Date of Award
Union College Only
Bachelor of Science
machine, design, curveball, hand, wrist
Since baseball’s inception in 1939 by Abner Doubleday the concept of the game has been the same. Limit your opponent to as few runs as possible while scoring the most that you can. Pitchers have the most control over a games outcome and as such they constantly try to come up with new ways to deceive hitters. The best example of this occurred in 1864: A young pitcher from Boston, Massachusetts, named Candy Cummings threw the first curveball, and it has been giving batters fits ever since. Batter’s struggles with the curveball are twofold. First, it is harder to hit a ball that comes in at a different speed than other pitches especially when it is not traveling in a straight path. Second, there is currently no effective way in which to practice hitting a game-like curveball without an actual pitcher throwing to them. Current pitching machines can either duplicate the pitcher’s motion, or the pitches movement, but there is no mechanical machine capable of doing both. The ultimate goal of this project is to design a machine that is capable of doing both. The machine should be able to throw a sharp breaking curveball that seems as if a real pitcher is throwing it. Before beginning to design the machine, the current pitching machines on the market were first examined. The wheeled machines could throw any type of pitch but gave no manner in which a hitter could improve his timing. The Iron Mike© machine is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It provides the batter with a great timing mechanism, but only gives the batter practice hitting fastballs. The design developed for this project was to be a hybrid of these two machines with additional pitching kinesiology added in. The answer to creating this hybrid, was utilizing a cam, secondary arm, wrist joint, and curved hand on an Iron Mike© base machine. The cam provided the necessary snap of the wrist required to throw an effective curveball. This snap was transferred to the wrist by means of the secondary arm, capable of lengthening and shortening with the cam. This arm was connected to a gear and pinion at the wrist which provided all of the rotational motion to the hand. The hand was also designed specifically for this type of motion. It was a curved ramp that translated the top spin created by the wrist into rotation of the ball and a proper release point. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time or money to build my machine in the shop. The parts for the machine totaled roughly $1500 and I only had $400 at my disposal. In addition, I was never able to get a computer simulation working in SolidWorks©. Every attempt at a simulation resulted in either a program crash or a computer crash. Despite much troubleshooting, I was unable to determine whether the problem stemmed from a problem in the model or insufficient computer capabilities due to the complexity of the machine. Although I never got the model to simulate properly, I was able to hand drag the arm around the main shaft. Between this simple test and all of my calculations I strongly feel that the design will be a success with a little bit of tinkering, especially in the hand of the unit. The next in this design process is to get the simulation to run and check the validity of the machine’s motion. Once that is working properly the next step would be to find the money to produce a prototype. This is the only way to effectively test the concept of the machine. Once my design is confirmed in this manner, fine tuning should be done to adjust for characteristics such as pitch speed and accuracy. This is should result in the next revolutionary baseball training tool.
Brown, Andrew D., "Design of a curveball pitching machine with an arm-like throwing mechanism" (2010). Honors Theses. 1104.