Battersby Up!

Norwalk attorney Greg Battersby helps big-league hitters prepare for Pedro

Published in 2006 Connecticut Super Lawyers — February 2006

Imagine batting against a Roger Clemens fastball, a Randy Johnson slider or a Pedro Martinez change-up. It’s the greatest dream (or scariest nightmare) of all who dig in at the plate. And now it’s an experience anyone can have, thanks to Greg Battersby and his ProBatter video pitching system.

Battersby, who practices intellectual property law at Grimes & Battersby in Norwalk, was coaching his teenage son Adam in a Babe Ruth League in the mid-’90s when he noticed that even youth hitters could learn to hit a 95-mile-per-hour fastball delivered from a conventional pitching machine. The reason: the balls come in at a uniform speed and are always delivered to the same area of the plate, which allows hitters to adjust. “It was clear Adam had grooved his swing on these machines, but pitchers don’t pitch that way in a game,” he says.

After consulting with local engineers and machine designers, Battersby developed ProBatter, a video pitching system that allows hitters to view, from a pitcher’s right or left-handed perspective, any pitch (fastball, curve, slider, cutter, etc.) released from synchronized points at speeds of up to 100 mph. The major difference between ProBatter and other machines is that Battersby’s three throwing wheels are capable of delivering different types and speeds of pitches in succession, compared to the two-wheeled devices of most competitors, which must be reset for each different type of pitch. Battersby’s machine can throw a curveball that drops from a 12 to a six position on the face of a clock. Eat your heart out, Pedro.

“The machine allows players to take batting practice at the highest level,” he says. “It’s as logical and clear as the name on the back of a baseball jersey.”

Battersby secured all the patents himself, following a process he knows well as an IP lawyer. He holds 13 U.S. patents, including one on a seamed urethane pitching machine ball that can be used in any pitching machine. He has corresponding patents and applications in virtually every baseball-playing country in the world.

ProBatter debuted in 1999. The company today has seven employees and $2 million in revenues, and sells the system to baseball programs around the country, mostly to pro baseball teams and colleges (the University of Connecticut and University of Maine are clients). Convincing big leaguers of ProBatter’s effectiveness has been slower going. Battersby attributes the resistance to baseball culture, which is slow to change. “Until the first pitching machines came along [in 1952], it was always a coach straining to throw strikes down the middle of the plate … baseball is always kind of behind the times,” he says.

He has made some inroads. Several teams, including the Mets, Indians, Red Sox and White Sox, now use ProBatter. And Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon, a lefthanded hitter, bought a machine — which goes for $75,000 — and raised his overall average 50 points and his slugging average 100 points.

“This is a labor of love,” Battersby says of his side business. “It’s been a challenge, but we’re getting on a roll. I missed the coaching, and this is a great way to stay connected to baseball.”

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