After a successful career that included stints at the Golf Channel, USA Swimming, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Warner Bros., Bat Around CEO Matt Farrell is stepping up to a different plate.
“I played baseball growing up and through high school. My journey ended when I tried to walk on at the University of Arkansas and got cut. I loved sports and wanted to be around it, so I started working in the athletics department, which led to about a 30-year career that was going great until COVID forced me to reinvent some things personally. I started my consulting business (Farrell Sports) and eventually got connected with former MLB manager Clint Hurdle and the Bat Around project in the early stages.”
“He [Clint] spoke about how he wanted it to be grounded in authenticity in the offensive game in baseball—hitting line drives up the middle, moving the ball around the field, advancing runners in certain situations,” said Farrell. “Our aim was to turn that all into a game, and also develop a platform that could be enjoyed by someone who’s never swung a bat all the way up to players at the highest level.”
Farrell, with the help of others, has developed Bat Around as a means to bridge baseball analytics, video games and good ol’ fashioned BP: “We looked at baseball and found that there was a ton of incredible technical player development tools and technologies out there, including HitTrax, which is the foundation of Bat Around. We quickly realized that very few of them really made interesting games out of it, other than HitTrax, to a certain extent. We saw this wealth of technical player development tools, and an opportunity to bring more fun into it.”
Bat Around consists of six rounds, or “challenges,” each consisting of six swings:
- Líneas (“line drives” in Spanish): Hit line drives to the middle of the field.
Around the World: Same concept, with the goal being to hit the first two balls to the pull side, the second two to the middle of the field, and the last two to the pullside of the field. You are rewarded for accuracy here.
Lunchbox: Here, you’re presented with different in-game scenarios, where points are rewarded for getting runners over, driving them in, etc. Think of the “situational” BP round here. “One of our colleagues, Kyle Stark, came up with that name, which signifies the old school mentality of just grabbing your lunch pail, going to work and getting the job done, whatever it takes,” Farrell said. “Baseball is not always about being showy, and blue collar gets the job done.”
Laser Show: For all the exit velocity fans out there. You’re just trying to hit the ball as hard as you can. You’re scored here based on your averages from the first few rounds. BatAround learns your averages and sets a target based on the skill level you previously demonstrated.
Gamer: The most traditional baseball round, where you go for a set time. It can be three minutes or three outs, and you’re trying to get a hit, move runners and score as many runs as you can within that set time.
Walk-Off: Fittingly, and it adds the pressure of a potential game-ending situation; bases loaded, last inning, two outs. Every swing resets to that exact situation.
Throughout the course of the game, you have a chance to earn bonus swings, and there are three different difficulty levels. Once you’ve played a game on Bat Around, you’ll earn a BAM™ score, which is a proprietary metric to measure how successful you were at completing each of the aforementioned rounds. Your BAM™ measures overall hitting skills and gives you an opportunity to see how you stack up against your peers. “We’ve found it to be pretty catchy for one,” said Farrell, “and it’s also a great way to simplify hitting skill level and wrap it up into one simple number.”
“Bat Around started as an on-field experience, but you quickly do the math of ‘well, there’s only one home plate, so how long would it take for all these people to get through this,’ so we made a shift, and instead set out to market this thing to the people who are accustomed to tricked-out bowling alleys and Top Golf. We decided to make this more of a software play and getting into batting cages and the attractions industry—family fun parks, restaurants, amusement parks. We are trying to break the mold of where baseball and swinging a bat is accessible.”
The app is free and available in the Apple Store and Google Play. It collects all player stats, swings, and BAM scores. Players can also create a digital baseball profile for and access additional educational content from one of several former MLB players who are involved with the project.
“We do want to stay grounded and true to the game of baseball, so the batting cage industry is a natural place to start. And while we see ourselves as more of a game, Bat Around certainly has some player development benefits to it, from coaches wanting to evaluate players to teams who just want to ramp up the competitiveness and energy in a practice session.”
For more information, visit letsbataround.com.