|Publication number||US20040082413 A1|
|Application number||US 10/228,520|
|Publication date||Apr 29, 2004|
|Filing date||Aug 27, 2002|
|Priority date||Aug 27, 2002|
|Publication number||10228520, 228520, US 2004/0082413 A1, US 2004/082413 A1, US 20040082413 A1, US 20040082413A1, US 2004082413 A1, US 2004082413A1, US-A1-20040082413, US-A1-2004082413, US2004/0082413A1, US2004/082413A1, US20040082413 A1, US20040082413A1, US2004082413 A1, US2004082413A1|
|Inventors||Jose Leal, John Barletta, Donald Ullman|
|Original Assignee||Leal Jose E., Barletta John F., Donald Ullman|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (10), Referenced by (7), Classifications (6)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
 The present invention relates to sports hitting implements, such as baseball bats, and more particularly to a lightweight, hollow sports hitting implement that is pressurized to improve the rigidity of the sports hitting implement.
 Sports in many variations are enjoyed by many people. Many sports utilize a hitting implement to strike and drive an element such as a ball. An example is a baseball bat that is used to hit a hard ball or a soft ball. Baseball in its many variations is a pastime enjoyed by many people. Depending on the age and preference of the player, the bat used in baseball and related sports may be a heavy wood or aluminum model, as used by adolescents and adults in baseball, or a light, hollow plastic bat, such as are used by children to hit light weight balls. One disadvantage of existing light weight, plastic bats is that they have little elastic rebound and therefore do not drive a hit ball very far, and being of light weight have little kinetic energy when swung that can be transferred to a ball that is hit. The heavier wood or aluminum bats have good rebound, but are unsuitable for use by small children due to the hardness and weight of the bat. In fact they can pose a danger to young children.
 In response to the above described deficiencies with existing light weight, plastic bats, two types of pressurized plastic bats have been developed. In the simpler of these two types, a bat-shaped container is formed from polycarbonate and charged with air. This single-chamber pressurized bat provides a good rebound while retaining the light weight of other plastic bats. The second type of pressurized, plastic bat that has been developed uses two pieces: an un-pressurized handle and a pressurized striking portion. The pressurized striking portion is similar to a two-liter soda bottle, but includes a neck which is adapted to be joined to the handle. The handle and striking portions are fastened or clamped together by a coupler.
 However, multiple piece bats fastened together using a coupler creates a complexity that significantly adds to the cost of the bat, and the coupler too often loosens during use. Thus, there is a need in the prior art for a less expensive, improved, light weight, pressurized, plastic bat having improved rigidity and rebound.
 The aforementioned need in the prior art is satisfied by the present invention. The present invention is a lightweight, hollow sports hitting implement, such as a baseball bat, with a one piece outer shell, having both a striking portion and a handle portion as a single part, and the end furthest from the handle portion is open. A pre-formed, sealed, pressurizable tubular element is inserted into the inside of the striking end of the hitting implement via the open end of the outer shell. There is a support cap fastened to the end of the striking portion of the hitting implement, at the furthest extreme from the handle portion, to provide protection from splitting to the open end of the striking portion of the bat, and to help retain the tubular element inside the striking portion of the hitting implement. The tubular element has an inflation valve that is accessed at the open end of the striking portion of the hitting implement to pressurize the tubular element after the hitting implement is assembled to thereby provide improved rigidity and rebound to the hitting implement.
 The invention will be better understood upon reviewing the following Detailed Description of the invention in conjunction with the drawing in which:
FIG. 1 is a side view showing a sports hitting implement according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the bat according to the present invention showing the individual elements of the sports hitting implement; and
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view through the sports hitting implement according to the present invention.
 In FIG. 1 is shown a side view showing a pressurized sports hitting implement 10 according to the present invention. The preferred embodiment of the sports hitting implement described herein is a plastic bat 10 but the hitting implement may be cricket bat, hockey stick, croquet mallet, etcetera. A one piece outer shell 11 of bat 10 is hollow and is blow molded from polyvinyl chloride or a polycarbonate material in a manner well known in the art, and may be of any color. Outer shell 11 of bat 10 may also injection molded from polyethylene structural foam to allow relatively thick sections, such as handle portion 11 b, while maintaining a light weight. The outer shell 11 has a striking portion 1 la used to strike a ball or other play implement (not shown), and a handle portion 11 b having a gripping region 15 with a knob 16 at the bottom end in a manner well known in the art. Opposite knob 16, handle portion 11 b tapers outward to become striking portion 11 a of bat 10. The end of striking portion 11 a of bat 10 furthest from knob 16 is open (not seen in FIG. 1) as seen in and described better with reference to FIG. 3 as open end 17.
 The end of striking portion 11 a of bat 10 furthest from knob 16 has a support means in the form of cap 12 attached thereto to prevent the open end of striking portion 11 a (not shown) from splitting when bat 10 is used. It is preferred that support means cap 12 be made of a material harder than that used to make one piece outer shell 11, to provide the needed strength to the open end of striking portion 11 a to prevent splitting. Support means cap 12 may be either adhesively attached or heat fused to the open end of outer shell 11. Cap 12 has a hole 19 through its center that permits access to a valve 14 of a tubular element 13 inside striking portion 11 a. Support cap 12 retains a tubular element 13 inside striking portion 11 a and is attached after element 13 is inserted inside outer shell 11.
 A pre-formed, tubular element 13 is inserted into the open end of striking portion 11 a before support cap 12 is attached to the end of striking portion 11 a. Tubular element 13 has an inflation valve 14 mounted in a one of its ends that is accessable through hole 19 after support cap 12 is attached. Element 13 is then pressurized using the exposed inflation valve 14. This is better seen in FIGS. 2 and 3. Pressurization of tubular element 13 is done during manufacture, but a user of the bat may thereafter add to or decrease the pressurization using an air pump with an air injection needle. The pressurization of element 13 assures that it is in contact with the inside surface of striking portion 11 a to improve the rigidity and rebound of bat 10 in accordance with the teaching of the invention. Outer shell 11 may be colored and be opaque or have some transparency so that tubular element 13 may be seen inside. When outer shell 11 is transparent, element 13 may have a different color than outer shell 11 to provide a pleasing, aesthetic appearance.
 In FIG. 2 is shown an exploded view of all the elements making up bat 10 according to the present invention. These elements have all been briefly described in reference to FIG. 1. There is the one piece outer shell 11 having striking portion 11 a and handle portion 11 b. Outer shell 11 is preferably blow molded, as previously described, but may be injection molded. Support cap 12 is fastened to open end 17 of striking portion 11 a using an adhesive or thermal fusion to prevent the open end 17 from splitting when bat 10 is in use. As previously described it is preferred that support cap 12 be fabricated from a material harder than the material used to make one piece outer shell 11, but the same material may be used. The open end 17 of outer shell 11 has a necked down portion 18, as seen in FIG. 2, over which support cap 12 is placed and attached as previously described. After being attached to portion 18 support cap 12 forms a smooth, continuous surface with outer shell 11 as seen in both FIGS. 1 and 3. Support cap 12 is generally hemispherical with a hole 19 that leaves inflation valve 14 exposed for use. Support cap 12 holds tubular element 13 inside striking portion 11 a.
 Tubular element 13 is pressurized via a valve 14, well known in the art for inflating basketballs and footballs, in its end wall as shown. Tubular element 13 is inserted into the interior of outer shell 11 via open end 17. Tubular element 13 is fabricated from a flexible material, preferably polyvinyl chloride (PVC). After the insertion of tubular element 13 into the open end 17 of outer shell 11 and the attachment of support cap 12, as previously described, element 13 is pressurized using valve 14. Element 13 substantially fills the striking end 11 a and presses against the inside walls of striking portion 11 a, as seen in FIG. 3. After pressurization of tubular element 13, valve 14 is still seen and is accessible at the end of bat 10 through hole 19 as seen in FIGS. 1 and 3. While pressurization of tubular element 13 is initially done during manufacture, a user of the bat may thereafter add to or decrease the pressurization using an air pump with an air injection needle. This modifies the striking characteristic of bat 10. The pressurized tubular element 13 cooperates with striking portion 11 a to favorably affect the reaction thereof when a ball is hit by providing improved rigidity and rebound to bat 10.
 In FIG. 3 is shown a cross-sectional view through bat 10. When tubular element 13 is pressurized by inflating it, the increased pressure forces the outer walls of tubular element 13 into close contact with the inside walls of outer shell 11 as is seen in FIG. 3.
 In manufacture of bat 10, tubular element 13 is easily and quickly inserted into the open end 17 of outer shell 11, support cap 12 is easily and quickly assembled onto the tapered outer end 18 of striking portion 11 a using an adhesive or thermal fusion, and tubular element is easily and quickly pressurized. The overall result is less expensive manufacturing costs for bat 10.
 In an alternative embodiment of the invention an inflatable, pressurizable, tubular element 13 is not utilized. Rather, a compressible material is used, such as closed cell foam, which is stiff but compressible. Preferably it is closed cell polyurethane foam. The foam tubular element has an outside diameter greater than the inside diameter of the striking portion 11 a of hollow outer shell 11, so during assembly it is first compressed to decrease its diameter to a size less than the inside diameter of striking portion 11 a. The compressed foam tubular element is then easily inserted into the open end 17 of outer shell 11. Upon being completely inserted inside striking portion 11 a it is released and it expands to contact the inside wall of striking portion 11 a. Since the relaxed diameter of the foam tubular element is greater than the inside diameter of the striking portion 11 a the foam remains in a partially compressed state wherein it excerpts pressure against the inside walls of striking portion 11 a. A support cap 12 is still utilized to protect the open end of outer shell 11 from splitting, but in this embodiment there is no need for an opening 19 to access an inflation valve 14. Alternatively, the support cap may be deleted and the wall thickness of striking portion 11 a increased to provide the required protection against the open end of outer shell 11 a splitting when the bat is in use. In this configuration the end of foam tubular element is exposed.
 While what has been described herein is the preferred embodiment of the invention those skilled in the art will understand that numerous changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For instance, other methods of fabricating one piece outer shell 11 may be utilized than the methods described herein. Further, some adhesive may be used to initially attach tubular element 13 to the inside of striking portion 11 a during assembly of bat 10. In addition, tubular element 11 a may not be pre-formed but instead be a balloon like bladder that is initially limp but is inflated after it is inserted inside the open end 17 of striking portion 11 a.
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|Cooperative Classification||A63B2208/12, A63B2225/62, A63B59/06|