Big League Stew

How a group of Kenyan orphans scored a YouTube hit by recreating Game 6 of the 1986 World Series

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Bryce Harper's "That's a clown question, bro" video racked up more views, but even our l'il phenom getting prickly with a Canadian radio reporter couldn't match the group of baseball-minded Kenyan kids on the adorable scale.  "1986 World Series Game 6 ... in Kenya" just passed 100,000 views in less than a week of being posted online and has received widespread attention from several big media outlets, including Yahoo.com.

Because I wanted to know how a group of children would come to recreate a sporting event that happened 15 years before they were born (in a country thousands of miles away from Shea Stadium), I sent a message to the YouTube user who uploaded the video. What I received back was an email from Dan Freiman, a Canadian volunteer and Blue Jays fan currently serving with International Volunteer HQ in Nairobi, Kenya.  As the Davey Johnson to Nairobi's young ballplayers, Freiman had originally just organized the recreation of the final moments of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series for his and his students' own enjoyment.

But one thing led to another and what happened in that open field in Africa with a group of the school's orphans ended up being viewed by at least a hundred thousand people around the world.  Here's an email Q&A with Freiman that explains how the video came to be:

Q: How exactly did you come to film a group of Kenyan students re-enacting a baseball scene that happened 26 years ago in a country thousands of miles away? Had any of the students heard of the Mets and Red Sox before?

A: The students have made it pretty clear to me that they love two things more than anything else. They love going to the field to play sports and they love taking pictures and making movies. Nothing here excites the students more than a volunteer taking a camera out to snap some photos of them.

I get asked about 75  times a day — that's not an exaggeration, by the way — if we're going to the field to play. Different kids will approach me and say "Cha (short for teacha), are we going to field today?" It seemed like a good idea to combine their two loves, so one day, I asked a few boarders at the school (orphans) if they were interested in recreating a play on camera from an American sport. They were ecstatic about the idea and continued to ask me what play we'd be filming and when we'd be shooting it.

Growing up in Toronto, my friends and I used to re-enact Joe Carter's World Series home run during recess. I thought it'd be fun to have them do the same thing. The students and I ran through a couple of possibilities, including the Music City Miracle, but the kids liked the Buckner clip because of the huge pileup at the plate. They kept laughing at it.

Although the students understood the basic concept and rules of baseball they didn't know anything about the Red Sox or Mets when we first started shooting. A few students knew who the Yankees were.

Q: How did you "cast" the movie? Did more students want to be Mookie Wilson or Bill Buckner?

A: The kids were indifferent to which roles they were playing. They were just thrilled to be at the field making a movie. When I came to pick up the orphans at school they were washing their clothes and cleaning the church. These are regular chores for the students that they were happy to get away from. Since I had taken the kids to the field in previous weeks I knew that Brian was athletic and would be able to swing. So he was my choice for Mookie Wilson. The rest were just selected at random.

Q: Did you think this would be a YouTube hit while you were filming it? What compelled you to post it on the site?

A: I was originally planning on burning the clips on a DVD  for the kids and myself so we could both have it as a keepsake. It wasn't until I rewatched the clips later that I realized how incredible it was. I emailed the clips to my brother David Freiman who put them in order and added the background audio with Vin Scully and cast list. Once I saw the finished product I knew it was special.

I sent an update email to my friends back home detailing all the events of my travels, and added the YouTube link for my friends to view.  I thought they'd enjoy it and it would get around to a few hundred people, but I never expected it to get widespread attention.

Q: Does baseball have any other presence in Kenya? How do you follow the Blue Jays?

A: I haven't seen any other baseball presence in Kenya, with the exception of locals wearing MLB T-shirts that I'm sure have been donated. I try to get online every few days and check out how the Blue Jays are doing. My dad will often send me texts updating me.

Q: How long are you in Kenya? What's the school like?

A: I'm in Kenya from May 15  through June 29, but right now I am in Uganda for a few days. I am volunteering with IVHQ, and was placed at the Grace Lighthouse Academy to instruct with physical education.

Q: You said that the students chose this play over the Music City Miracle. Given the success of this clip, do you think you'll be recreating any other plays?

A: I'd love to and I know the kids would love to as well. It should really be noted that the success of the video hinges directly on the enthusiasm and energy of the students. They're willing to try anything new and are the most unbelievable kids I have ever spent time with.

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