Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Frisbee Dan: A San Marcos treasure

Frisbee Dan is out at Sewell Park just about every day, decorating the sunlight with his singular Frisbee technique. Photo by Christina Zambrano.

News Reporter

Through numerous interviews, YouTube videos, a handful of commercials and even a t-shirt, Dan Barry, known to most as “Frisbee Dan,” has risen to San Marcos celebrity status throughout the years as a fixture at Sewell Park.

But Dan Barry’s true hook is his finesse with the Frisbee, a flair for teaching his craft to the young, and his useful presence in the park as sort of an unofficial guardian of the peace.

Every day, without fail, during prime hours in the scorching daytime, Barry can be found at the park tossing his customized Frisbees until sunset. Clad in black short shorts, a white sun hat, rec specs and close to half a bottle of sunscreen, Barry has played Frisbee at Sewell Park for almost 20 years.

Barry jokes that he’s more of an “eye sore” than an “icon.” Regulars at the park enjoy that humor, to say nothing of the show he puts on most every day.

“I think he has great technique, and I’ve never seen him drop a disc or miss a catch,” Texas State student Vanessa Monahan said. “Frisbee Dan is an icon. He’s like the Leslie Cochran of San Marcos, minus the drag.”

Hailing from Akron, OH, Barry arrived to San Marcos in 1986 as a rehab therapy patient at Tangram Rehabilitation Center after suffering a severe head injury from jumping out of a moving truck.

Excelling in horticulture, he was released from Tangram four years later and staffed at the facility for eight years, helping to treat other injured patients.

“I was trained by a horticultural specialist who got their horticulture degree from A&M,” Barry said. “I was really good at it and I sifted through recovery period quickly, and now I’m a certified licensed landscaper. The only reason my parents chose Tangram was because it had nursery work or landscaping, and they knew I enjoyed to do that kind of stuff, since I had already been doing that.”

Even before his accident, Barry enjoyed playing Frisbee, a hobby he and his brother shared during their years as landscapers in Ohio. With more than 35 years of Frisbee playing experience, Barry said he can “can hit a walking person yards away without any effort on a windy day.”

Sharing his throwing method with numerous Texas State Ultimate Frisbee athletes, Barry has developed a more efficient technique.

“Stance, grab, wrist release, quick release,” Barry said. “Pop it quick. The slower you throw it, the worse it flies. Some people don’t have any eye-hand coordination. You have to have some sort of hand-eye coordination. If not, you won’t be able to do it. If you have a boyfriend and don’t have a problem backhanding him, you’d be great at Frisbee playing.”

Barry, who customizes his Frisbees with colored duct tape embellished with a star logo, says the process is tedious and time consuming but worth the effort.

“It takes me three hours to set all the tape, but doing this will reinforce the center to kick it, tip it or do whatever to it without it breaking,” said Barry. “I have guys come back here five or 10 years after getting a disc from me and they still have them intact.”

Texas State Graduate Assistant for Outdoor Recreation Steven Campbell, whose workplace is on Sewell Park, sees Frisbee Dan on a daily basis.

“I think he’s a San Marcos legend, a staple part of the atmosphere at Sewell,” Campbell said. “He’s a friendly character and gets along with the students well. He watches out for the folks in the park - reports anything detrimental.”

Local progressive fusion band Ars Poetica pays homage to Barry with its track entitled “Frisbee Dan.” The 2:15 minute song is an upbeat orchestration of jazzy piano, happy guitar riffs and whispery brushed drums featuring the lyrics, “All the grass in the park, from the day to the dark - he’s no ordinary man, Frisbee Dan. And when you ask why he do what he do, he says ‘I love it,’ why don’t you love it, too.”