Tyler Scheuer, an 11-year-old Little League pitcher from Newtown, Bucks County, was bored one day at practice in Upper Makefield, so he picked up a bat and balanced it on his nose.
"I thought, 'Hey, this is pretty cool,' but I didn't think anything more of it," Scheuer, now 23, said, remembering the moment that would shape his life. "I honestly thought it's an ability most people have."
He discovered that it wasn't and that somehow, deep within his mysterious core, was a knack for looking at a steak knife or an ironing board or a high chair with a baby in it and immediately knowing how to balance it on his face.
"As a kid, I began grabbing bigger and bigger things – a broom, a shovel, a chair — and balancing them on my face," Scheuer said on a breezy afternoon at Tyler State Park before demonstrating the nose-and-chin skills that earned him a full page in the new book Ripley's Believe It or Not! Shatter Your Senses!
But at 13, when he asked his parents, Bob and Karen, if he could balance stuff on his face at the Washington Crossing United Methodist Church Christmas talent show, "they said, 'No, no, no. Play your trumpet,'" he said. "They didn't think it was cool. They thought it was stupid."
Not stupid, said Scheuer's dad, retired from food sales, who now books "Tyler's Amazing Balancing Act" as halftime entertainment at dozens of college basketball games, including those of the University of Pennsylvania and St. Joseph's and Pennsylvania State Universities, and as on-the-field and in-the-stands gigs at 40 minor league baseball games. "Tyler was so good at trumpet," his dad said wistfully. "He had so many lessons."
Scheuer dutifully played his trumpet at 13, but the following year, his non-musical talent was not to be denied.
After walking onstage with his trumpet in hand, he acted surprised when the sound technician, who was in on the secret, suddenly played circus music, and Scheuer morphed into "the Amazing Tyler," balancing a baseball bat, a golf club, a tennis racket, a music stand, and, for his grand finale, a chair on his face.
"I was born with a God-given talent," Scheuer said. "I can look at an object for the first time and figure out mentally where the center of the weight is. I don't practice. I've never had an accident, never dropped anything, never broken my nose.
"I began exploring the idea that if I could lift it up, I could balance it on my face," he said. "Ironing boards, wheelbarrows, 10-foot aluminum ladders. The only limit was weight. Three pounds or less, it goes on my nose. More than three pounds, it goes on my chin."
Scheuer was a big hit at college parties in Florida. "I went to a party at a friend's house and said, 'Hey, can I balance your cat?' He said, 'Sure.' So I balanced a chair with a cat named Noel sitting in it on my face. Noel was chilling, not falling off."
Scheuer topped that last summer at Camp Spofford, a Christian family resort in New Hampshire, where he drove the water skiing boat for 10 weeks and entertained at the weekly talent show.
"I got bored balancing surfboards, shovels and kayaks on my face," he said, "so one week, I was like, 'What if I did a baby? I've never dropped anything, so why not?'"
He showed photos of his balancing act to one of the dads, who gave the thumbs up.
So that night, after Scheuer balanced an empty high chair on his chin for the unsuspecting audience, the emcee said, "I got an idea. Let's grab this kid right here!"
Pretending he was pressured into doing it, Scheuer balanced the high chair holding a 1-year-old boy. "People went nuts," Scheuer said. "The kid was 10 feet up in the air, smiling, and this kid didn't move at all. If he had jerked around, there were three spotters around us to catch him."
Although Scheuer has developed his uncanny gift into a full-time career, he's still stretching its boundaries.
"The biggest thing I've balanced on my face is the 10-foot ladder, but the coolest thing was that baby," he said. "I definitely want to include fire or live animals, putting a dog or a cat on top of a tall thing, into my show. I'm still exploring my limits."