12 and 14 are maintained adjacent and parallel to one another with the slides 18 sandwiched therebetween. Also, because the oval openings are larger in the long direction, the upper plate 14 is freely slidable/movable as indicated by arrow 16 but limited to a travel distance of the long length of each opening 38 less the diameter of the respective central shaft 34, or about 0.090 inch (0.465-0.375=0.090). Of course, the tolerances of the several components are such that the upper plate 14 will slide freely relative to the lower plate 12 without excessive frictional engagement or binding.

[0030] Mounting holes 50 are provided in and extend through the lower plate 12. Mounting holes 50 are adapted to receive a mounting stake or screw therethrough whereby, during use, the apparatus 10 can be secured to the ground, a batter's box, interior floors, etc. The upper plate 14 is provided with access holes 52 which are aligned with and which provide access to the mounting holes thereunder.

[0031] Referring now to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-3, the apparatus 10 includes a force/compression load cell 54 secured by fasteners or other suitable means between the lower plate 12 and upper plate 14. Preferably, a bracket 56 is secured to the lower plate 12 by welding, fasteners or other suitable means and the load cell 54 is secured thereto with fasteners (not shown) for locating the load cell sensor/plunger adjacent the upper plate 14 as needed. A stud 58 can be welded or otherwise secured to the upper plate 14 and the load cell sensor/plunger can be located adjacent thereto.

[0032] Force/compression load cells are commercially available and well known to those skilled in the art and are capable to providing an analog or digital electrical output responsive to the compressive force being exerted thereon. Load cell 54 is electrically connected to a computer or other similar device (not shown) whereat the output thereof can be stored, displayed and transmitted as needed or desired. As should now be appreciated, load cell 54 acts as a stop for the linearly moveable upper plate 14 relative to the lower plate 12 and measures the applied force/leg drive therebetween.

[0033] The apparatus 10 of FIGS. 1-3 is used by a baseball or softball hitter by placing his/her foot on the upper plate 14. The hitter then goes into the swing pattern, as is known and customary, pushing against upper plate 14 with his or her back foot. The hitter's leg drive/force (Ground Force) against upper plate 14 thereby causes the upper plate 14 to slide toward and against the load cell 54. The load cell 54, therefore, effectively measures and provides an output responsive to the hitter's leg drive which can be stored, displayed and transmitted. The measured leg drive force can then, of course, be used as needed for training and other purposes.

[0034] Referring now to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4-12, the apparatus 10 includes an adjustable spring force/compression measuring and sound generating mechanism 60. As shown in FIGS. 11 and 12, mechanism 60 includes a cylindrical shell 61 having a bore 62 extending therethrough between axial terminal ends 64, 66. Bore 62 includes a plunger receiving section 68 adjacent terminal end 64, a threaded section 70 adjacent terminal end 66 and a spring receiving section 72 between terminal end 64 and terminal end 66. An annular seat 74 is provided between the plunger receiving section 68 and the spring receiving section 72.

[0035] Plunger 76 is received through the threaded section 70 and the spring receiving section 72 and is located within plunger receiving section 68 whereat the annular shoulder 78 thereof is seated against annular seat 74. In this position, the terminal end 80 of plunger 76 extends beyond the terminal end 64 of the shell 61, preferably, a distance which is equal to or greater than the travel distance of the upper plate 14 described hereinabove. Spring 82 is received through the threaded section 70 and is located within the spring receiving section 72 and abutting the head 84 of plunger 76. Spring 82 is compressed and an alien screw 86 is threadingly received in threaded section 70 of bore 62. As can be appreciated, alien screw 86 maintains spring 82 in compression which, in turn, maintains the plunger shoulder 78 seated against the annular seat 74. Additionally, by threadingly axially adjusting alien screw 86 along the bore threaded section 70, the force F required to move plunger 76 against the spring 82 and lift the plunger head 84 off of the annular seat 74 is selectively adjustable. Alternatively, a thumb screw 87 can be used, as shown in FIGS. 4-6 for selectively turning and adjusting the spring force by hand.

[0036] Similar to the embodiment using a load cell 54 described hereinabove, the cylindrical shell 61 is secured by welding, fasteners or other suitable means between the lower plate 12 and upper plate 14. Cylindrical shell 61 is preferably welded to the lower plate 12 as shown with its longitudinal axis being parallel with the upper plate 14 linear direction of travel as indicated by arrow 16, and with its terminal end 64 adjacent the upper plate back edge 14B. The terminal end 64 is spaced from the upper plate back edge 14B a distance which is less than the upper plate travel distance described hereinabove, and with the plunger terminal end 80 abutting the back edge 14B.

[0037] The embodiment of FIGS. 4-12 is similarly used by a hitter by placing his/her foot on the upper plate 14 and performing the customary bat swing mechanics. In this embodiment, the hitter's leg drive/force (ground force) causes the upper plate 14 to be forced against the plunger 76. When a sufficient leg drive/force F is exerted to overcome the spring force, plunger 76 axially retracts into the cylindrical shell 61 and the upper plate 14 slidingly moves in the direction of arrow 16 until its back edge 14B abuts/hits the shell terminal end 64. The back edge 14B hitting the shell terminal end 64 generates an audible sound output which is transmitted through the lower and upper plates 12, 14 and which thereby notifies the hitter that the spring force has been overcome. As should now be appreciated, the spring force can be calibrated so that, depending on the axial location of the screw 86, 87 the hitter will know by apparatus 10 generating such an audible sound output, the value of the drive force required to overcome the spring force and generate the audible sound output. Accordingly, the apparatus 10 can thereby be used as needed or desired for training and improving the hitter's leg drive (Ground Force).

[0038] While this invention has been described as having an exemplary design, the present invention may be further modified within the spirit and scope of this disclosure. This application is therefore intended to cover any variations, uses, or adaptations of the invention using its general principles.

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