Friday, April 29, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Home News
Tyler Tojo Fifield is an unassuming 13-year-old boy with a lanky frame, thin wire-rimmed glasses and a head of tousled black hair.
But give the North Las Vegas teen a handful of beanbag balls, and Fifield transforms into Ty Tojo, a jaw-dropping juggernaut of a juggler who recently set a new Guinness World record.
Ty Tojo, the stage name Fifield uses during his nine-minute routine, is one of the world’s best jugglers in his age group. His YouTube channel, which has more than 50,000 views, showcases Fifield juggling blocks and upwards of five balls.
“I’m proud of it,” Fifield said of his juggling skills. “But I don’t enjoy it. It’s a good career, though.”
Fifield’s coach is his stepfather, Dick Franco, a professional juggler and entertainer with more than 35 years of experience.
In December 2006, Franco noticed that his then 8-year-old stepson was watching cartoons for hours on end.
“This isn’t going to happen, not in my house,” Franco said. “I told Ty, if you want to watch TV for an hour, come out and practice juggling.”
Franco, an Ohio native who has traveled the world with his juggling and comedy acts, soon realized that Fifield had real talent.
“He got really good, really fast,” he said. “He had the right form and the style...He’s a good student of juggling.”
For three hours a day, at least five days a week, Franco and Fifield practiced, first throwing, dropping and catching three balls, then four, then five. And then they made it more complicated, incorporating new props, tricks and duo acts.
Within a year, Fifield was on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where he dazzled the host and audience with his simultaneous hula-hoop, Skip-It and juggling act.
Franco and Fifield soon took Ty Tojo’s Amazing Juggling Act worldwide to Europe and Japan.
After performing in the 100-year-old Munich Krone Circus last year — considered one of the pinnacles of circus performing — Franco and Fifield set their sights on setting a Guinness World Record in juggling.
It wasn’t just any old juggling, however. Fifield wanted to set his first Guinness World Record in a new category of juggling — back crosses, or throwing the balls with his right hand from behind his back to his left hand in front.
It’s a difficult feat to master, let alone repeat more than 200 times, Franco said. “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it,” he said.
The Guinness outfit is based in London, but its Italian franchise wanted to broadcast Fifield’s record-setting attempt in Milan on April 14. Appearing with Fifield would be the smallest girl in the world, a man with the thickest skull and four Chilean miners who set a record for longest time spent underground.
During a practice round on April 13, Fifield set his first world record in the event in front of Guinness World Records officials — 198 catches. That was the number to beat in the televised show the next day.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Fifield said. “I didn’t practice for two days. You feel it, and you have to concentrate more.”
In front of the bright lights and TV cameras, Fifield was given three chances to best his record of 198 catches. The first two times, he couldn’t push past 138 and 168 catches, respectively.
But on his last try, Fifield broke his own Guinness World Record, throwing and catching the five beanbag balls 248 times.
“I couldn’t see anything out there,” Fifield said. “I could only see shapes.”
Fifield, a home-schooled eighth-grader, said he hopes to turn his juggling act into a career, just like his stepfather did.
For Franco, juggling became a career that took him around the world, performing at Strip casinos and with the Harlem Globetrotters.
“I had a great time, saw the world and met great people,” Franco said. “It’s an exciting life. It’s been good to me...That’s what I want for Ty.”