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Monday, June 24, 2024

Meet Topgolf for Baseball: ‘Home of 7 MPH Fastball’

  • New ‘Home Run Dugout’ offers virtual batting bays and beer.
  • Nolan Ryan is a strategic investor in the Texas start-up.
Top Golf Baseball Style
Courtesy of Home Run Dugout

The success of Topgolf is spawning a new category of “sports entertainment” startups.

The baseball entertainment venue “Home Run Dugout” is poised to open its second location in Katy, Texas, on March 30th.

Like Topgolf, Home Run Dugout combines sports, food, and entertainment in one upscale setting and boasts Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan as a strategic investor.

Unlike the batting cages of old where you donned a rented helmet and tossed tokens into a batting machine, the 46,000-square-foot facility will feature “indoor soft-toss baseball” and several amenities:

  • Full-service restaurant
  • Three bars serving 20 craft beers
  • 12 virtual-batting bays
  • A “Biergarten Baseball” mini-field for wiffle ball
  • Live music and concert stage
  • Dog park

Co-founded by Nick Hermandorfer and Tyler Bambrick, Home Run Dugout won’t take aim at hardcore hardball and softball players — the new venue bills itself as the “Home of the 7 MPH Fastball.”

Pitching machines will offer the slowest of soft-toss offerings. So it won’t be difficult for anybody to experience the visceral thrill of hitting home runs in their favorite (virtual) ballparks.

The cost is about $30 per person for a 90-minute experience. Food and beverages are extra.

This will be Home Run Dugout’s first standalone venue following the maiden location at Dell Diamond minor league baseball stadium in Round Rock, Texas, north of Austin (Ryan himself owns the Round Rock Express minor league team with his son and other investors).

The 76-year-old Ryan, who hurled a record seven no-hitters, is beloved in the Lone Star state after pitching for both Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. Home Run Dugout has raised about $10 million in financing. Other investors include friends and family, plus Lagniappe Capital Partners and BCS Capital.

While playing on a company softball team in Austin, Bambrick, and Hermandorfer came up with the idea for Home Run Dugout. During game rainouts, they would find themselves going to Topgolf rather than old-fashioned batting cages. They thought: Why not create a Topgolf for baseball or softball?

“Nobody wants to step in front of a 70 mph fastball. And you had to put on a sweaty helmet. It just wasn’t fun,” said Bambrick.

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Now, they’ve eliminated the cages. Customers pick their favorite stadium and hit balls into virtual screens. A computer spits out the exit velocity, launch angle, and whether the swing produced a single, double or home run.

“The venue is designed to give you the same feeling of walking into a Major League Baseball stadium,” noted Hermandorfer. “That concourse experience where as soon as you walk in the gate, you get your ticket scanned and you can smell the concessions in the air and see people playing on the field.”

Topgolf, meanwhile, has grown to over 80 venues around the world. 

The company is set to open a new three-level venue later this year in Pompano Beach targeting Florida’s Gold Coast between Miami and West Palm Beach. 

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