The Tragedy of Little League’s Jackie Robinson West

Obama with the Jackie Robinson West Little League Team



Little League’s Jackie Robinson West was a true American feel-good story.

A story of good sportsmanship and perseverance… underdogs who pushed passed the doubters and detractors to become the first African American Little League baseball team to win the U.S. Championship.

They were fêted with a visit to the White House, made the rounds of various talk shows and had a parade through downtown Chicago in their honor.

And now it’s all gone.

Little League International stripped the team of its title when it discovered that there were players on the roster who lived outside of the approved geographic boundaries from which team members could be recruited.

Those exuberant-faced boys that we fell in love with last summer are now stained by the deliberate, calculated mistakes of a few adults.

Boundary-shifting in Little League, and other sports our children play, is not new. Sometimes there aren’t enough players in a certain area, so they expand the reach of the team. Most of the time, it’s ignored because they’re playing for the home crowd… not a televised international audience.

The manager and administrator of Jackie Robinson West wanted to build a “super-team.” Both of them knew that the home addresses of the players didn’t match the addresses Little League International had on file for the players. But it didn’t matter. They wanted to win.

We’ve all read, and probably seen, adults (coaches and parents) at kids’ sports games manically swept up in the need to win. They can be physically, mentally and verbally abusive to the children.

But, in this case, the young players on Jackie Robinson West were abused, too. They probably knew that some of the other players on their team didn’t live around them, but they were manipulated into thinking it was okay… because that’s what they were told by the adults.

What will become of these boys who had a brief shining moment in the summer sun? Do they have parents that will help them understand that what happened is not their fault, and that they are still talented and gifted athletes and should still pursue their dreams?



My Son Went to War


My son went to war… and the weapon he carried was a camera.

My son went to war

Even though he wasn’t armed and fighting while in northeastern Afghanistan, as a journalist embedded with U.S. troops, Carlos witnessed the deadly horrors of battle while under fire in one of the country’s most dangerous and hostile valleys.

My son went to war, but I know I’m lucky. He came home.

The riveting documentary of his experience, The Hornet’s Nest, offers a soldier’s-eye view of what it’s really like to wonder, from second to second, if you’re going to die in a remote part of the world far removed from those you love. This is not a scripted movie… this is the real deal with heart-breaking consequences.My son went to war

When my son announced he was going to Afghanistan with his father (my former husband), I knew I couldn’t stop him. I was his age when I left a comfortable job as a CNN producer in Washington, D.C. to cover the wars in Central America in the 1980s. I guess, in a sense, Carlos joined the family business.

Knowing that Carlos shot the movie’s captivating shaky-cam video while bullets whistled above his head is gut wrenching. I watched the film with him beside me. Some of the families of the soldiers featured in the movie will never be able to do this.

The movie is not all bang-bang. There’s a terrific scene with members of an all-female Medevac team, who risk their lives helping extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield. The story of these women alone is incredibly compelling.

But the movie never lets you forget you are in the middle of hell.

What is it about people who run head-on into dangerous places like war zones? Believers in a cause? Adrenaline junkies? Journalists? Fools? I’m not just talking about people like my son (and me, if I’m playing fair). There are plenty of soldiers you hear from in the movie who go back for a third and fourth deployment… some of whom die doing what they love, leaving sorrow in their wake.

A moving memorial service for six fallen soldiers is, perhaps, the toughest part of the movie. Their surviving colleagues decorate makeshift altars with the only things they can offer… a can of Coca-Cola, a personal name-patch ripped from their uniform, a photograph. A tribute to a friendship forever lost.

The Obama administration announced last week that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, will be completely ended no later than 2016.

This haunting movie doesn’t offer any judgment about the war or America’s role in it. Only the ugly reality of combat in real time.

Like I said… I was lucky.

My oldest son came home.

This time.

For information about where the movie, The Hornet’s Nest, is showing in your area, click here.

Plated + Served: Red Potato Horseradish Cake


This is weird, I know, but I’m so into food, I love reading menus from big events.

Last meal on the Titanic. Kate and Will’s wedding breakfast. Today’s inauguration luncheon in Washington.

I found a website that not only tells you what they’re going to be serving, but the recipes for the various dishes. You can check out those recipes here.

The inauguration theme is “Faith in America’s Future.” Regardless of which side of the aisle you stand on, you have to appreciate that the menu spotlights artisanal and sustainably produced food from farms around the country. They’ve also tried to make the recipes as healthy as possible:

  • First course: Steamed Lobster with New England Clam Chowder (less cream and more fish broth in the clam chowder).
  • Second Course: Hickory Grilled Bison with a Red Potato Horseradish Cake and Wild Huckleberry Reduction (bison is lower in fat and calories than chicken).
  • Third Course: Hudson Valley Apple Pie with Sour Cream Ice Cream, Aged Cheese and Honey (less sugar and butter).

What the President Will Be Served
Image by Design Cuisine

Didn’t feel like spending the moola for lobster or bison, but I knew my crowd would love the Red Potato Horseradish Cake… and they did.

I followed the recipe, but I did cut back even more on the butter, heavy cream  and salt that was called for in the original recipe. I had leftovers and they were perfect the next morning with poached eggs.

Democrat or Republican… we can all appreciate good food prepared in a healthy way. Now, if we can just get Congress to be as agreeable, we might make some progress over the next four years!

Mama’s Red Potato Horseradish Cake


Kitchen Think: This Week’s Food News You Need to Know


The drought is still killing the corn, Obama’s giving the farmers more money and some glove parts found in Johnsonville Turkey Sausage have sparked a huge recall. 

But seriously, here’s what really happened in the food world last week:

They’re growing meat in the lab. Looks like Dad will be grilling synthetic burgers a lot sooner than we expected.


Don’t ya think taking pictures of what your eating in a restaurant is getting just a teensy-tiny bit old? Not to mention talking on your cell phone while dining… Here’s one LA restaurant’s solution.

OK, look… who doesn’t love curly fries? Even McDonald’s knows you love them. But there’s only one Mickey D’s in the whole world where you can get ‘em.


Oh yeah, the drought and that problem with the corn. Well, for some farmers, this might not be such a bad thing.

And finally, this week would’ve been chef and TV personality Julia Child’s 100th Birthday. She had a tremendous sense of humor…which is apparent in this clip from The David Letterman Show.

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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: