BY STEVE KRAH
There’s a place to get better at baseball and softball in Elkhart, Ind.
Opened in June 2020 and located in an eastside industrial park at 4411 Wyland Drive, the 22,000-square foot facility at D-Bat Elkhart has been attracting families, individuals and teams to train.
Owners are Shelbi and Jason Baugh and Eric Miller. Shelby and Eric are siblings.
Kaitlyn Frost became general manager in February and is in charge of daily operations. Most days she is at the front desk.
A 2008 graduate of Lakeland High School in LaGrange, Ind., Frost played three seasons at Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne before serving as an assistant coach at Westview High School in Topeka, Ind., and has been a coach and director of softball for the Michiana Lady Scrappers travel organization.
The training space, which includes batting cages and areas for pitchers and full teams, has been named Francis and Nancy Taylor Fieldhouse to honor Shelbi and Eric’s grandparents.
The Baughs experienced D-Bat locations when they lived in California.
D-Bat baseball and softball academies began in Dallas in 1998 and now has around 120 franchises in the U.S. and China with about 20 more in the works. D-Bat Elkhart franchise is the company’s old one in Indiana so far.
Frost says owners have been discussing the possibility to installing a playing field — or at least a training area — next to the D-Bat Elkhart building, which also includes a room for birthday parties and other celebrations.
D-Bat Elkhart purchased the naming rights to the new turfed baseball and softball fields at Northridge High School in Middlebury, Ind.
Current D-Bat Elkhart instructors are Donnie Weatherholt, Jesse Zepeda, Judah Zickafoose for baseball and Heather Erlacher for softball.
Weatherholt was an all-state player at Concord High School in Elkhart and has coached extensively at the Little League, Babe Ruth and travel levels.
Zepeda was a standout at Elkhart Central High School (he was a junior starter on the 2013 IHSAA Class 4A state champions) and Bethel College (now Bethel University). He is on the Bethel coaching staff and is the founder of the Indiana Black Caps travel organization.
Zickafoose played at Westview High, Arizona Western College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
Erlacher played at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Ill., and Franklin (Ind). College. She has served as pitching coach at Elkhart Central and with the Elkhart Blaze travel team.
Frost says she is looking for more instructors.
“The biggest perk for our instructors is that we make the schedules and deal with the clients,” says Frost. “They don’t have to chase the money.”
Sam Troyer, who played baseball at Northridge and at the University of Evansville, has been working part-time and training at D-Bat Elkhart before resuming his professional career with the independent Pioneer League’s Missoula (Mont.) PaddleHeads. That team also features South Bend Clay graduate and former San Francisco Giants minor leaguer Aaron Bond.
Current hours for D-Bat Elkhart is noon to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Frost says the facility may open at 10 a.m. weekdays when school lets out for the summer.
“What sets us apart is that we don’t require memberships (though there are nearly 300 current members),” says Frost. “We have non-member pricing.
“Memberships are good if you can come often.”
Memberships are month to month and can be suspended and resumed.
A $38-per-month Gold package includes 15 daily batting cage tokens (about 225 pitches) with discounts on camps, clinics and the pro shop for one person.
A $58-per-month Platinum membership includes unlimited daily swings and covers the whole family. There are bigger discounts for camps and clinics etc.
Non-members may purchase 15 tokens for $25.
Free 30-minute cage rental is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
As a company policy, D-Bat does not sponsors teams in youth or adult leagues or for travel ball.
“We’re open to all travel, high school, college and Little League (teams and players),” says Frost. Fast pitch and slow pitch softball players also train at D-Bat Elkhart.
Frost has been spreading the word about D-Bat Elkhart on social media and has reached out to nearby Riverview Park, where softball and youth baseball teams hold events.
To reach D-Bat Elkhart, call 574-500-DBAT (3228) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.