Photo by Jeff Bell
Those who know Mauro Ortiz – one of the three captains for the Vancouver Nighthawks – will tell you that he might be number one in Major League Ultimate at two things: throwing and having the best back story.
That story begins in 1992 in his home country of Venezuela.
“Ultimate was introduced to me by a good friend and neighbour back in Venezuela. We used to have a neighbourhood soccer team that would challenge teams from other neighbourhoods. Eventually we got bored with beating them all the time so we decided to form an Ultimate team. Although most of us had never played, we managed to finish third in the first tournament we played. From then on, throwing the disc with my buddies took over and here I am still playing more than 20 years later!”
“Esperanza Up was the serious first team I played for back in Venezuela, I was a captain and we won quite a few tournaments back in the day, establishing ourselves as one of the top teams in Venezuela.”
This success earned Mauro and a number of his teammates an invitation to play with Yanomami, the legendary Venezuelan national team that have enlivened so many tournaments around the world with their joie de vivre and spirited play. Mauro speaks with pride of Yanomami winning the Spirit Award at WUGC in 1997 in Vancouver.
That tournament also marked a major change in Mauro’s life. He had been thinking of emigrating in search of a better life, and impressed by his experience in Vancouver and by watching Vancouver’s Furious George win Worlds in 1998, he decided to emigrate here, to our benefit.
The immigrant’s life is never an easy one, made more difficult in Mauro’s case by him arriving here with very little command of English and three daughters in tow. He is famous for selling Furious merchandise out of his basement and at Vancouver Ultimate League functions in order to survive.
But these difficulties never dampened his enthusiasm for Ultimate. He quickly made Furious George’s roster and immediately became a key component of the team that won the Canadian Championship in 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2007, the UPA title in 2002, 2003, and 2005, and the WUGC open title in 2004 and 2008. He retired after 2008 but then came back to lead Masters team Victoria Nomads to the national crown in 2011 and 2012 and gold at WUGC in Japan in 2012.
Mauro is legendary for his love of teaching disc skills. He is an ever-present participant in skills clinics put on by local leagues, and sometimes organises his own independent throwing clinics.
After all, it is his throwing ability that makes Mauro such a potent weapon on the field.
Nighthawks Head Coach and GM Andrew Lugsdin says, “Mauro is one of the best throwers in the game and has been for some time. He’s the type of thrower that can actually break down defences and make his receivers look good. He’s very consistent and can make the big plays in the big games.”
Nighhawks co-captain Morgan Hibbert agrees.
“Mauro is the best thrower on the Nighthawks and quite possibly the best thrower in the entire league.”
But that’s not all Mauro brings to the field.
“Everyone knows Mauro for his excellent deep shots but what most people don’t realize is that he also brings a very high level of experience and knowledge to the team. He has a deep understanding of how offenses should be run and is very good at guiding the younger players on the team.”
Lugsdin adds, “The other thing about Mauro is how dedicated he is to his team and the sport in general. He plays with a passion for the game and has the burning desire to win. “
So what does Mauro hope to achieve this year with his Nighthawks teammates?
“I am excited to be part of the transition of the sport of Ultimate to a level where we can start showing the rest of the world that Ultimate is a great sport to be a fan of. This sport has it all: athleticism, speed, skills, and people flying all over the place making plays worthy of appearing in the TV sport highlights.”
Catch Mauro flying all over the field during their home opener against the San Francisco Dogfish on April 27.