'); } -->
FRESNO -- Agustin Hernández hardly picked up his custom-designed glove used for ancient sport of pelota mixteca.
As the president of the Asociación de Pelota Mixteca, the full-time gardener was busy as tournament director of the June 8-9 XIV Torneo Internaciónal de Pelota Mixteca.
The annual competition attracts teams from Morgan Hill, San Diego, the San Fernando Valley, Monterey County, and even Oaxaca.
Since the tournament's birth in 1996, Hernández has gathered enough people to have such festivities like a visit from the Oaxacan president of Pelota Mixteca, proclamations from the Mexican Consulate of Fresno, folkloric dance groups, a deep-pit barbeque, and a Saturday night dance.
Hernández, 51, president since the organization's inception in 1995, doesn't take credit for bringing the sport once played by the Aztecs and Mayans to the Central Valley.
Shortly after his arrival to Fresno from México in 1975, Hernández realized that pelota mixteca had already immigrated to the United States, and was played among several Oaxacan immigrants at local Fresno parks.
"They used to play at the parks early in the morning because there were no fields. It was too dangerous to play with people coming for picnics," said Hernández. "These guys preceded me."
The 4-pound rubber ball used in the matches was too dangerous to be played in a public park, so Hernández and several other players pitched in $5 and $10 to rent a field.
Eventually the home field was set on a ranch, a field of dirt on Vista Avenue between Clinton and McKinley avenues west of Fresno.
The organization began to form. And Hernández's dream was also the dream of many other Mexican immigrants, primarily Oaxacans, who created the APM in the mid-70s.
"The international pelota mixteca really began about 14 years ago," said Hernández, "We do our best to bring the finest players from Oaxaca to Fresno to show this sport. And now, we have anywhere from 50 to 75 players in the Valley."
He begins the preparation for the tournament in January. There's an annual pilgrimmage to Oaxaca to recruit players. Then a call is made to the Mexican Consulate in Fresno to start the Visa process.
As players dusted themselves off after diving for the ball on the 100-meter field, they knew little of the work involved just to hold the tournament.
Hernández kept things going using a microphone, doing a play-by-play commentary. He even attempted to keep the several hundred visitors from parking on the neighbors property.
His wife, Estella, and other women, provided tortas and other Mexican favorites on Sunday.
His son, Michael, a 30-year-old real estate agent in Fresno, helped direct play and keep the tournament going throughout the weekend.
Like his father, Agustín showed Michael how to play. Agustín learned by age 9, when his father, Fidel Hernández, taught him in Magdalena, Jaltapec, Oaxaca.
"I remember we played with the gloves my father and his friends left on the field. We ran after the balls (for the players)," recalls Agustín.
Michael understands that one day the responsibility of the APM could one day fall upon him.
"I was probably 7 years old; just a shadow of my dad," said Michael.
"I was pretty much everywhere; anywhere he would go, I would go too."
Michael knows that his father's involvement comes from his spirit and love for the sport. He wants to keep the tradition alive.
"He's never given up trying to get this going. A lot of the funds have come from his personal money," said Michael.