It takes something special to empty a dugout during a baseball game. A home run or a tussle with the other team typically does the trick.
Kenneth Paryo of Lawrenceville has another method. He busts a move on top of the dugout.
He first appears as a working bat boy. Then suddenly, music blasts over the loudspeakers and Paryo surprises both fans and players by dancing on the field or the top of the dugout under the name Breakin’ BBoy McCoy.
The 23-year-old Paryo performs his fancy footwork at minor league baseball stadiums all over the country, swinging with more movements than you’d find at a Michael Jackson impersonator convention. He’s so popular at certain stadiums that his return appearances boosts ticket sales.
And like the most talented minor-league players, Major League Baseball is now calling, putting Paryo and his moves in front of even larger audiences.
“It was something that had never crossed my mind before,” Paryo said during a recent break between gigs. “I would have never imagined performing at baseball games.”
Paryo comes from a musical family and trained in classical piano for nine years, but he didn’t get into dancing until age 13. He says he was not born with a lot of skill, but he jumped in feet-first and started watching online tutorials, mimicking the moves of his favorite dancers.
About three years later he began performing in talent contests, at parties and at churches. Then in 2008 at age 18, he answered an open call for season three of the TV series “America’s Got Talent.”
Paryo and his robotic dance moves and self-produced soundtrack wowed audiences and judges, including Sharon Osbourne. But it was a backstage meeting with fellow contestants that would change his young career.
While waiting his turn to perform, Paryo met Dominic Latkovski of The Skillville Group, a company that produces on-field entertainment at sporting events, fairs and festivals.
Latkovski and his fellow performers, ZOOperstars, perform as anthropomorphic animals in giant inflatable costumes, which allows for wacky dance movements and jolting pratfalls, making it a popular act at minor league games.
Latkovski was floored by the young man’s skill and he began figuring out a way to bring Paryo into the world of minor league baseball. ZOOperstars used Paryo as an added attraction at minor league games, and Latkovski knew he had something. Fans loved Paryo’s dancing, and Latkovski and the group created the persona of Breakin’ BBoy McCoy, a dancing bat boy.
Fans went wild. Many of them believed Paryo was actually a bat boy and were both startled by and amazed at his dancing.
“I was definitely shocked at the reaction,” said Paryo, who, had been to one baseball game in his life.
Breakin’ BBoy McCoy’s appeal, Latkovski said, isn’t simply because it’s a shock gimmick or the fact Paryo’s a good dancer.
“There are countless people out there who can dance similarly to the way he dances,” Latkovski said, “but Kenneth is able to choreograph and put his moves to the music in clever ways.”
Paryo produces and mixes his music, which accentuates his movements. For instance, when he does his Michael Jackson tribute, the music highlights his slipping on one batting glove, a nod of the ball cap to the late King of Pop.
It’s that kind of presentation that’s helped Paryo build a reputation among minor league ball clubs. He stays consistently booked throughout the season.
John Maedel, vice president of the Chattanooga Lookouts, says he booked Paryo three times last season and the same this year.
“The fans just go crazy over him,” Maedel said. “He’s such a talented dancer that it’s like watching someone doing something really well athletically. He’s just as talented as our ballplayers, but in a different profession.”
The big leagues are giving him a call-up. Paryo performed last baseball season to great acclaim at a Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox game. The Houston Astros are talking to him about bringing the act back to Texas.
In the meantime, Paryo is forging ahead with his goal of becoming a stand-up comic and actor. When he’s not snagging reactions from baseball fans and luring players out of the dugout, he performs stand-up and dance at college campuses around the country.
Despite the accolades while in the spotlight at ball games, it was a comment from an audience member at a college show that really affected him. After performing a dance routine, a female student told Paryo that his performance helped her mentally escape from her current family and school troubles.
“She was in tears,” Paryo said. “That would be the compliment that has stuck with me the most.”