New Castle’s AJ Kirk: Yo-Yo Pro and A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children Patient Escort
The jokester, Team YoYoJam member and jack-of-all-tricks keeps a smile on the faces of patients and their parents, even through the toughest times.
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Kirk is so good he has his own signature yo-yo. It is sold worldwide in toy stores, hobby shops, and online. The Ringmaster, so named because of Kirk’s penchant for juggling and other circus stunts, features a logo with his name etched into a likeness of his trademark bushy beard and sunglasses. The first edition quickly sold out and the newest is also doing well, he says.
Kirk is a member of Team YoYoJam, which is sponsored by the company that produces and markets his signature yo-yo. He gets a percentage of the toy’s sales (he won’t say how much), as well as the backing of the company when he competes in various contests around the world. He receives points from YoYoJam for making appearances and that translates into funding that helps cover costs. He also picks up a little cash from performing at birthday parties and the like.
No matter how successful he is, Kirk won’t be getting rich from winning contests. He says the largest tournaments pay a $1,000 cash prize to the winner. He competes in 10 to 15 contests per year.
According to Val Aaron, a vice president at YoYoJam, the 5A division is one of the most competitive and difficult divisions in professional yo-yoing.
“AJ is very good. He’s one of the top players in the United States in his division,” she says. “He’s placed top three in the United States and that’s pretty tough to do.”
Unlike traditional yo-yo style, in 5A competition the string is not tied to the player’s finger. Instead, it is tied to a counterweight that allows the player to move the yo-yo around the string as he uses both hands to twist the string into different configurations. Think Jacob’s Ladder when you played with string as a child.
“I’m only scored when I’m manipulating both ends of the string and still have the ability to bring the yo-yo back to my hand,” Kirk explains.
Even Kirk has a difficult time describing what he does. But as one would expect from any talented performer, Kirk develops his own tricks. And yes, these moves are much more sophisticated than the old “Walk the Dog” trick of yesteryear.
“There’s big emphasis on originality,” he says. “Being able to do your own stuff goes a long way.”
Aaron, the VP, is certainly a big fan.
“He is very innovative,” she says. “His style is just like AJ. It’s very smooth and it’s very mellow. He has a style of play that’s just really fluid. It’s enjoyable to watch. There is almost a grace to his play that you don’t see very often.”
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