CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY-SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
This application claims the benefit of (1) U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/284,697 filed Dec. 24, 2009; and (2) U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/387,622 filed Sep. 29, 2010. These prior applications are hereby incorporated by reference.
- REFERENCE TO AN APPENDIX
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to an improved softball. Softball is a sport similar to baseball, but using a different ball and some different rules. In softball, a softball is pitched to a batter who uses a bat to strike the ball. Upon impact with the bat, the ball is driven away from the batter, whereupon the batter runs toward first base. A goal in softball is to drive the ball in the direction desired with the desired force, thereby making a run between bases as successful as possible.
Softballs commonly have a polymer core 2 and a leather or other jacket 4 that is typically stitched over the core 2, as shown in FIG. 1. The core 2 of a softball may be made of long fiber kapok, a mixture of cork and rubber, a polyurethane mixture, or another approved material. The material is approved if it meets certain criteria.
Some softball jackets have a raised seam 6. The ball jacket is most often white or yellow leather in two pieces 4 a and 4 b, each of which is roughly the shape of a figure eight without the openings. The pieces 4 a and 4 b are typically sewn together with red thread. Jackets or coverings of other materials are permitted.
The size of a softball varies according to the classification of play: the permitted circumferences in international play are 11 and 12 inches. Softballs are measured to determine their Coefficient Of Restitution (COR) and compression. The higher the COR, the more “bouncy” the ball is and, generally, the farther it will fly when struck by a bat. The COR is the percentage of reduction in speed for a ball bouncing off a wall. If a ball is thrown at a wall at 80 miles per hour and bounces off at 40 miles per hour, the speed has been reduced by 50%. The ball would be rated with a COR of 0.50 (referred to as a fifty COR ball).
Softball compression is a measure of how hard a softball is. The higher the compression, the harder the ball, and generally, the farther it will travel when struck by a bat. Compression is measured by how many pounds of force are needed to squeeze two sides of the ball in by a total of one-quarter of an inch. If a test shows that it takes 375 pounds of force to squeeze the ball by one-quarter inch, the ball is certified as a 375 pound compression ball. The American Softball Association (ASA) has only approved two levels of compression: 375 pounds and 525 pounds. A 375 pound ball is softer than a 525 pound ball.
Weather has an impact on the compression of a softball. Studies have shown that when the temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit, an average softball loses about 200 pounds of compression as compared with the same softball at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that a softball that is a 525 pound compression ball at 60 degrees may play like a 375 pound ball at 100 degrees. In addition, clouds, rain, and humidity also affect the compression of a ball. Weather of “70 degrees and sunny” creates lower compression balls than if it is 70 degrees and cloudy.
- BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Because weather can have such a significant impact on conventional softballs, it would be desirable to have a softball that is not, or is less, affected by extremes in weather.
The invention includes a coating for the core of a conventional softball that prevents heat from softening a softball's core, or at least reduces the extent to which heat softens a softball's core. In a preferred embodiment the core is coated with a liquid that cures or dries to a solid coating on the outer surface of the core. The liquid preferably adheres to the outer surface of the core in the manner of paint so that it is difficult or impractical to remove. The liquid forms a coating that does not significantly change the mechanical characteristics (e.g., the hardness) of the core, but instead leaves the core with substantially the same COR and compression. Instead, the coating blocks and/or substantially reduces the amount of ultraviolet (UV) light that reaches the core. A substantial amount of UV light impinges on the core of conventional softballs, even through a translucent or mostly opaque jacket. By blocking or reducing the amount of UV light that reaches the core, the amount that the core is warmed by the light is also reduced. Thus, the amount the core changes in its properties due to warming is reduced by the invention.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS
It is difficult to coat the core to obtain a ball that softens less when exposed to UV light without the coating simultaneously affecting the mechanical properties of the ball. For example, adding a hard coating to the core will make the core harder. However, adding a flexible coating to the core will affect the core less mechanically while still reducing or eliminating UV light softening of the core.
FIG. 1 is a side view illustrating a prior art softball.
FIG. 2 is a side view illustrating a softball incorporating an embodiment of the present invention.
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
In describing the preferred embodiment of the invention which is illustrated in the drawings, specific terminology will be resorted to for the sake of clarity. However, it is not intended that the invention be limited to the specific term so selected and it is to be understood that each specific term includes all technical equivalents which operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose. For example, the word connected or terms similar thereto are often used. They are not limited to direct connection, but include connection through other elements where such connection is recognized as being equivalent by those skilled in the art.
Patent application U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/284,697 filed Dec. 24, 2009; and U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/387,622 filed Sep. 29, 2010 are incorporated in this application by reference.
The preferred embodiment of the invention is shown in FIG. 2. A ball 10 has a core 12 and a jacket 14. The core 12 is preferably a conventional softball core made of polyurethane. The core 12 has a coating 13 that is interposed between the core 12 and the jacket 14. The coating 13 is preferably made from a liquid that reflects and/or absorbs UV light, and is preferably applied to the core 12 prior to surrounding the core 12 with the jacket 14. The jacket 14 is installed onto the core 12 in a conventional manner, such as by stitching. The term “coating” is defined herein as a solid layer of material with finite thickness extending over a substantial area, and includes, but is not limited to, solid layers that are formed from liquids that cure or dry, as well as films that are applied as a solid.
In a preferred embodiment, the liquid is E-BARRIER brand reflective coating, which is sold by The Sherwin-Williams Company. Of course, other equivalent substances could be substituted for this product. Additionally, an amount of powder (preferably aluminum flake—also available from The Sherwin-Williams Company in a consistency similar to baby powder) is added to the liquid to further block the UV light after the liquid is applied to the core to form the coating 13. In one example, five gallons of E-BARRIER is combined with one pint of aluminum flake powder. The combination is mixed well and then applied to the core in a thickness comparable to paint on a household wall, and preferably forms a layer of less than about one-eighth of an inch thick. Once the paint is dry to the touch, preferably about 12 to 24 hours after being applied, the jacket 14 is mounted on the core 12 in a conventional manner.
The liquid that forms the coating is preferably applied to the core 12 in a manner that paint or other similar coatings are applied, such as by brushing, rolling or spraying. Of course, the core 12 can be dipped in a bath of the liquid and removed to allow the liquid to cure or dry. Alternative methods of applying a coating, such as vapor deposition, electrostatic deposition, electroplating and others will be known to a person having ordinary skill in the art.
Although a cured or otherwise solidified liquid is the preferred coating 13, it is possible to form the coating 13 in other ways. For example, UV blocking layers can be formed on and/or fixed to the core 12, such as by tapes, films, fibers, fabrics and other layers that are attached to the core 12 to block or reduce the penetration of UV light. Furthermore, such layers can be sewn, adhered or otherwise fastened onto the core 12. Layers can be attached to the jacket 14, such as by sewing or laminating using adhesives, and then mounted to the core 12 in a conventional manner. Of course, it is also contemplated that the jacket can be made of a material that blocks substantial amounts of UV light, such as by incorporating the powders or flakes described herein, or their equivalents, into the jacket material. The jacket can then be installed on the core in a conventional manner.
Another or an additional means for preventing or reducing the effect of warm ambient air softening the core is a chemical modification of the core. Thus, rather than (or in addition to) preventing UV light from penetrating to the core, this chemical change in the core material reduces or eliminates the softening affect warmer air (about 75 degrees Fahrenheit or greater) has on the core. This is accomplished by adding products to the core as the core is being manufactured. For example, products sold under the product numbers GLFT RU-5135-T and GLFT RU-6021-R by Great Lakes Foam Technologies, Inc. of Concord Michigan can be added to the polyurethane foam and activator that is combined to form a conventional core. In one example, when an ASA ball having a COR of 44 and a compression of 375 pounds is desired, one can add the above-noted additives at a rate of about 10 percent in a mixture of about 80 percent polyurethane and about 10 percent activator. Upon curing, the core so modified is resistant to the softening effect of warm air (regardless of UV light) on it. Such a core will resist becoming noticeably softer even if the air temperature reaches, for example, 90 degrees Fahrenheit than it would be at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
This detailed description in connection with the drawings is intended principally as a description of the presently preferred embodiments of the invention, and is not intended to represent the only form in which the present invention may be constructed or utilized. The description sets forth the designs, functions, means, and methods of implementing the invention in connection with the illustrated embodiments. It is to be understood, however, that the same or equivalent functions and features may be accomplished by different embodiments that are also intended to be encompassed within the spirit and scope of the invention and that various modifications may be adopted without departing from the invention or scope of the following claims.