KINGSBURG – When Yvonne Perez Moya’s three sons first moved into the neighborhood on 12th Avenue and Cody Lane in the early 1990s, little did they know that 25 years later they’d still be returning.
The three Verduzco brothers - Joseph, Gabriel and Vince - are now 33, 30 and 25 respectively.
They grew up like boys typically do playing outside, riding bikes and adventuring around the neighborhood. A plot of grape vineyards nearby was removed leaving behind a dirt lot that was eventually leveled and developed into Heritage Park. This gave the boys and their childhood friends a wide open field to play. But rather than play football, baseball or soccer, these buddies had something more energetic in mind.
“We’d come out here and throw the Frisbee. It was just a thing to keep us active. We had enough friends so we said let’s start playing weekly,” Gabriel Verduzco said.
Some of the kids playing in the group were still in middle school at the time, but as Gabriel recalled, it was a good mix of players that kept the spirit of the game in mind.
“The whole thing with the Frisbee groups is the spirit of the games and it’s that we’re playing for fun and there’s no contact. Nobody wants to get hurt and we’re just running around having fun.”
They dubbed themselves the Kingsburg Frisbee Group and played ultimate Frisbee weekly for a few years. Anyone who wanted to play was allowed in, but so far it’s mainly the guys who’ve kept up the tradition.
“It’s a mix of soccer and football,” Gabriel Verduzco said of the games’ strategy. “It has two end zones like football and you use a full-sized field. It’s a mix of running and passing the Frisbee and scoring in the end zone.”
He went on to play ultimate Frisbee while at California State University, Fresno, and has continued to play everywhere he’s lived. Now, he’s in Orange County but there’s nothing like coming home to play on the home field, he said.
Since many of his childhood friends have moved away, gone off to college, careers and families, they’re not typically in the area to continue playing every week. Instead, they take advantage of the few times of year they’re usually all back in town for an annual match up.
Nov. 24 marked their sixth annual Turkey Toss game and there were at least 25 participants this time around. They had enough for three teams so they could play seven-on-seven games and rotate throughout the day. They even had team jerseys made up and use colors to determine teams this year.
“Everybody’s been training, running and conditioning,” Gabriel Verduzco said of their preparation for this year’s Turkey Toss. “It’s the thing we look forward to, plus it’s to see everybody and getting excited about something going on in the community.”
Moya was among the few women on the sidelines watching the games. She’s moved to Fresno since then, but recalled when she first lived on 12th Avenue then moved to a house even closer to Heritage Park.
“They’ve always done this since they were younger,” she said of their love of the game. “They just enjoyed playing Frisbee.”
They’ve been using social media to get the word out and now, the players range from recent high school graduates to players in their late 30s. One player came from Portland, Oregon; another has come from Huntington Beach while others came from San Luis Obispo, Fresno and Visalia. If they keep the tradition going, they’ll likely be joined by their own children sooner or later.
“I’d love to keep doing this as long as we can keep people coming out,” Gabriel Verduzco said. “It’s just who’s all in town that weekend.”
Vince Verduzco, the youngest brother, said the Turkey Toss winds up being like a family reunion since most of the players grew up in the area attending school together.
“It’s better than just sitting around and watching football. So we come out, warm up and throw the Frisbees around.”
What he likes about the game is that it’s definitely a team sport that’s not dominated by any one player.
“It’s like basketball so once you have the Frisbee you can’t move. You catch it and toss it. You have to score by an assist. That’s what’s special. You have to have a team mate in order to score.”
Later, they’d announce some spirit prizes and the winning team would claim bragging rights for the year.
Until next year, they’ll keep spreading the word and perhaps one day, they’ll even have a co-ed team.
“That’s why we need to get the word out,” Vince Verduzco said. “When I was at Reedley, I played with a group and there were a lot of skilled females over there.”
Moya said even though there is a nine-year-old granddaughter in the family, it’s still mainly the boys’ thing to do.
“When we lived in this house here, I could look out the front window and see them playing. I would watch them and think, ‘where’d they get all that energy from?’ Now, most of us have moved away,” she said of the boys’ and men’s families. “These are good memories right here.”