For as long as he could remember, Solon resident Brad Emerman has had a passion for baseball.
“I played when I started to walk,” Mr. Emerman, 50, said with a laugh. From youth league through his time at Orange High School, he played second base, and then broke his ankle freshman year at Indiana University, halting his career a bit.
But that didn’t stop Mr. Emerman who went on after college, where he earned a degree in sports management, to play – and excel – at softball in several local men’s softball leagues, earning a spot two years ago in the Beachwood Softball Hall of Fame.
The Moreland Hills native, who underwent three shoulder surgeries due to the sport, took his love of both baseball and softball a giant step further, opening D-Bat Solon earlier this month, an elite indoor baseball and softball training facility located on Solon Road in the city’s industrial district.
In the 20,000-square-foot space, Mr. Emerman is in his element, where 12 different cages, pitching machines, pitching tunnels and practice fields offer individuals the opportunity to hone their skills – all the while having fun.
D-Bat is open to players of all skill levels, although Mr. Emerman’s main focus is 7- to 15-year-olds.
“We want kids to be able to improve their game,” said Mr. Emerman, a father of two grown children along with wife Debbie who serves as owner and president of D-Bat. “We want them to grow, and most importantly have fun.”
D-Bat offers clinics, summer camps and its field house serves as a spot for team practices, as well as speed and agility training sessions.
President and CEO of ProNine Sports, a wholesaler of baseball and softball sporting goods, Mr. Emerman shows the products that line the walls at D-Bat’s pro shop. They are shipped both nationally and internationally.
D-Bat Solon is the second of its kind in the state, with the Columbus location owned by Mr. Emerman’s brother, Eric.
Mr. Emerman, who has lived in Solon for 20 years, said he is thrilled to have opened a facility in his own backyard.
“We’re very excited to be in Solon,” he said. “We live and work here.”
The city is also the perfect area for his facility, Mr. Emerman continued. “We’re right in the middle of a hot bed going north, south, east and west,” he said. Mr. Emerman looked at about 40 different locations before choosing his Solon location.
“We just kept coming back to this,” Mrs. Emerman, 49, said.
“It’s awesome to build something, and here people say, ‘Hey, we really needed this,’” Mr. Emerman added.
He hopes the facility can be a resource for players who want to take their skills to the next level. One of the many highlights at D-Bat is a field simulation called Hitraxx that shows where the ball is hit in a stadium chosen by the player. The simulation is the perfect training tool and great entertainment, he said, with simulations like home run derby, team challenge play and other settings.
D-Bat also offers membership plans, but one needs not be a member to come in and hit balls, Mr. Emerman noted.
“We want everyone to come in and use it either individually or with a team,” he said, adding that D-Bat is not affiliated or tied to any teams, but open to all.
“There’s a lot of batting facilities in old warehouses with poor lighting, no heat and old equipment,” and D-Bat prides itself on being the opposite. The facility is bright and warm, featuring such things as mounted televisions, a parent lounge to watch those in the cages comfortably, as well as party rooms for birthdays.
D-Bat also sells swipe card credits for those who want to access the various cages and levels of membership. The facility is one of 70 franchises, Mr. Emerman said, adding that D-Bat is based out of Dallas and awarded one of the fastest growing franchises in Texas.
ProNine Sports, which Mr. Emerman has run for the past four and a half years, sells to dealers including small sporting goods stores, colleges and high schools, among others, and even makes the balls for D-Bat.
“We make about a dozen balls for them that have to go in every facility,” Mr. Emerman said.
ProNine makes every grade of ball, all the way up to pro grade major league balls and everything in between, he added.
“The opportunity to make a living doing something I love is unreal,” Mr. Emerman said.
Opening D-Bat, which is the only indoor batting facility in the city, came from discussions with his wife on how to grow ProNine and what can be done as an offshoot, he said.
“We thought it would be really great to have a baseball and softball academy here,” he said, adding that it is for both boys and girls. “We are in a tremendous area for both baseball and softball.”