Archive for April, 2012


It Must Be The Shoes

Beginning baseball player or all-star, without the traction advantage of cleats, it’s no go.
 
The runner on first base steps toward second, then stops and studies the pitcher, looking for a clue that might reveal whether his next move will be a throw to first or a pitch to the plate. The pitcher goes into his stretch, looks over his shoulder and returns the stare, gauging the base runner’s lead and calculating whether he’s likely to break for second on the pitch. The runner takes one step back toward first. Confident that he has the runner leaning toward first, the pitcher delivers to the plate. But by the time he releases the ball, the runner has shifted his weight, and he digs in with his cleat, pushing off toward second with all the power his leg can generate.
 
Without baseball cleats, that runner would be spinning his wheels, slipping and sliding in the dirt, but the grip of the shoe allows him to apply as much force as he can muster. While cleats are essential equipment for the base runner, they’re also necessary for defensive players, who must react quickly to a batted ball and move into position. Similarly, that pitcher has to have firm footing on the pitching rubber and mound in order to deliver the ball with maximum velocity and accuracy.
 
A Historical Footnote
 
Baseball cleats are an important part of a player’s equipment, and they have been since a ballplayer named Paul Butler first attached spikes to his leather shoes more than 150 years ago. Today, players can choose from a wide range of baseball cleats, including types designed for different conditions and playing surfaces. And while cleats may resemble street shoes, there’s a lot of science involved in their construction. Wedges are frequently used within the shoe to provide cushioning in some areas without adding excessive weight. The wedges can also serve to keep the front of the foot low to the ground, an advantage when running. Soft pads are located within the shoe to minimize pressure, and cushioning is used in midsole areas to reduce the discomfort that results from hours of standing and running. Tongue flaps keep the tongue in place while keeping dirt out, and zippered shrouds lock laces in place.
 
The cleats on the underside of the shoe are usually made of metal, solid rubber or molded thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Metal cleats are durable and can dig into hard dirt. Non-metal cleats reduce the risk of injury to opposing players and can make for a more comfortable shoe. But since rubber and TPU cleats don’t provide as much grip, more metal cleats are used. Maximum height for all types is ½-inch. Generally, players who have reached high-school level or above use metal cleats when conditions warrant, while more junior ballplayers use a non-metal type. Some shoes are made with removable cleats, so both metal and non-metal cleats can be used interchangeably and worn cleats can be replaced.
 
The position of  the cleats can affect the way the shoes — and the athlete — perform. Nike, for example, has moved the toe cleat under the big toe to improve traction, while the secondary cleats in the forefoot area are engineered to improve lateral movement.
 
Sizing Up the Shoe
 
It’s not all about traction and cleat design, the support the shoe provides and its durability are also important. Baseball cleats are available in both low-top and ¾-height shoe configurations. The low-tops offers great flexibility and are favored by speedy baserunners, while he ¾-height shoes provide more ankle support and are less likely to fall off. In terms of materials, synthetic outers can reduce weight, while leather is tough and durable. Many shoes are made from a combination of materials. Under Armour, a major supplier of baseball cleats, uses a combination of leather and a synthetic material called nubuck in many of their shoes. Nike baseball cleats use a rubber compound called Diamond Guard in the toe area to enhance durability.
 
Special Applications
 
Most manufacturers offer shoes designed specifically for softball and for children. Because softball involves motions that differ from those of baseball, particularly for pitchers, shoes are engineered specifically for that game. Kids, on the other hand, grow fast, and some baseball cleats are designed to accommodate growth with removable spacers in the heel area.
 
Dunham’s carries a wide range of baseball cleats for boys, girls and adults. Among the most popular are the Nike Keystone and Under Armour’s Leadoff IV. A Dunham’s sales consultant can help you choose the cleats that are best for you or your aspiring athlete.
 
-Home Run Hitter
 
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Airsoft Adventure Never Stops!

Plenty of Action and Adventure for Backyard Target Shooters, On-line Mercenaries and Outdoor Weekend Warriors.
 
You are crouched behind a pile of rubble, cradling a replica Kalashnikov AK-47 in your arms. Your heart beats a little faster as you wait for a band of enemy insurgents to attack. It all seems so real, but are you:
 
A. In a simulated battle at your favorite game park?
 
B. In a virtual on-line war zone, engaged in a multi-player mission?
 
C. In your own backyard? 
 
If you are among the growing ranks of Airsoft enthusiasts, it could be any of the above. As a sport, airsoft is exploding in popularity because in backyards, on-line battle zones and game parks everywhere, the action is always on.
 
According to Justin Sigler of Soft Air USA, the leading manufacturer of airsoft guns, targets and accessories, “Airsoft allows boys and girls to be Wild Bill Hickok or Annie Oakley while shooting at targets in their own backyard, and adventure-addicted teens or adults to play out their wildest Ethan Hunt or Lara Croft fantasies.”
 
Generally considered far less dangerous than air-powered BB guns and far less expensive than paintball guns, orange-tipped airsoft guns are spring-powered replicas of real weapons used by players to shoot plastic BBs at targets or in mission-based scenarios with other players in open fields or paintball parks.
 
“Super-soft” airsoft pistols for beginners propel high-visibility pink 0.12-gram plastic BBs at 120 – 140 feet-per-second (fps) versus 1,000 fps from conventional BB guns. Soft Air USA is the exclusive licensee of a wide range of authentic, incredibly durable replica pistols, machine guns and shot guns, as well as tactical assault and sniper rifles, including full-metal auto-electric guns (AEGs) capable of firing 0.25-gram plastic BBs, specially powder-coated for game play, at speeds up to 500 fps. Each Soft Air gun is packaged with a rubberized sticky target and with the fps power rating clearly marked.
 
Once you discover your ideal weapon, visit Dunham’s and choose one of the authentic spring-powered replicas from Soft Air. Dunham’s offers a wide selection of weapons, kits, targets, scopes, laser sights and accessories.
 
Then use the strategies and tactics you developed during on-line play to dominate the field at your local game park. Many paintball parks are quickly converting to airsoft play. In addition to open spaces with bunkers and trenches, some include bombed out cities, jungle fields or western towns. Some host airsoft competitions during which participants enter a specially constructed maze and shoot at targets along the way. Best times determine winners in different age categories. Protective eyewear is always recommended for target shooting and game play. Traditional prescription glasses, sunglasses, or goggles not designed specifically for airsoft or paintball play may break or shatter in game play and cause possible eye damage.
 
“No other sport,” says Sigler, “offers so much action and adventure on so many different levels. Whether you are a backyard target shooter, an on-line mercenary or an outdoor weekend warrior, airsoft is the sport for you.”
 
So, what are you waiting for? Dunham’s has everything you need to ensure you go into every airsoft battle armed with the best. 
 
JOIN THE ACTION ONLINE…
 
If you are unsure which airsoft gun is right for you, simply log on to http://www.thewarinc.com/   and try one on-line!
 
War Inc. Battle Zone allows you to experience hard hitting combat as a third person shooter in free-to-play multiplayer sessions. Create your own character. Select from over 130 available weapons, with more being added each month. Compete with friends and other players in real time team versus team combat. Fight your way through a desert village, in urban chaos or night warfare, or in close-quarter battles. Enjoy cutting-edge next-generation graphics and plenty of action while you test different hand guns, machine guns, shot guns, or assault, sniper and tactical weapons.
 
-Paintball Warrior
 
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From the Lab to The Links

The Seasons New Golf Gear is Engineered for Distance and Accuracy
 
All winter long you’ve been itching to get back on the golf course. Well, all winter long equipment manufacturers have been re-programming their computers and adjusting their algorithms to help you hit the ball just a little bit longer and a little bit straighter.
 
Farther Down the Fairway
 

Drivers are usually the focus of attention because everybody wants to be longer off the tee. But TaylorMade is emphasizing the next club in your bag — the fairway wood. It’s called the RocketBallz™ or “RBZ,” and yes it is a club. The unusual name came when testing engineers who first used it said the ball “rocketed” off the club.
 
There are two keys to RocketBallz technology. First, the center of gravity has been moved forward to provide a higher launch angle and less spin. Second is a cavity (Speed Pocket) carved into the sole. Positioned just behind the face, it’s designed to increase flexibility of both the face and the sole. Both developments increase ball speed, and more ball speed means more distance.
 
Here’s the geeky engineering explanation, all centered around the Coefficient of Restitution (COR). In English, that means how well object A (the golf club) transfers energy to object B (the golf ball). Traditional fairway woods have had a COR of about .777, while the RocketBallz jumps to .815.
 
So what does all this engineering talk mean to you? More distance. TaylorMade is advertising that the RocketBallz fairway wood will add 17 yards of distance for a typical golfer. And if the lawyers let them say that, who can argue? (Not that any lawyer actually swung the club). What it all comes down to is hitting the ball farther, says TaylorMade’s Rob Backus. “It’s all about speed and how the ball trampolines off the face of the club.”
 
Nike has its own technology to increase distance off the tee. Its VR_S driver has what it calls NexCOR (notice how it got “COR” into the name of the product?). This concentrates on the face of the club. A multi-thickness design makes the face of the club ultrathin at the sweet spot, which — ta-da — increases ball speed off the tee.
 
“The VR_S is hot,” says Nike’s Chris Coffman. “It feels fast — I don’t know how else to describe it.”
 
Speaking of Ball Speed
 
You spend a lot more money on a new club than on a golf ball, but it’s the ball that actually determines your score. Not to fear, the golf scientists have been spending plenty of time on the little white sphere.
 
Titleist has long dominated the ball market and they are introducing four new products. Most significant is a new version of the NXT Tour, the highly popular, non-urethane cover ball first introduced a decade ago. The new ball has a slightly smaller soft center and higher volume outer core layer engineered to increase power and (of course) distance. A soft, thin Fusablend cover features a new spherically tiled octahedral design with four axis of symmetry and 302 dimples in five sizes.
 
All the laboratory work and science is important, but it’s what happens on the golf course that determines whether a product succeeds and the Titleist development process is heavy on real world application. “Our ball development process always starts with golfer testing where we identify improvement that will help golfers score better,” says Bill Morgan, Senior Vice-President, Golf Ball Research and Development.
 
Nike is introducing what it calls a radical new core technology for its 20XI ball. The core is lighter with a low density that distributes weight to the perimeter, thus increasing ball moment of inertia (MOI). That higher ball MOI maintains spin after the apex of the shot, adding yards and minimizing travel off line.
 
There are also cosmetic changes to balls. Titleist is beginning to use double digit markings on its balls. Not a revolutionary change, but it’s different and something to make your ball stand out. And the new NXT Tour S is being offered in white and yellow.  Colored balls were all the rage in the 1980s, and when Jerry Pate won the TPC at Sawgrass in ’82 with an orange ball, there was some thought golf might join tennis and leave the white ball behind. That never happened and the color craze faded.  Now colored balls are making a comeback.
 
“There’s definitely been a resurgence in color,” says Gary Humenny of Bridgestone, which has long offered many colored variations. “They are easier to see, they are distinctive and they’ve always been popular with women.”
 
Belly Up to the Putter
 
One of the hottest products in golf is the belly putter and it has very little to do with technology. The excitement stems from a day last August when Keegan Bradley won the PGA with a belly putter. Nothing sparks interest in a new club like winning a major.  “Our sales have exploded,” says Powerbilt’s Dennis Wente. “We re-introduced belly putters in October and through February we’ve sold close to 15,000.”
 
You can’t just convert a 35-inch putter to a belly putter, because the putter will be too light. That’s why 50-60 grams of weight have been added to the belly versions.
 
Belly putters have tended to be popular with older golfers and have been a staple of the Senior Tour. As people age their hands become less steady and, because the longer putters require less wrist action, in theory that means fewer putting ‘yips.’  But now that younger players are winning tournaments with belly putters, the belly putter is being validated for all golfers.
 
The grip, stance and putter itself are quite different, and Wente says not to expect overnight success and to plan on working out the kinks on the practice green. “First, get the right length and lie. And give the putter some time before you take it to the course, because it will take some time getting used to.”
 
But then, success in golf requires plenty of practice in all phases of your game, right?
 
Belly Putter Fitting
 
Determine Length
 
A belly putter of the correct length will allow the sole of the putter to rest flat on the ground, and will position your eyes directly over the ball.
 
STEP 1: Position the butt-end 2-3 inches above your belt buckle in the center of your belly.
 
Another technique is moving the butt-end 2-3 inches left of center if you’re a right-handed putter, or 2-3 inches right of center if you’re a left-handed putter, to find which position feels best.
 
STEP 2: Hold the putter just firmly enough against your belly to keep the butt-end anchored.
 
STEP 3: Check to see if putter head is flat on the ground, and your eyes are positioned just inside the ball.
 
STEP 4: Check posture — you’ll want to assume comfortable position that allows your arms to hang freely and your shoulders and body to rotate to make a pendulum-like swing.
 
TOO LONG: You’ll know the putter is too long for you if:
 
• The toe of the putter head is raised in the air.
• Your arms and hand are extended and not hanging freely.
• Your stroke starts sharply inside and finishes sharply inside.
 
TOO SHORT: You’ll know the putter is too short for you if:
• Feel hunched over in an uncomfortable position.
• Your weight is constantly falling towards your toes.
• Your stroke starts outside and swings inside.
 
-Par Shooter
 
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DRIVE FOR SHOW … PUTT FOR DOUGH

The last time you went golf shopping, how much time did you spend researching drivers? Probably a lot more time than when you got your putter, right? True, drivers are a lot more complicated (and expensive) than putters. And while drivers have a huge impact on our golf egos (we all want to be longest off the tee), it is our putter that will have a much bigger impact on our scores.
 
For a scratch golfer, about half of his or her strokes are on the green. And while the ratio may be lower for high handicappers, the importance of putting can’t be overstated. You can recover from a bad drive—not so for a missed putt.
 
Putting technology has changed dramatically since the days of Bobby Jones’ famous wood-shafted “Calamity Jane” (still a very good putter, by the way). The advancements have all sought to improve that ephemeral “feel” that all golfers need on the green. Regardless of the head design—blade, peripheral-weighted or mallet, you can take advantage of high tech enhancements.
 
Metal Inserts
 
Inserts are added to the face of a putter. Technically, they increase the “Moment of Inertia” (MOI). Non-technically, that means there’s less chance the head of the putter will twist, causing the ball to go places you don’t want it—say, anywhere besides the hole. Steel is the traditional insert and it usually gives soft and responsive feedback for a solid, controlled feel. Various other metals are also available—bronze, aluminum, brass, copper, zinc, titanium—all with their own distinctive “feel.”
 
Non-Metal Inserts
 
Lightweight non-metal inserts allow the weight of the putter to be redistributed elsewhere on the putter face. The MOI increases, as does the “forgiveness” (at least in theory). The downside of non-metal inserts is they produce less sound than metal, reducing the feedback, which for some golfers means less “feel”.
 
Groovy Putters
 
The key to accurate putting is to achieve forward rolling motion immediately upon striking the ball. Grooves on a putter can help achieve this motion and keep the ball on line. At impact, the grooves grip the surface of the ball and simultaneously lift the ball out of its resting position and give an over-the-top rolling action.
 
Putting Is Personal
 
Finding the right putter is definitely a trial-and-error process. When your putter is working well, you are on top of your game. When it’s not, well—time to go shopping again.
 
-Par Shooter
 
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