FORT WAYNE – Kenneth Paryo had been to one baseball game in his life.
Imagine his fright when he tried to sell major league organizations at the 2009 winter meetings on his services as a dancing bat boy.
I was extremely nervous, he said.
Better known as Breakin’ BBoy McCoy, Paryo, 25, is now a fixture on the TinCaps’ slate of national entertainment acts that appear at Parkview Field each summer.
Born in Bradenton, Florida, and a resident of Atlanta, Paryo realizes his role as a traveling stadium performer is to connect with people like himself, people who don’t live and die with each pitch.
If you’re not really, really into baseball, it’s going to be boring, he said. You can be having a bad day and come see a game. I don’t know if a man hitting the ball is going to make you feel better. Your team might even lose. If you have entertainment there, that’ll counteract that.
That dynamic is what drives TinCaps president Mike Nutter to allot around $75,000 each year for national acts.
Budgetwise, we probably spend as much as anybody, Nutter said. We view it as a line item, the cost of business to get people talking about us.
This season, the team booked eight different performers for a total of 13 dates.
BBoy McCoy, scheduled to return July 24, jumped atop the dugout and executed rhythmic moves.
There was Jake the Diamond Dog, retrieving bats and carrying baskets of water bottles to the umpires.
I’ll sit there with Jeff Marchal, the trainer, and people come up to get autographs, Nutter said. It’s like, Oh, I wish my dog could do this.’ All the people have the same lines, but it connects on a different level.
Nutter, who handles all scheduling, always keeps an eye out for new acts that can provoke that type of reaction.
I don’t mean it arrogantly – in this day and age of YouTube, you can just kind of tell, he said. We have booked an act or two over the years and thought, I don’t know that they’ll be back.’ What we talk about with national entertainment is, Can you get those water cooler moments for people to go back to the office on Monday and have stuff to talk about?’
BirdZerk (a prank-pulling bird mascot), QuikChange (magicians who instantly switch outfits) and Russian Bar Trio (acrobats) are the other acts that have appeared this year.
Yet to come are Christopher on July 5, ZOOperstars! on July 12 and Myron Noodleman on July 26.
Christopher uses multiple puppets to dance to songs by the Village People or Michael Jackson, while Myron – a Jerry Lewis nutty professor type, Nutter said – performs standup routines in the stands.
The ZOOperstars! are a series of inflatable, animal-themed parodies of athletes, such as Peyton Manatee and LeBronco James.
There’s other stuff out there that’s edgier or darker comedy and jokes, Nutter said. We just don’t go to that. We’ve tried to be the ultimate in family friendly.
Paryo is a hit with children.
They come up smiling and say, How did you move like that?’ he said. I love being around people. Entertainment’s really important in any aspect of life.