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The Dugout: Play that teaches skills, character 


Ryan and Tabitha Hartman have a heart for people and teaching the fundamentals of sports to students. They have rented 14,000 square feet of space at Winkler Logistics at the corner of Cottonwood Road and Hwy. 43 for an indoor baseball field and basketball court and named it The Dugout. Tabitha’s mom, Mandy Cope, purchased the basketball court and handles the financial aspect of the business as a partner.

In December of 2020, Dr. Blake Chitsey found some used turf he purchased for the Hartmans and Ryan began laying the turf and hung the nets with the help of some friends. The Dugout opened on March 1, 2021.

“We couldn’t have opened this without Dr. Chitsey’s help,” Tabitha said.

“We are trying to provide a safe place for kids to come in and have an opportunity to play sports. And not just learn about sports, but to build character. We offered a summer program where we offered a short Bible study, science activities along with speed and agility for basketball and baseball. We also offered a four week ACT prep course for math —  since math is my speciality,” Ryan said.

Ryan teaches school at Harrison and loves to help coach kid’s baseball and Tabitha loves to coach peewee basketball. So when the space and opportunity opened at Winkler, they were excited to be able to coach side by side —  especially when Dr. Chitsey jump started their dream after he found used turf for sale.

Tabitha’s mom, Mandy has been a nurse practitioner for more than 20 years for Dr. Chitsey and he knew of their coaching desires and was excited to help.

During the school year, the North Arkansas College baseball team rents out the baseball facility so they can practice indoors. Several football teams rent space to practice during the off season or bad weather. 

Ryan added, “Northark players helped with our T-Ball this summer. They did an awesome job with the kids and the kids loved working with the big players. That interaction was very cool.”

“There is a lot of buy-in that needs to happen for teens and college students to give them a purpose —  a pay-it-forward attitude,” he said. “We want The Dugout to be affordable for families. We have five kids and totally understand. We do give family discounts.”

The Dugout is open 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for individuals and teams for baseball and basketball. “Mike Davis also has Full Circle Fitness where he works on speed, agility and weight training,” she said.

The Hartman’s are in the process of doing the paperwork for The Dugout to be a non-profit facility. “We want to keep it a low cost opportunity so all kids can learn and play and hopefully be eligible for some grants,” she said. Ryan said they have some sponsors who help and they really appreciate them.

This summer The Dugout was able to have three students volunteer from Valley Springs High School to work with the kids — sharing their own skills. Seventy-five community volunteer hours can equal one high school credit when working with the high school counselor.

“This year we are giving a $500 scholarship to one of these volunteers to the college or vocational technical school of their choice,” she said. “It’s so good for the teenagers to get out and help younger kids with their skills.”

They are also using the skills of some high school entrepreneurs. Payton Barnard has used her photography skills to take team photos. Brenna Larson painted the sign for the business.

This summer Tabitha felt led to offer the space to host a Mega Sports Camp VBS. “Our church, Emmanuel Baptist, is pretty small, so we partnered with other churches and had a great response with 102 students enrolled and averaged 80 each night. Churches, local restaurants and businesses took turns providing food, snacks and T-Shirts. As we’ve seen in the Upwards program, God is using sports to bring children to Christ,” she said.

It’s another dream of the Hartmans to offer traveling Mega Sports Clinics to reach kids in other areas.

For more information check out The Dugout on Facebook or call Tabitha Hartman at 870-365-6962. Use the Winkler entrance off of Hwy. 43 and immediately follow the signs to the right of the big warehouse to go to the back warehouse space.


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