Open Source T-Ball v3.0

T-Ball 3.0: Ready for Action
T-Ball v3.0: Evan demonstrates the finished assembly

Since sometime around 20 months, Evan has been obsessed with T-Ball. His first set consisted of a foam bat (good), foam ball (check), and a completely useless T-Ball stand. The top of the thing was busted into pieces within a few days. And the base tipped over constantly, requiring Daddy intervention with each toppling. This “Franklin Sports MLB Foam Teeball Set” represents a tragic lowpoint in teeball technology. If our National Passtime is going to be passed along to a new generation, we’re going to need some Innovation, and not the kind that comes across the Pacific on a container ship. T-Ball 2.0 was born of the Innovation that can only be found on a Saturday moring at Home Depot. This remarkable advance in toddler ball-on-a-stick technology provides a tee formed from PVC pipe attached to a spring that fits neatly into larger PVC pipe fixed in the ground. The benefits of this are many. Two to be exact. 1) It rights itself when stuck with a bat, and 2) It can be removed and replaced easily when mowing the lawn. And also, it seems to be quite durable, as Evan has been beating on it for about a year now, and its still as good as new.

So now, on the ocassion of my nephew’s third birthday, I have upgraded the design. Some say I should patent it, but I disagree. This it too important to patent. This innovation must be shared freely, and spread across back yards across the land. So today, I hereby publish the formerly proprietary design specifications. Internets, I give you Open Source T-Ball v3.0.

Materials: 1 Spring (1″ x 12″ x .105″), 1″ Schedule 40 PVC pipe, 3/4″ CPVC pipe, 1/2″ CPVC pipe, 2 Reducing Couplings (3/4″x1/2″), 2 O-rings (7/16″ ID x 1/16″ Wall, Brasscraft part 0576), 1 Bolt.

Tools: Saw to cut the pipe, Dremel with cutoff wheel, Drill

Instructions: See photoset on Flickr for details.T-Ball 3.0: Dremel

  1. The spring that I found had loops at both ends. They have to go. A Dremel cutoff wheel is just the ticket for this job. The resulting shower of sparks is quite satisfying, and makes this project seem like it might be happening on television.
  2. Using a Sawsall or other suitably overpowered tool, cut the pipes to length as shown in the photos. Cut the large pipe at an angle to make it easier to pound into the ground later. If you are outside the United States, please note that the dimensions should first be converted from inches to cubits or furlongs according to local custom.
  3. T-Ball 3.0: Parts This would be a good time to check that you bought the right materials. The spring should fit snuggly inside the 1″ pipe, the small end of the coupler should fit inside the spring, the 3/4″ pipe should fit in the coupler, the 1/2″ pipe should fit inside the 3/4″ pipe with some clearance, and the 1/2″ pipe should fit inside the small end of the other coupler. Actually, a better time to check this would have been before you bought everything then cut it into pieces.
  4. The bolt should be long enough to fit across the 1″ pipe. When the spring is inserted into the 1″ pipe, the bottom of the spring will rest on this bolt. The bolt should be positioned so 2-3 inches of spring will protrude from the top of the pipe. Drill pilot holes first. The final drill bit should be sized to match the bolt as closely as possible. The bolt should self-tap its way through the holes if you get it right.
  5. Use the Dremel to cut off the extra length of bolt. This provides another opportunity to spray glowing chards of metal into your eyes, or those of innocent onlookers.
  6. Now roll the two O-Rings over the 1/2″ pipe, and position them at about 1/3 and 2/3 along the length. Shove the smaller pipe with O-rings into the larger pipe. These two pipes should now fit snugly. This TELESCOPING-HEIGHT ™ innovation is unique to v3.0. I had originally planned to use a series of holes and pins to set the height, but this works much better.
  7. Find a suitable location in your own backyard Field of Dreams, and beat the 1″ pipe into the ground with a rubber mallet, piece of lumber, or old shoe. The top of the pipe should be about at ground level, and well below the blades of your lawnmower.
  8. Insert upper assembly
  9. Go forth, citizens of the Interweb, and Play T-Ball!