Source: Mlive.com – By Hugh Bernreuter | All Things Michael
MIDLAND, MI — Before Alfonso Ribeiro became a Broadway star, Michael Jackson’s child double and Will Smith’s foil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he was a Little League shortstop from the Bronx who was in love with the New York Yankees.
“Because I’m short,” Ribeiro said Friday at Dow Diamond before the Great Lakes Loons faced the Lansing Lugnuts in a Midwest League game.
“I could hit better than I could field … I could go out there and have a good time hitting right now,” Ribeiro said. “I’m a kid from the Bronx, so it had to be the Yankees for me. Dave Winfield was my No. 1 guy. He gave me one of his Hall of Fame balls for my 40th birthday.”
Ribeiro’s career, however, put him in front of a different kind of audience. He landed the lead role in the Broadway Musical The Tap Dance Kid. Ribeiro, 42, landed the role as Michael Jackson’s “child double” for a Pepsi commercial and a spot on the sitcom Silver Spoons.
“If people ask me what I’m most proud of, it’s The Tap Dance Kid,” Ribeiro said. “I was a 12-year-old kid with a leading role on Broadway.”
But he received his greatest fame starring next to Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, playing Carlton Banks. The sitcom ran from 1990 through 1996, serving as a platform for Smith.
Ribeiro’s greatest fame from the sitcom came from a dance, which has become known as The Carlton Dance, a series of scripted moves that accentuates a lack of dancing ability.
“I actually took the dance by Courteney Cox on the Bruce Springsteen video and combined it with Eddie Murphy’s White People dance from Delirious,” Ribeiro said. “You take things from other people. I put my own flair on it.
“It’s fun. I danced with Michael Jackson, but that’s the thing I’ll be remembered for and that’s OK because people love it.”
In the last five years, Ribeiro has worked as a game-show host, a reality-show contestant and director.
He also golfs in charity events, which led to a friendship with Jamie and Karen Moyer and, by extension, Great Lakes Loons shortstop Dillon Moyer, who caught Ribeiro’s First Pitch.
“I will get it to him, but I’m not sure how close it will be to him,” Ribeiro said. “On the elevator up here, my wife just asked me not to do something that gets put on ESPN. We don’t want any 50 Cent pitches.”
His wife, Angela Unkrich, didn’t need to worry. Ribeiro’s first pitch to Moyer had decent velocity and hit the outside corner.
Ribeiro’s love of baseball was forced to take a backseat when his childhood drifted toward Broadway and dancing.
“I know I missed a lot of things because of my career, but I was doing something I loved, something I had a passion for,” Ribeiro said. “So I don’t really regret it, but I do realize that there were things I missed during my childhood.
“If someone asked me for advice, I would tell them to enjoy their childhood, enjoy doing dumb stuff. It’s a different time now, where everybody has a cell phone with a camera on it. You’re not allowed to be young and famous and stupid anymore.
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