Innovation in baseball: the axe bat (and US Patent 8,801,551)
Yahoo.sports has a piece on the axe bat now used by Dustin Pedroia.
Yes, there is mention of a patent:
In 2006, a New Yorker named Steve Leinert obtained a patent on the axe handle for a baseball bat, a concept Ted Williams hit on decades earlier in his book "The Science of Hitting," in which he compared a baseball swing to that of an axe. "Try it for yourself," Williams wrote. "Get a bat and swing it against a telephone pole. I do this with doubting young Washington players. Where is the wrist position at point of impact? Square and unbroken, that's where, just as when you hit a tree with an ax."
The axe handle felt more comfortable to Leinert, and he shopped it around to manufacturers. He met rejection after rejection, companies frightened off by something so novel, until Baden, whose main products to that point were balls, fell in love with the Axe Bat and agreed to license it for 20 years starting in 2009.
[Update: Mr. Leinert observed his name is Bruce, not Steve, as reported by yahoo.sports.]
Note the text which shows a New Jersey connection:
It took five years for MLB to climb onboard, and even now Baden isn't making the bats for Pedroia because it doesn't have a license from the league. Victus Sports, a small New Jersey-based company, produces the axe-handle bats for major league players, something Pedroia learned by happy accident.
Link to article in yahoo.sports: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/why-dustin-pedroia-uses-the-axe-bat--which-may-make-the-round-handle-obsolete-013113798.html
One of the relevant patents is US 8,801,551, with first claim:
. A bat comprising: a body, comprising a first material, the body defining an exterior surface with a top end and a bottom end; a barrel portion having a barrel cross-section with a substantially circular perimeter that defines a center point; the barrel cross-section defining a longitudinal axis substantially perpendicular to the barrel cross-section, the longitudinal axis intersecting the barrel cross-section at approximately the center point, the longitudinal axis intersecting and extending through the exterior surface, near the top and bottom ends, at respective upper and lower intersection points, and otherwise within the exterior surface; a handle portion that includes the bottom end, the handle portion having a separately formed handle component comprising a second material; the handle portion defining a maximum forward distance, measured along a first line perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, from a first point on the longitudinal axis to a first location on the exterior surface of the handle portion that is farthest forward of the longitudinal axis; the handle portion defining a maximum rearward distance, measured along a second line perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, from a second point on the longitudinal axis to a second location on the exterior surface of the handle portion that is farthest rearward of the longitudinal axis; the handle portion also having an asymmetrically flared region extending from an upper boundary to a lower boundary, the upper boundary being more proximate the top end and the lower boundary being more proximate the bottom end; the asymmetrically flared region defining a non-circular cross-section perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, the non-circular cross-section having a major axis, wherein the major axis increases continuously throughout the asymmetrically flared region, from the upper boundary to the lower boundary; and portions of the exterior surface, in the asymmetrically flared region, defining a front edge and a rear edge, wherein the distance from the longitudinal axis to the front edge, measured along respective lines perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, is greater than the distance from the longitudinal axis to the rear edge, for each point of the longitudinal axis throughout the asymmetrically flared region.
And, yes, Ted Williams is cited in the patent:
Williams, Ted & Underwood, John, "The Science of Hitting," (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1986; 1st ed. 1970)
***Text in the yahoo.sports article
He met rejection after rejection, companies frightened off by something so novel, until Baden, whose main products to that point were balls, fell in love with the Axe Bat and agreed to license it for 20 years starting in 2009.
sounds in "Chester Carlson" and is highly relevant to the patent reform discussion. Yes, there still are individual inventors who may have a big impact.