With the help of a team of trainers, owner of Cover All Bases, Chris Gay, gives little-leaguers a leg up on the competition. During his clinics, he spends much of the time working on the sport's most essential motion?the swing?in private hitting lessons. But to help build all-around athletes he and his four trainers lead sessions geared toward pitching, fielding, catching, and the closely related art of hitting softballs. A high school athlete himself who went on to pitch for the University of Texas at Arlington and double-A minor league baseball with the Chicago White Sox for 2 1/2 seasons, his love for the game shines through in his training sessions. "(I) love teaching baseball to kids and helping them make their high school teams," he says.
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Parking: Parking lot
Most popular offering: Private hitting lessons and token cards
Pro Tip: It's more comfortable when you bring your own bat
Good for Kids: Yes
Walk-ins Welcome: Yes
When D-BAT opened in 1998, Cade Griffis was one of only two employees (the other was his brother, Kyle). But Cade knew that he had everything he needed to succeed, starting with a strong training philosophy shaped by his professional and college baseball careers.
Cade's philosophy is simple: every player should follow a unique game plan, tailored to his or her strengths. As straightforward as it sounds, it works wonders when applied consistently. Cade has helped many budding ballplayers grow into power hitters, and somewhere along the way his small facility transformed into a baseball empire with 19 high-tech training locations.
Today, veteran coaches staff each of the climate-controlled facilities. They have a variety of tools at their disposal, including pitching machines that shoot balls at custom speeds of 70+ mph. On flat-screen TVs, parents can watch their kids improve their batting form and master the art of juggling all the bases at once.
As legend has it, an 1875 article in the Dallas Herald claimed that a live panther was spotted walking the streets of Fort Worth. The city soon became known as the "The Panther City," so when Fort Worth's first minor-league baseball team was founded, in 1888, calling it the "Panthers"—rather than, say, the "Fighting Dandelions"—just made sense. Over the years, journalists shortened the club's nickname to the "Cats," and the team dominated the Texas League through the first part of the 20th Century, at one point winning six consecutive league titles in the 1920s.
After bouncing between affiliations with several MLB teams, the Cats disbanded in 1964. However, the Cats returned in 2002, almost immediately reliving the success of the previous century and capturing three straight titles from 2005–07. Despite never adopting the Panther name, the modern-day Cats have never lost sight of their history, as evidenced by mascot "Dodger" and LaGrave Field's classic design.
After starting out as a single facility in 1998, D-BAT Sports has since grown to include a dozen academies spread across Texas and the rest of United States. Each location embodies the company's core belief: every ballplayer is an individual with a unique, specific set of talents that must be honed. As such, D-BAT's professional trainers mold baseball and softball players into experienced specialists with custom lessons in pivotal skills, such as hitting, pitching, and autographing hot dogs. The climate-controlled facilities also feature rentable indoor batting cages as well as pro shops stocked with major-brand equipment.
The emerald easements of Hidden Valley's 18-hole miniature golf course encompass more than an acre of topsy-turvy terrain lined with rocky outcrops and windmills. Miniature golf posses engage in rapidly escalating one-upmanship as they traverse the scenic circuit, rolling colorful golf balls over multitiered greens that create breaking putts more difficult to read than ancient hieroglyphs projected onto a fun-house mirror. Putters lose their sense of direction with streams, waterfalls, and fountains that mist throughout the course. Hidden Valley also offers a game room and picnic area, along with refreshments to slake parched putters or create impromptu water hazards in front of their opponents' orbs.
Though they operate more than 200 locations in upwards of 30 states, the team behind U.S. Baseball Academy aims to make each young athlete's experience a personal one. Their four- or six-week camps are taught by local instructors who are current or former coaches at the high school or college level, and typically offer a 6:1 or better player-to-teacher ratio for intense, professional-style training. The Academy's proven itinerary of hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning drills was developed by an advisory board of college coaches and Major League players, including Cy Young Award?winner and ace pitcher Brandon Webb.