There will be a new way to watch Round Rock Express games within Dell Diamond starting Tuesday — while you're playing baseball, too. Home Run Dugout and the adjacent Bullpen Bar open just behind outfield with the aim of making America's favorite pastime a little more accessible for people of any age and skill level.
Co-founders Nick Hermandorfer and Tyler Bambrick wanted to change up the concept of the traditional batting cage, according to a partner in the project, Glynn Bloomquist. The two batting bays at Home Run Dugout rely on augmented reality, as well as a soft-toss pitching machine, to deliver a game that anyone can play. (Think Top Golf for baseball.)
"It's like a batting cage but better," he said. "You won't have a 70 mph fastball coming at your head. We have a proprietary low-ground pitching machine that sends balls out of the ground very softly, a nerf-type of ball, between baseball and softball size, and you hit it into a screen where the (big league) baseball stadium of your choice comes to life."
That's the augmented reality part. Always had a dream of knocking a homer into the stands at the Boston Red Sox' famous Fenway Park? Or want to feel the thrill of playing a little closer to home at the Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park? Before you start swinging the bat, you can choose any professional ballpark of your choice to play at, so to speak, and watch where the ball would land within it. The system tracks the ball's velocity, distance and landing location at the chosen park.
Opposing players would also be able to send the ball to different quadrants of the strike zone with each of your swings — upping the challenge or, maybe, making it a little easier to shoot the ball right up the middle.
But you can make a full night of it. Home Run Dugout, with the attached Bullpen Bar, doubles as a full-service bar and restaurant with what Bloomquist calls "elevated ballpark food" and a range of beer, wine and cocktails. The mixed drinks are his particular specialty: He is formerly the CEO and co-founder of Empresario LLC, a conglomerated company now known as Dripping Springs Distilling that carries a portfolio of brands including Republic Whiskey and Tequila and Paula's Texas Spirits.
As a result, the 14 craft cocktails available — two of which are on tap — all feature spirits related to Dripping Springs Distilling. The two kegged options, for instance, are the Dripping Springs Mule with Dripping Springs Vodka and the Z Tequila Margarita featuring Paula's Texas Orange.
Home Run Dugout has lounge sofas, as well as viewing decks of the field where you can watch Round Rock Express games unfold. But the entertainment venue will be open even when the Express aren't playing, according to Bloomquist.
Just make sure, for any time spent at Home Run Dugout, that you make a reservation. Reservations are required to use one or both of the batting bays, with a minimum of 12 people per bay on game days and a minimum of 6 people per bay on non-game days. Each bay can accommodate up to 20 people. Prices range between $45-$60 per person for two hours of game play.
For more information, visit hrdugout.com.