Austin Startup Home Run Dugout Steps Up to the Plate
Pre-booking is open for the Dell Diamond facility in advance of baseball’s opening day
Native Texans Nick Hermandorfer and Tyler Bambrick are combining America's favorite pastime with its love of food in a new facility, Home Run Dugout, located at Dell Diamond, home of the Round Rock Express (Houston Astros' Triple-A affiliate). "Hitting a home run is truly the best experience – whether you're an athlete or not," says Hermandorfer, a two-sport NCAA athlete and Princeton graduate with a career background in startups. "I basically created Home Run Dugout to try to relive my glory days as an all-star little-leaguer who felt more comfortable swinging for the fences."
Co-owner Bambrick, a West Point graduate who served two tours in Afghanistan and holds an MBA from UT, learned the ways of food business from his father, who opened several kolache shops in Houston. Once partnered, the two guys began bootstrapping and brainstorming in Bambrick's grandmother's unairconditioned San Marcos garage in 2015. In late 2018, sponsors like Ryan-Sanders Baseball and Glynn Bloomquist jumped aboard to the tune of $2 million in seed money, and the facility is slated to open to the public on April 9, opening day of MLB season. As of Monday, March 4, pre-booking for groups will be available.
On a mission to make baseball more accessible, Home Run Dugout is designed as an eater-tainment facility – think Topgolf, but for baseball. Utilizing a patent-pending proprietary pitching machine, Hermandorfer and Bambrick say their technology-driven concept "eliminates the intimidating factors of batting cages." Set in bays, the machine pitches ground-up, soft-toss balls to the batter; using a touch-screen interface, spectators can safely direct pitches to any quadrant of the strike zone, which accommodates different heights and skill levels. After physically hitting the ball, there's also a built-in augmented reality experience that allows users to gamify the batting and simulate any MLB stadium. Basically, that means you, too, can ditch the helmet, forget the fouls, and strut in the glory of simulated home run success – all while having dinner and drinks.
"Our menu is a gourmet spin on ballpark favorites – some people may even describe it as culinary wizardry – but we will have peanuts and Cracker Jack, too," says Hermandorfer. They'll also feature a fully stocked bar with specialty cocktails, Texas craft beers, and Texas wines. He adds, "Our goal is to make our menu and bar perfect for a competitive office happy hour while also being romantic enough for date night.
"We are seeing more and more people looking for activities to experience with their friends and family besides going to a bar and watching TV. We believe life is all about shared experiences, and we are confident that a little friendly competition (America's pastime in particular) is the best way to bring people together: over beers, laughter, and home runs," says Hermandorfer. "Plus, even if you want to sit it out, you can still enjoy a cold beverage and delicious food while heckling your friends and family at bat."
Pre-booking for Home Run Dugout will be available starting March 4, 9am, at www.hrdugout.com.