Shrewsbury local and baseball legend is new Worcester Bravehearts owner

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Shrewsbury local and baseball legend is new Worcester Bravehearts owner
Frank Vaccaro (right) and son Matthew Vaccaro (left) pose for a picture in the Masis Staffing Solutions office. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

SHREWSBURY – Step inside Frank Vaccaro’s office and you’ll find an eclectic mix of baseball and business.

There is no shortage of office essentials: reams of paper, manilla folders, and binders line his desk. Yet, there’s also an impressive amount of office nonessentials, including newspaper clippings, baseball caps, sports tchotchkes and trophies – lots and lots of trophies. The office is a sight to behold, but it’s no surprise to those who know him best. It’s quintessential business-forward, baseball-loving Vaccaro.

Worcester Bravehearts

As part of their mission to support high-school- and college-aged athletes, the Vaccaro family purchased the Worcester Bravehearts of the Futures League. The team, which plays at the College of the Holy Cross’s Fitton Field, was previously owned by another Shrewsbury family, the Creedons. Masis Staffing Solutions, owned by the Vaccaro family, had been one of the Bravehearts’ corporate sponsors since 2017.

“We love young people, and it’s an opportunity for Massachusetts people to be part of a Futures program around their area and get some looks that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Vaccaro said about purchasing the Bravehearts.

Vaccaro inherits an organization on the rise. Between 2021 and 2023, the Bravehearts’ attendance increased by 45 percent. The team’s staff – including award-winning General Manager Dave Peterson and Manager Alex Dion – will be retained in the move. The team’s season will start in May.

And while Vaccaro said he’s elated about everything Bravehearts, he’s also excited to expand the brand going forward.

“We didn’t buy it to sell it… We’re looking to expand the Bravehearts to other things: maybe a Bravehearts Center, baseball program, Braveheart basketball. Other things to key in on the brand and promote youth sports and help people who may not be as fortunate as everyone else to get a chance to show their stuff. We have big ideas,” he said.

Shrewsbury players and coaches celebrate in the dugout during their game against Milford, July 29. (Photo/Jesse Kucewicz)
Shrewsbury players and coaches celebrate in the dugout during their game against Milford in 2021.
(Photo/Jesse Kucewicz)

Post 397 coach

Although Vaccaro recently bought the Bravehearts, he’s been involved in baseball for nearly his entire life.

Originally from Staten Island, N.Y., Vaccaro moved to Shrewsbury in 1986, attracted by work opportunities in Worcester. Used to big-city life, Vaccaro admitted that Shrewsbury was “like the country” to him at the time. Nonetheless, he settled into the community and has called it home since.

“I would never move from Shrewsbury. It’s our home,” Vaccaro told the Community Advocate.

While his children were growing up in Shrewsbury, Vaccaro — who had previous experience around baseball in New York — decided to help out coaching the local American Legion team, which combined his appreciation for veterans with his love of baseball. Vaccaro was an assistant coach while both of his sons went through the program. Although the team was mildly successful over his five years in the role, he remained unsure about his immediate future.

At the end of the season, Norman “Norm” Vandal, the commander of Shrewsbury’s American Legion post, gave Vaccaro the opportunity to become head coach. Still hesitant, Vaccaro decided to try it out for two years.

“He said if I didn’t take the team, we weren’t going to have a team,” Vaccaro said. “He said… it’s your team forever.”

During his 18-year tenure as head coach, Vaccaro has turned Shrewsbury Quaranta Post 397 into an American Legion baseball dynasty. Shrewsbury’s program is consistently among the best in the country. In the last six years, Post 397 has made it to three national World Series tournaments in Shelby, N.C. In 2022, Post 397 was one of the last four teams remaining, the first time a Massachusetts team qualified for the national semifinals since 1978.

“We built the team quickly. We made the playoffs, but we were always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” Vaccaro said about his early years at the helm. “The last 12 to 14 years we’ve been very good… We’re one of the best teams in Central Massachusetts, and I’m not afraid to say it. Everybody wants to beat us.”

In addition to the three World Series berths, Post 397 has won two Massachusetts state championships and Zone 4 — which includes Northborough Post 234, Leominster Post 151 and Milford Post 59 — 10 times.

Vaccaro has proven himself to be an excellent coach, but over the last 18 years he’s made an impact beyond the baseball diamond. When asked why he continues to lead Post 397, Vaccaro didn’t hesitate.

“I have a passion for it. I love the game. But, more importantly, I love watching young people develop. I like to win, but that’s not what it’s all about. Baseball is life — I say that to people — you need to take the ups and downs. It doesn’t always go your way… I try to give [players] life lessons; I try to equate baseball with running a business. I want quality people. I think we help keep kids clean. We provide role models,” he said.

And those aren’t just words. Vaccaro has been known to help his players find summertime employment. He estimated that at least eight Post 397 players he used to coach now work with him at Masis; that includes his two sons, who are both executives at the company.

Shrewsbury local and baseball legend is new Worcester Bravehearts owner
Shrewsbury Post 397 huddles before a 2023 game. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

There’s also the post-game meals.

“A big thing on our team is camaraderie,” said Vaccaro. “I like to take the boys out.”

Vaccaro shared one time —when the team was playing in the American Legion World Series — they visited a famous barbecue spot in North Carolina. Impressed after seeing the team compete, the restaurant footed Post 397’s over-$500 bill. All the team had to do was sign a baseball. It was a gesture that stuck with the team.

“[He’s] one of the greatest all-time human beings. One of the greatest advocates for baseball, Shrewsbury youth, and community…He’s everybody’s grandfather. He’s everybody’s dad. He’s just a special person,” Jeff Green, an assistant coach for Post 397, told the Community Advocate.

Vaccaro won’t let his family’s Bravehearts ownership get in the way of Post 397, which he plans to continue coaching for the near future. He’ll coach until he doesn’t have the passion for it anymore, he said, and that time doesn’t seem likely to come anytime soon.

“I’ve had the privilege of coaching thousands of young people… I don’t see myself stopping for the foreseeable future. As long as I keep the right people around me, I can keep on going. It’s a lot of work, but I have great coaches,” he said.

Back in his office now, Vaccaro glances at the wall, then turns and heads behind his desk. It’s a room full of curiosity and rich with history – between the caricatures, framed pictures and gifts accumulated throughout the years, his entire career in baseball can be pieced together. Vaccaro reemerges from behind his desk toting a maplewood bat.

“This is from a while ago, when we played in a wood-bat tournament,” he explains mid-swing.

If it’s not family, it’s business. If it’s not business, it’s baseball. And if it’s none of those three, it’s not Frank Vaccaro.

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