SHREWSBURY – What started as a group of men swapping stories at Little League ballgames evolved into deep friendship, long-lasting memories and an award-winning sports commentary partnership that Shrewsbury has come to love.
But after 25 years of covering Shrewsbury sports, the longtime broadcasting quartet of Bob Bigda, Nick Todisco, John Mastro and Bill Orfalea have decided to officially “sign off” after the spring 2024 athletic season.
“You know how sometimes if you keep a bottle of wine too long it turns into vinegar – that’s where we’re at,” Mastro told the Community Advocate on the set of “Coach’s Corner,” the group’s segment on Shrewsbury Media Connection. “I get emotional. It’s the kids. I’ve never met a kid I didn’t like.”
The broadcasting group began in 1998 as an offshoot of Shrewsbury’s Gridiron Club. Bill DeMalia, the club’s president at the time, wanted to produce a television show featuring interviews with coaches and players. Shrewsbury Media Connection Manager Marc Serra introduced the group to interview techniques and television production.
“What people don’t realize is that on Monday Night Football, the announcer has 15 guys behind him giving him information. We don’t have that. We have to look, react and put it out there,” said Mastro, who typically assumes the play-by-play duties.
The quartet has traveled throughout Massachusetts – including broadcasting from the state’s biggest stadiums – and filmed over 1,000 episodes of Coach’s Corner, interviewing countless Shrewsbury athletes.
The show’s first interviewees – members of the class of 1999 – are now in their 40s and have high-school-age children of their own. Throughout the 25 years, the broadcasters missed only two Shrewsbury football games.
“In the last 25 years, any Shrewsbury athlete who played football – if he wants to see a specific game from his career, he can get it. That’s what I’m most proud of,” Mastro said.
Although the crew has called hundreds of games, one stands out: Shrewsbury’s Division 1A Super Bowl win against Longmeadow in 2000. Shrewsbury won the game, which featured several of the group’s children, after Mario Johnson’s successful 2-point conversion put the Colonials ahead 22-21 with 16 seconds remaining.
“We knew just about every kid on the field. We had either coached them in baseball, mentored them in all-stars, or something. They were like sons. I remember the emotion,” said Mastro.
“I’m doing the broadcasting on the roof, and the camera starts [shaking] during the broadcast because I’m sitting up there crying watching the game. The kids had just won… I’ll always remember that,” Todisco said.
Johnson’s 2-point conversion – and the group excitedly celebrating the moment on the broadcast – opens every Coach’s Corner segment.
There have also been some not-so-exciting, even difficult, moments. The weather, in particular, has tested the group’s resolve. Despite battling rain, snow, sleet and ferocious wind, the broadcasting team nonetheless continued to volunteer and bring the Colonials to Shrewsbury viewers.
The group recalled one particular Thanksgiving Day game about 10 years ago.
“It had to be the coldest, most windy day in the world. The wind was coming from across the field. It was brutal. We had some brutal, cold days,” said Orfalea.
“I was so cold my brain froze… I couldn’t formulate words,” added Todisco.
The broadcasters mentioned Lee Diamantopoulos, quarterback of the 2000 Super-Bowl-winning football team, and Magdalena (Maggie) Tomecka as some of the greatest Shrewsbury athletes they’ve seen over the last 25 years.
So, what has kept the group going after a quarter-century of broadcasting? The group answered without hesitation: the kids.
“It’s never been about us,” Mastro explained. “Did we have fun? Absolutely. It was always about the kids. It was never about their parents, grandparents. It was always about them. We watched kids grow up.”
“It’s also fun that we get to see the oldest siblings – we get to watch them, we get to know them a little bit – then the younger siblings come up and we hear their last name and we’re like ‘Oh! We’ve got this one for another four years!’ ” Todisco said.
Bigda said that his biggest enjoyment is seeing former athletes (and sometimes their kids) enter into the broadcasting booth to say hello to the crew, noting how incredible it has been watching 14-year-old freshmen grow into adults and start families.
“They gave a lot of their free time to recognize our kids and our coaches in the program over the last 25 years,” Shrewsbury Athletic Director Jay Costa said. “They put Shrewsbury out there and let everyone know what type of athletes we have in town.”
If you’ve watched any of the crew’s work, the word “authenticity” likely comes to mind. The broadcasts are filled with chitchat about local happenings, random topics and plenty of laughs. It’s likely one of the only broadcasts where the announcers constantly make fun of one another.
But that’s a feature, not a bug.
“The way we are on camera is the way we are when we go out to dinner or when we sit around after golf. We don’t change,” said Mastro. “He gives me a hard time, I give him a hard time. Bobby and I argue about stupid stuff. That’s the way we are.”
“Personally, I think that’s what has kept us going for 25 years. We genuinely love each other – even though sometimes it doesn’t sound that way,” Mastro added.
The group thanked Shrewsbury Media Connection – including Marc Serra, Lori Bergman, and Liz Poplawski – as well as the hundreds of athletes and coaches who agreed to appear on Coach’s Corner throughout the years.
“We created something that didn’t exist before. We created something beautiful, and we kept it going for 25 years. I can hang my hat on that,” Todisco said.
Watch Shrewsbury Media Connection’s coverage of the upcoming sports seasons to see the quartet’s final round of broadcasts.