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Flying discs: AlleyCats prepare to leap into another season of Ultimate Frisbee at Grand Park

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Rick Gross grew up playing several different sports and played baseball for Fishers High School.

“The wonderful thing about ultimate Frisbee is a lot of sports translate (well) to ultimate Frisbee,” Gross said. “You ask a wide variety of players and you’ll get a handful of different sports — basketball, football, lacrosse, that kind of stuff.”

The 2010 FHS graduate has been playing ultimate disc, or Frisbee, for 11 years. Gross, 29, has played the last several seasons with the Indianapolis AlleyCats of America Ultimate Disc League. The AlleyCats, a semi-professional team that plays its home games at Westfield’s Grand Park, will open the season June 4 at Grand Park. The AlleyCats played half of the 2018 season and the 2019 season at Grand Park.

“I didn’t start playing organized ultimate until the summer after I graduated from high school,” Gross said. “I saw a bunch of people playing at Vincennes University, so that’s when they explained to me they played on a team, and I played with them for one year.”

AlleyCats coach Will Drumright, who played the 2014 season with the AlleyCats, played a variety of sports but was primarily a swimmer growing up.

“Soccer and basketball are the two sports that correlate well because of the athletic movement associated with the sport,” said Drumright, a Fishers resident. “It’s like soccer, because you are constantly moving.”

The AlleyCats, who play a 12-game season, compete in the Central Division with the Chicago Union, Minnesota Windchill, Detroit Mechanic and Madison (Wis.) Radicals. The season typically runs April to July but has been delayed until June because of COVID-19 pandemic considerations. The 2020 season was canceled because of the pandemic.

“I’m missing that competitive itch, especially since in 2019 we went to the championship weekend in San Jose,” said Gross, who was selected to play in the 2019 AUDL All-Star game in Madison, Wis.

The AlleyCats lost to the New York Empire in the AUDL semifinals in 2019.

“2020 was going to be an exciting and big year for us,” Gross said. “It was a bummer to see it called off.”

Gross, who is moving from Broad Ripple to Carmel in a month, is getting married May 28. Gross said his fiancee, Kailee Sweet, and parents travel to away games.

“She encouraged me to come back and play this year because I was on the fence,” Gross said. “I picked up disc golf as a hobby. She wanted me to play this season.”

Gross isn’t sure if he will play beyond 2021.

“I plan on playing until my body says otherwise,” he said. “I don’t think people understand what a toll ultimate puts on your body. You are running all the time, diving, hitting the ground.”

Drumright, 32, said most of the players are in their 20s.

“We have a younger roster across the board,” Drumright said. “Our average age is probably around 24, but across the league I’d say it’s mid- to late-20s.”

There is no schedule yet for the games beyond the first one, and tickets are not currently available to be purchased by spectators.

Drumright’s journey

Will Drumright, who will be coaching his first season for the AlleyCats, was named the coach before the 2020 season was canceled.

Drumright started playing competitively for a club team at the University of Alabama.

“Most players have played at the collegiate club level, or some cities have high-level club teams that they will compete at in tournaments across the country,” said Drumright, a sports psychology coach. “I just enjoy the community of ultimate. There are a lot of great people involved in the sport. There is something about throwing a Frisbee that always captured my attention. It’s something I fell in love with at a young age and haven’t been able to let go of that obsession.”

Founded in 2012, the AlleyCats are one of two remaining teams from the inaugural AUDL season. Tim Held, from Granger, is the president and majority owner.

The game, which has four 12-minute quarters, is played on an 80-yard field with a 20-yard end zone.

“You just have to catch the disc in the end zone, much like you see in a football touchdown,” Drumright said.

Drumright said the team is looking to attract more fans this season. The AUDL has a TV contract with Fox Sports 2.

“Grand Park is an awesome viewing area for anyone who wants to come watch the game,” he said.

Previously, Drumright helped coach Fishers High School’s club team. He helped start the team with Rick Gross.


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