Hit Dawg Academy Serves Year-Round Demand for Baseball, Softball Training
Minnesota winters make it impossible to play baseball or softball year-round. It’s one reason why Alissa Wernz comes to Plymouth about five days a week during the off-season to get in some hitting practice at Hit Dawg Academy.
“Well, I get to have the best coaching that I can, and I also get to use the cages, the weight room, and the ProBatter whenever I want to, which is really nice,” said Wernz, a softball player at Maple Grove Senior High.
Wernz is planning to attend South Dakota State University next year and play on the school’s softball team. The coaches at Hit Dawg Academy are trying to help her maximize her potential.
“[The coaches] were probably the people that helped me get as good as I could possibly at softball,” she said.
One of those coaches Shawn Wooten, the owner of Hit Dawg Academy.
“Anything that you can think of, basically, from a development standpoint for youth baseball, we offer it,” Wooten said.
Wooten opened Hit Dawg Academy 14 years ago after he saw a need here. He had a long career in the majors as a player and coach.
“I think it was just a natural fit,” Wooten said of starting the business. “I think I have a desire to get young players better, and I think in a lot of ways that’s what somebody did for me.”
Yet getting better doesn’t happen just by hitting off a tee. At Hit Dawg, the coaches incorporate a machine called the ProBatter, which is a pitching simulator that recreates the experience of facing real-life pitching.
The coaches program the type of pitch they want the batter to face, along with the speed of the pitch. Then, the batters look at a screen that shows a pitcher winding up. The ball then shoots out of a hole.
Acording to Wooten, you need 2,500 at-bats to feel comfortable hitting major league pitching. Whether it’s baseball or softball, the ProBatter helps players get those reps.
“It’s been amazing,” Wernz said. “I mean, in the offseason, to be able to have live at-bats and switch the pitching speed and what kind of pitch they’re throwing whenever I want, it’s so helpful.”
Wooten says this facility in Plymouth is in high demand, with approximately 400 youth baseball and softball players visiting Hit Dawg Academy every year to hone their skills and get to the next level.
“That’s part of the reason why we do it,” Wooten said. “I mean, this isn’t a way to make yourself a multimillionaire. So we get in the business to, you know, serve the younger kids and give them direction.”