By Ian Kay / MLB.com
The video above has gone viral on YouTube this week, racking up more than 70,000 views since Monday. We tracked down creator Dan Freiman in Uganda to get the full story.
At the Lighthouse Grace Care Center, a school and orphanage on the outskirts of Nairobi, there’s a Kenyan boy named Godfrey Mburu who no longer answers to his real name.
Godfrey will now only talk to people who address him as “Roger Clemens.”
He doesn’t know anything about Clemens’ seven Cy Young Awards or his 20-strikeout game or his ongoing perjury trial. Godfrey only knows that Roger Clemens was once sitting in the Red Sox dugout when a man named Mookie Wilson hit a baseball through the legs of a man named Bill Buckner.
And he only knows that much because he played Roger Clemens in Dan Freiman’s YouTube rendition of “1986 World Series Game 6…..in Kenya.”
A 25-year-old from Toronto, Freiman recently spent four weeks teaching physical education at Lighthouse Grace through the New Zealand-based International Volunteer Headquarters. The school has about 215 students, ranging in age from 3 to 13. About 75 are orphans who board full-time. The rest live in nearby slums.
After reading in his volunteer handbook that many of the Kenyan children would enjoy learning about new sports, Freiman made a point of teaching his students unfamiliar games like baseball and tennis. The first time they tried American football, one of the boys somersaulted into a massive puddle while chasing a pass and emerged drenched in mud.
“Any kid from North America would have run home and cried,” Freiman said. “But he laughed it off. They all laughed with him and he got to the back of the line for another pass. You wouldn’t know that boy is an orphan and there’s no way he has more than two pairs of clothes.”
Maybe the only thing that intrigued the students more than learning new sports was Freiman’s Sony point-and-shoot camera. Every time he brought it to school, children would jump into photos, or ask him to record videos.
“You know when you take a picture and you can show them right after because it’s a digital camera? They stare at that like it’s the biggest thing in the world,” he said.
Remembering his own elementary school days, Freiman had an idea that would combine the Kenyan kids’ two newfound passions. After the Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series, Dan and his young classmates spent their school recesses conducting elaborate reenactments of Joe Carter’s dramatic walk-off home run. One kid would play Carter. Someone else would impersonate Mitch Williams. Others would man the field and the dugouts. They went as far as casting the streakers who followed Carter around the bases and the security guards who chased them.
About three weeks ago, Freiman approached some of the older students with a proposition: What would they think about filming a video of a famous American sports scene?
For the next few days, it was all the students could talk about. On May 31, Freiman brought his laptop to school and showed his students a few options. The Titans’ Music City Miracle was a favorite, but Game 6 of the 1986 World Series ultimately won out when nobody could stop laughing at the Mets’ pile-on home plate celebration.
June 1 was Madaraka Day in Kenya, commemorating the nation’s first elected government taking office in 1963. Lighthouse Grace's school was closed for the holiday, leaving only the orphan boarders around. Freiman found them in the church, washing clothes and scrubbing floors to prepare for Sunday services.
“I didn’t know what to say or what to do because this was something I’d never really seen before,” he said. “I was sort of heartbroken that it was a holiday and these kids were washing the floors.”
With the principal’s permission, he grabbed about 15 boys and headed to a nearby field. Although most of the students were familiar with baseball and recognized the game by sight, few knew that three strikes meant an out or that three outs were an inning. Only a handful had heard of the New York Yankees.
Freiman explained the significance of Buckner’s blunder as best he could, then started filming. In the first shot, Brian Wainaina – playing Mookie Wilson in a white pinnie and brown pants – sprinted down the first-base line while Paul Mangathe let a tennis ball trickle through his legs. As Wainaina rounded first, Peter Kinyanjui began windmilling his arms from foul ground, just like Mets first-base coach Bill Robinson did 26 years ago. Freiman provided some direction, but mostly let the children mimic what they’d seen on his computer screen.
“I told them, 'It’s not like you’re doing a baseball movie right now,'" he said. "'It’s more like you’re doing a show or you’re performing a school play. You have your role and you do your part.' And they did it perfectly.”
After Timothy Mungai nailed the next shot, clutching his head to channel Ray Knight as he rounded third base, Freiman decided to film a few more angles. The whole process took less than 30 minutes. After, a few volunteers pitched improvised batting practice using a tennis racket as a bat.
That evening, Freiman emailed his footage -- five baseball clips plus one of the students dancing -- to his brother, David, back in Toronto. David edited it together, adding Vin Scully’s famous audio and a slate of credits. Last Wednesday, Dan posted the video to YouTube. He sent an email to a few friends detailing his recent travels in Kenya, including the link at the bottom, then went out of town for the weekend.
“My intention originally was just to go to the field and shoot this with the kids and give them a CD of the video we made,” Freiman said. “And I could take one home as a keepsake.”
On Tuesday, Dan brought his computer to school and showed his students their newfound celebrity status. Their reaction? “Absolutely insane.” Brian (Mookie Wilson) and Timothy (Ray Knight) nearly broke down in tears when they learned their names had been featured on the New York Post’s website. And about that time, Godfrey unofficially changed his name to “Roger Clemens.”
Said Freiman: “I never in a million years thought this would happen. I was just hoping to have a good time and take the kids out of the orphanage for a day.”