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United States Patent 3,856,300
Payne December 24, 1974

BALL TOSSING DEVICE

Abstract

A ball tossing device for pre-little league players coordinated with safety features for protecting a batter player from harm or injury should he stumble over or fall upon the ball tossing tee thereof including a remote control manipulatable by a coach, trainer or overseer and means for removing the entire ball tossing device from its normal position at homeplate promptly following the batting of a ball tossed up by such device.


Inventors: Payne; David (San Jose, CA)
Appl. No.: 05/418,829
Filed: November 26, 1973


Current U.S. Class: 124/16 ; 124/34
Current International Class: A63B 69/40 (20060101); A63b 069/40 ()
Field of Search: 273/26R,96R,26D,25 124/16,34,37

References Cited

U.S. Patent Documents
3545752 December 1970 Hill
3627319 December 1971 Skyhawk
3635204 January 1972 Plumb, Jr.
Primary Examiner: Pinkham; Richard C.
Assistant Examiner: Brown; Theatrice
Attorney, Agent or Firm: Hansen; Leslie M.

Claims



What I claim as new and desire to protect by Letters Patent is:

1. In a ball tossing device of the type having a spring loaded ball supporting tee and releasable latching means therefor, the combination of:

a. a base simulating homeplate;

b. a ball supporting tee mounted on said base including a U-shaped strap material frame having a bight portion secured to the base, one leg portion extending upwardly therefrom adjacent approximate center of the base, the other leg portion of such frame extending diagonally upward as a brace; and a disc mounted on the upper ends of said legs in parallel relation to said base and concentric to center thereof;

c. a bracket secured to said one leg portion and having a flange extending laterally therefrom substantially parallel to and midway between the bight portion of said frame and said disc, said disc and flange each having concentrically aligned bores formed therethrough in vertical alignment above the center of the base;

d. a plunger bar arranged in the aligned bores of said disc and flange for up and down guided movement relative thereto;

e. a ball supporting cup threadedly mounted on the upper end of said plunger bar;

f. a compression spring circumscribing said plunger bar between said ball supporting cup and said disc for urging said plunger bar upwardly relative to the latter;

a foot extending laterally from said plunger bar;

h. a slot formed vertically in said one leg portion of said frame for receiving the foot of said plunger bar therethrough and for limiting up and down movement of said bar relative to said frame.

h. a spring loaded latch lever mounted on said one leg portion for engaging the foot of said plunger bar and for maintaining the latter in its lowermost condition against the action of said compression spring.

i. remote control means separate from said base and ball supporting tee, including a flexible cable having one end secured to said ball supporting tee and its opposite end spaced therefrom for remotely controlling said latch lever to release the latter from latching engagement with the foot of said plunger bar and for facilitating removal said base and ball supporting tee from home plate position after a ball on said ball supporting cup has been tossed upwardly therefrom.

2. The ball tossing device in accordance with claim 1 in which said flexible cable includes a flexible sheath having one end secured to said frame and its opposite end secured to said remote means facilitating manual removal of the entire base and frame from home plate position, and a pull wire arranged for axial movement within said flexible sheath having one end connected to said latch lever for manually releasing the latter from latching engagement with the foot of said plunger-rod independently of removal of said base and ball supporting tee from home-plate position.

3. The ball tossing device in according with claim 2 including a board base for said remote control means, a bracket mounted on said board base having said opposite end of said sheath secured thereto, a treadle mounted on said board base and having said opposite end of said pull wire secured thereto.

4. The ball tossing device according to claim 2 including a basket-like guard arranged on said disc for confining said ball supporting cup between said disc and the upper limit of movement of said cup relative thereto.

5. The ball tossing device according to claim 4 in which said basket-like guard comprises a plurality of firm wire rod annular rings of gradually diminishing diameter, and a plurality of rods having their lower ends secured in radical array onto said disc and extending divergingly upward therefrom and secured to said annular rings for supporting the latter in spaced horizontal relation concentric to the ball supporting cup and the upper end of said plunger bar.
Description



BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to apparatus for tossing a baseball into the strike zone of a batter in natural stance at homeplate. In general the ball tossing device is intended for use by small children in the pre-little league age bracket to simulate the action of actual play of the game without the presence of a pitcher. In other words, the game and rules of baseball are followed with an opposing team at various positions including a catcher but no pitcher other than a player at pitcher's box to oppose the batter about to hit a ball being tossed up by the device of the present invention.

There are numerous patents in the prior art depicting devices embodying the basic principle of tossing a ball up to batting level to afford batting practice for younger and smaller children. Most of these prior patents show self triggering mechanism whereby the batter can control the toss-up of the ball preliminary to swinging the bat at such ball.

Among such prior patents are U.S. Pat. Nos.:

3,368,541 to Brink Feb. 13, 1968

3,394,691 to Brink July 30, 1968

3,545,752 to Fjelstad Dec. 8, 1970

3,627,319 to Skyhawk Dec. 14, 1971

Each of these patents relate to a portable ball tossing device intended for operation by the player or batter himself and is not conducive to use in an actual game short of an opposing pitcher. Moreover, such prior known devices have no guards to protect the little fellows from falling onto or stumbling over the ball tossing device under actual game conditions. Such little fellows are less agile and in the excitement of swinging the bat, hitting the ball, watching it go and attempting to run and touch first base before the ball is thrown to and caught by the first baseman, his mind is not on such obstacle as the ball tossing device at homeplate.

THE PRESENT INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide a ball tossing device for positioning at homeplate under the control of a trainer umpire, or coach to provide a pitched ball for an unlearned batter such as a pre-little league aged child for training him in the science of the game of baseball without subjecting him to the dangerous and fright provoking effects of a pitched ball.

It is another object of this invention to provide a ball tossing device which fits within the perimeter of homeplate of a baseball diamond and means for withdrawing the device from such position immediately after the trainee has swung at and hit the ball tossed up by the device.

It is yet another object to provide a guard on and around the ball holding tee of the tossing device to protect the young trainee from injury should he fall upon or stumble over the device in the course of swinging the bat at and missing the ball and the like. Such young trainee is likely to go off balance due to the weight, momentum and course of travel of the bat during the attempt at hitting the ball. At such time the youngster, although hanging onto the bat, finds himself under the control of its weight, momentum and direction of swing such that his entire body becomes a part of such action. This may cause him to be twisted around, lose his footing and result in his falling haphazardly onto the upstanding ball support of the tossing device. Accordingly it is contemplated by the instant object to provide a basket like guard on such upstanding ball support so as to protect the trainee from receiving any sharp or concentrated impact from the overall upper end of such ball supporting tee.

It is still another object of this invention to provide a spring loaded pop-up tee for such ball tossing device operatively set by a latch mechanism and controlled remotely by a flexible cable and tubular sleeve therefor which serve also to quickly remove the ball tossing device from homeplate in the event the trainee hits the ball which was tossed up.

These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from a reading of the following description in the light of the drawing in which:

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a ball tossing device embodying the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of FIG. 1 as seen from the lefthand side thereof showing the latch mechanism and release means therefor.

FIG. 3 is a side elevation of a control mechanism remote from the ball tossing device for releasing the latch mechanism and for removing the device from homeplate.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION

In general, the device 10 embodying the present invention includes a base 11 upon which is mounted a ball supporting tee 12 in which a spring loaded plunger 13 is arranged for up and down movement between a lowered, latched position (FIG. 2) and an upper, ball tossing position (FIG. 1). Further, the device 10 includes, in general, a means 14 for manually releasing the spring loaded plunger 13 from latched condition so that a ball B supported on the tee 12 will be tossed to a desired elevation for the batter.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

In accordance with the present invention the base 11 is constructed to simulate homeplate of a baseball diamond. The ball supporting tee 12 includes a frame 15 of flat strap material 16 bent U-shaped and having its bight 17 secured to the base 11. One leg 18 of the U-shaped strap 16 is arranged vertically in offset relation to but adjacent approximate center C of the base 11. The other leg 19 is more remote from such center C and slanted inwardly relative thereto as a brace for the frame 15. The upper ends of both legs 18 and 19 are inturned parallel to the bight 17 and secured by rivets and the like to a disc 20 concentric to a vertical axis V extending upwardly from the center C of the base 11.

Midway between the disc 20 and bight 17, a lateral flange 21 extends parallel thereto from a bracket 22 secured to the inside wall of the leg 18 of frame 15. This flange 21 and the disc 20 have aligned bores for receiving and guiding a plunger rod 23 for up and down movement along the vertical axis V. Above the disc 20 a compression spring 24 circumscribes the upper end of the plunger rod 23. The extreme upper end of the plunger rod 23 is threaded to receive the internally threaded base boss 25 of a ball supporting cup 26. By this arrangement the compression spring 24 can be adjusted about the rod 23 to assure tossing of a base ball B supported on the cup 26 to a desired elevation.

The lower end of the plunger rod 23 has a lateral extending foot 27 below the flange 21. This foot 27 extends through a slot 28 formed in the leg 18 of the frame 15. This slot 28 serves to maintain the plunger rod 23 against turning during threaded adjustment of the boss 25 of the cup 26 upon the rod 23, as explained above. More importantly, however, the slot 28 acts as a guide and means for limiting up and down movement of the rod 23 under the influence of the spring 24 or during compression of the latter toward latched conditions preparatory for ball tossing action.

The compression spring 24 is triggered in latched condition by a latch lever 29 pivotally mounted as at 30 on the outer side of the leg 18 of the frame 15. The axis of the pivotal mounting 30 for the lever 29 is offset relative to the vertical axis V of the plunger bar 23 as is best seen in FIG. 3. One vertical edge 31 of the lever 29 is offset to the opposite side of such vertical axis when viewed as in FIG. 3 so that a portion of the lever 29 overlaps the slot 28 in the leg 18 of the frame 15.

That portion of the lever 29 overlapping the slot 28 has a notch 32 formed in the lower corner of the edge 31 in the region of the lower limit of the slot 28. At the other, upper limit of the slot 28 the edge 31 of lever 29 is recessed as at 33. Between the recess 33 and the notch 32 the edge 31 has a cam edge 34 formed diagonally of the slot 28, the upper end of the cam edge 34 terminating at the recess 33. The arrangement is such that upon downward movement of the plunger rod 23 its lateral foot 27 extending through the slot 28 can engage the cam edge 34. During compression of the spring 24 the foot 27 passes the cam edge 34 and becomes engaged below the notch 32 for latching engagement therewith.

The latch lever 29 is spring urged into normal or latching condition by a torsion spring 35 coiled about a bolt 36 forming the pivotal axis 30 for the lever 29. The torsion spring 35 has one arm 37 anchored to one side of the leg 18 of the frame 15 and its opposite arm 38 engaging that edge 39 of the lever 29 which is opposite the cammed-notched edge 31 of the latter. The torsion spring 35 urges the lever 29 into normal, i.e., latching condition as seen in solid lines FIG. 3. In this connection it should be noted that a pin 40 on the lever 29 engages an edge 41 on the leg 18 to the rear of the lever 29. This limits movement of the lever 29 beyond normal latching condition under the influence of the torsion spring 35.

From the foregoing it will be appreciated that when a baseball B is placed in cup 36 and the latter pressed downwardly to compress spring 24, the foot 27 on the lower end of plunger rod 23 engages the cam edge 34 until passing the lower end of the latter. Thereafter the torsion spring 35 snaps the lever 29 back to normal condition with the foot 27 engaged below the notch 32 of the latching lever. This maintains the ball cup 36 and plunger rod 23 in cocked condition ready for action under the influence of the compressed spring 24.

With the toss up tee in cocked condition as seen FIG. 3 a batter may take a stance as at the homeplate base 11 as though ready for a pitched ball. A coach, trainer or overseer has control of the apparatus 10 through the means 14 illustrated in FIG. 2, now to be explained.

The means 14 for manipulating the ball tossing device 10 comprises a remote control off to one side of homeplate and beyond the zone of a bat swing by the player at bat. The device 10 comprises a board base 60 having a spring loaded treadle 61 pivotally mounted as at 62 between a pair of upstanding ears 63. A bail wire 64 has one end secured to the treadle 61 and guided through a stationary bracket 65 on the board base 60. The bail wire 64 may be any desired length to extend through a flexible sheathing 66 toward the ball supporting tee 12 of the tossing device 10. The flexible sheathing 66 has one end secured to the stationary bracket 65 and its opposite end 67 secured to an arm 68 extending laterally from the leg 18 of the U-shaped frame 15 as depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2. The bail wire 64 is movable lengthwise within the sheathing 66 and has its opposite end 69 extending from the open end 67 of the sheathing 66 at the arm 68 on the ball tossing tee 12. The said opposite end 69 of the bail wire 64 has a loop 70 formed at its extreme end disposed in a hook-like slot 71 formed on the lower corner of the latch lever 29 opposite the notched corner 32 of the latter.

By the foregoing arrangement, the coach, trainer or overseer can, by pressing down on the treadle 61, exert a pull on the bail wire 64 to trip the latch lever 29 to release the spring loaded plunger 13 of the tee 12. The pull on the bail wire 64 causes the lever 29 to swing from full to dotted line position FIG. 3. This frees the foot 27 of the plunger bar 23 from the notch 32 whereupon the compression spring 24 expands abruptly. This causes the baseball B on the cup 36 to be tossed up along the vertical axis line V at center of homeplate creating a target for the player at bat.

If the player misses hitting the ball he has a "strike" called against him as in a real game. If he foul tips the ball with the bat without moving the ball onto the diamond shaped playing field, the catcher may retreive the ball, catch it on the fly and make any play usually following such a foul ball stroke. Within the three strikes allowed, the player continues to attempt to make a hit, the ball each time being replaced on the cup 36 and the latter returned to cocked condition for a toss up by manipulation of the remote control treadle 61, as above explained.

In the event of a hit ball, the batter must run to first base as in a conventional game. At such time, the coach, trainer or overseer has placed himself and the control means 14 such as to enable him to pull upon the sheathing 66 to quickly remove the entire tee 12 off of homeplate and out of the way of the player attempting to run to first base.

The ball tossing device in accordance with the present invention has a further safety feature in the provision of a basket-like guard 70 formed about the upper end of the spring loaded plunger bar 23 of the ball supporting tee 12. The basket-like guard 70 comprises a series of annular rings each a relatively sturdy wire bar and of gradually diminishing diameter from a larger upper ring 71 and those 72, 73 and 74 of reduced diameter descending toward the disc 20 mounted on the upper flanges of the strap material frame 15. These annular rings of gradually reduced diameter are supported in spaced relation by a plurality of rods 75 having their lower ends radially arranged upon and secured to the disc 20. The rods 75 fan out in a cone shaped pattern from the disc 20 and are welded to the respective annular rings, 74, 73, 72 and 71 progressively upward to achieve the basket--like form for the guard 70. The uppermost and largest annular ring 71 is preferably disposed at an elevation substantially comparable to the upper limit of movement of the ball supporting cup 36 and is of sufficient diameter to provide a spread upper end to the guard 70 for protecting the batting player against injury or harm should he accidently fall upon or stumble over the ball tossing device 10.

In addition to the foregoing, the basket-like guard 70 also serves as a receptacle for an unhit ball. Should the batting player miss hitting the ball or let it pass, the tossed-up ball will merely fall back into the basket-like guard 70 for replacement on the ball supporting cup 36.

Having thus described the ball tossing device of the present application in specific detail it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the device thus explained may be susceptible to modifications alterations and/or variations without departing from the spirit or scope of my invention therein as called for in the appended claims.

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