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Secrets of Baseball Training Gloves

Mar 3, 2008
Baseball training mitts and gloves are not new. Their basic shape and design replicate the gloves used by the early Players of the game. When padded gloves made their appearance after world war II, utilizing two hands was the only way to gain ball control.

These padded shells did not offer much if any pocket by witch to trap the ball using the glove only. As the padding in these gloves tended to shift during play, the pocket formed through use would also shift.
Commercially available training gloves include the Kelley Athletics Training mitt, Akadema APG97 Infielders Training Glove, a.k.a. the Pancake; Mizuno GXT1 Training Glove and Valle Eagle Trainer Pancake Training Glove. These gloves share similar geometry and shape.

Using a round training mitt has two obvious advantages. First, off axis catches can still be trapped over any portion of the glove. The rigid perimeter creates a stable base for glove operation as a whole. Second, as Coaches drive grounders to the Player with a baseball bat from 40 feet or more, a properly placed glove will give the visual indicator or a complete circle. This circle is important as it confirms to the Coach that the mitt is perpendicular to the ground. Oblong shapes are tell tale signs that the Player does not have their hand in the proper position. This type of instant feed back allows Coaches greater efficiency in monitoring player position throughout the drill.

Imagine throwing a baseball at a large flat board. If perpendicular to the play, any ball striking the board will simply bounce back towards its origin. This is a great advantage for Players as the ball is in front of their line of site and between them and the play. Now, rotate the board 30 degrees behind perpendicular. Most players not using two hands have their glove in this position as they are reaching out in advance of the ball. With our board, any ball striking will continue its forward progress. The baseball will bounce up and behind the player.

If lucky, the ball will not go too far and the made scramble for control will end in with the base runner only advancing by one. Unlucky Players take the bounce in the face or chest where serious injury can occur.

Several versions of this type of baseball training device have been granted Patents in the United States. From simple rigid materials 4,208,051 held by Thomas S. Robertson 1980 to the Triangle pad, 4,802,669 held by Peter C. Birmingham, 1989

It is interesting to note that under United States Patent 4121824, in 1977 Robert Hirschfield developed what on the outside appears a typical small glove, while the inside is reinforced to impair the ability of the glove to close.

The invention concerns a partially inflexible device which may be worn as a glove by one attempting to increase his glove/hand reaction time proficiency in the baseball skills of catching, fielding and catch/throw agility. It also may be used by an instructor or coach in demonstrating or teaching those skills to players of any skill level.

The glove has the palm portion thereof made inflexible whereby a user cannot flex the palm to catch a ball by squeezing it with his glove hand. Instead, the user is forced to use his free hand to trap a ball between the inflexible palm of the glove and the free hand. The inflexible palm portion of the glove can be integrally formed with the glove; it can be an insert, permanently secured into a pocket of the glove; or it can be an insert which can be easily inserted into and removed from a pocket of the glove.

Summary of the Hirschgield Invention:

Participation in the sport of baseball requires, as does participation in any physical activity involving the use of special techniques, the development of certain fundamental skills. Unless those fundamental skills become "second nature" to the player so that he executes them virtually automatically, and without hesitation or concentrated effort, his level of play will be curtailed.

This invention relates to improving one's skill in the baseball arts of fielding, catching and the combination of catch/throwing. As will be shown, by using the subject device, one automatically will practice the proper techniques of fielding ground balls, line drives and fly balls; of catching a ball thrown by another player and of catching and throwing a ball in one fluid motion.

A variety of situations arises during a baseball game where those techniques must be executed competently and quickly. To name but a few, an infielder must be able to field a ground ball and throw it without hesitation where the batter, or any base runner for that matter, is running quickly; an outfielder must be able to catch a batted ball, whether in the air or after it bounces, and with a quick release throw to the appropriate base or to home plate; an infielder, usually the second baseman or shortstop, must be able to catch a thrown ball and quickly pivot and throw to effect a double play. A game may be won or lost depending on proper execution.

Accordingly, baseball players at all levels of skills continually practice in an effort to increase and advance their level of play. Correspondingly, instructors and coaches of players who range from elementary school-age children to professional ballplayers insist on the development and enhancement of certain fundamental skills through repeated practice of properly demonstrated techniques. Players and coaches alike have had a long felt need for a training device that would enable one to develop those skills while reducing, if not eliminating, the potentiality of developing "bad habits" or poor skills.

The subject invention, which satisfies the aforementioned long felt need, is a device that provides the necessary means to advance the skills of any player. It is worn as a glove; indeed, its outward appearance may be that of an ordinary baseball glove. However, the pocket (that portion of the glove which covers the player's palm) and the portion at least one-third of the way up each finger is made inflexible, though it may be shock absorbent. Accordingly, when a ball is hit or thrown to a player wearing the subject training device, he must cover the ball with his ungloved hand immediately upon the ball's making contact with the rigid pocket, or else the ball will not be caught. In that way the player is properly taught to catch the ball with "two hands", i.e., to cover the ball immediately upon contact.

The preference for a "two handed" catch exists in virtually all situations -- ground balls, line drives, fly balls and thrown balls. Naturally, there are exceptions to any rule, but they are just that, exceptions. Sound fundamental skills require that one be able to perform the basics in a proficient way, and then be able to adapt as extraordinary situations arise (e.g. where one must jump, lunge or stretch in order to reach a thrown or hit ball with one hand).

Even with contemporary baseball glove technology, it is obvious that the advances in manufacturing and function still rely on basic skills to reach peak Player performance. Simple devices that can only function if used properly are the key to any Player success.
About the Author
Mr. Dowdy is an Official Distributor for NW Kelley USA Baseball you can also click over to Hirsch Group for more tips/articles or even Hirsch Group Blog for current events.
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