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New business goes to bat for community baseball, softball players

The Major League baseball season finally opens this week, but that isn’t the only place you’ll hear the sound of bats, striking balls, and pitches popping into catchers’ mitts. You’ll also hear them at the new D-BAT batting cage location at 705 North Belair Road.

“Our model is to offer a first-class facility with the latest technology and equipment,” owner/operator, Bryce Massey said. “Whatever is baseball or softball related, we offer high quality.”

Evans D-BAT franchise owner, Bryce Massey stands in front of some of the 10 batting cages available to community baseball and softball players. (Photo by Gary Kauffman)

That includes indoor practice facilities, equipment, and instruction through camps, clinics, and one-on-one interaction.

The D-BAT location in Evans is one of the dozens of franchises located across the United States. There are nine locations in Georgia but the Evans location is only the second outside the Atlanta area. Massey’s wife, Riki, serves as General Manager.

Running a baseball clinic offers both a change and something familiar for Massey. He’s been a teacher for 20 years in the Columbia County school system but also has been a baseball coach. But opening a franchise was an unexpected turn in his life.

“This is nothing that I thought I’d do,” he said. “It’s definitely life-changing.”

Massey became interested in the D-BAT model after a friend in Chattanooga took his son to one and wanted to partner with him in opening a franchise in the Augusta area.

“As we looked at the D-BAT model we decided to take the plunge,” he said.

During Spring Break, the facility hosted a three-day camp with 30 kids, as well as individual instruction. There are eight instructors on staff, four for baseball and four for softball.

A local youngster practices pitching mechanics under the watchful eye of D-BAT instructor, Aron Chick. (Photo by Gary Kauffman)

D-BAT provides a practice space for teams to rent during inclement weather or for youth teams who are having trouble finding available fields for practice. There are 10 training batting cages; eight of them have retractable walls to provide a large space for running and other activities.

“A lot of leagues don’t have enough space for practice, so this provides a place for them to practice,” Massey said.

In a loft above the batting cage area are four pitching cages with several versions of home plate to accommodate the pitching distances of everything from high school to youth leagues.

Technology is available to track hitting metrics like bat speed and exit velocity and pitching stats like spin rate.

There are also four batting cages with pitching machines that can be adapted for baseball, fast-pitch softball, and slow-pitch softball at various speeds. One cage offers a video screen that allows batters to “hit” in Major League stadiums and tracks the speed and location of the hit.

D-BAT stocks a wide variety of equipment needed to play baseball and softball, supplied by Rawlings. (Photo by Gary Kauffman)

D-BAT sells bats, gloves, and everything needed to play baseball and softball through an exclusive partnership with the Rawlings.

“Right now, the selection is hard to find (in some stores) but we don’t have to worry about supply chain issues because Rawlings restocks us as soon as we sell something,” Massey said.

While D-BAT is a solid training facility for serious players, it also is a place for fun. There’s an area for birthday parties and it sells Dippin’ Dots ice cream.

While D-BAT is a business, Massey said the heart behind it is community and mission-mindedness.

“We love this community and this is a way we can give back,” he said. “We love so many of the relationships we’ve developed through this venture and are grateful for the opportunity. We were not willing to flip our lives upside-down for potential monetary gain. There had to be more than that and the community mission piece was that ‘more.’”

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