Distinguished Achievement Award | For Massarotti, it all started on the Hill
After receiving award, sportswriter reminisces
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 07:10
Twenty−three years ago, a pair of great Boston sportswriters sat down for a meeting in the Mayer Campus Center. One was longtime Boston Herald columnist Tim Horgan (LA ’49). The other was Tony Massarotti (LA ’89) — though he didn’t know it yet.
A senior at the time, Massarotti was simply hoping that someone would give him a chance. At their meeting, he showed Horgan — for whom the Athletics Department’s award for student sportswriting is now named — a couple of clips, including one from a high school hockey game. Not long after that, Horgan helped him land a job answering phones at the Herald.
And the rest is history.
“I would love to tell you that this was all some sort of grand plan, but it wasn’t,” Massarotti told Tufts athletes in Cohen Auditorium last Friday night. “I just took the first job that I thought I wanted, and it has led me to this particular place.”
It’s led him to 15 years covering the Red Sox for the Herald, a column in the Boston Globe, a radio show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, four books and two Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year awards.
On Friday, it led him back to where it all began to accept the Athletics Departments annual Distinguished Achievement Award.
“I look at some of the recipients on the list, and I think — Red Auerbach, Joan Benoit, Nancy Kerrigan, John Hannah — which one of these doesn’t belong?” Massarotti told the Daily after the ceremony. “Those people are all accomplished athletes or executives. All I ever did was really write about it and talk about it incessantly.”
Though he was a writer for all four of his years at Tufts, Massarotti devoted much of his speech on Friday to self−detrimental stories about his baseball career, which consisted of two years on the JV squad with limited success.
Coach John Casey, who introduced Massarotti at the ceremony, had high hopes for Tony after watching his older sister, Norma (E ’82), excel in track and field. But Tony was no Norma.
“Here I am in my third year of coaching going, ‘Oh, yeah, her little brother — this kid’s gonna be like Deion Sanders!’” Casey joked in his speech. “Well, after seeing Tony play a couple of times, that notion was quickly dispelled.”
His sophomore season, Massarotti competed with freshman Matt Guanci (LA ’90) for the varsity shortstop position. Guanci, it turned out, was an excellent player, and after beating out Massarotti for the starting job, he became a tri−captain of the 1990 team that went 21−9 and reached the ECAC New Englands.
By the end of his sophomore year, Massarotti knew he didn’t have a future at shortstop for the brown and blue. Still, he’ll never forget what Casey told him after the season.
“He said, ‘Look, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: Guanci’s a better player than you,’” Massarotti said. “‘But if you want to stay here and play baseball and be on this team, as far as I’m concerned, you can stay as long as you want because of what you give me in practice every day.’”
To Massarotti, that was the ultimate compliment. His final at−bat as a Jumbo was a single to snap a 0−for−25 slump, though that’s not what really mattered.
“Some of my best friends still are guys that I played baseball with at Tufts,” he said. “I forged relationships here that will exist for the rest of my life.”
Still, where Massarotti truly excelled was in the basement of Curtis Hall. As a freshman, he began writing for the Daily, and by the first semester of his sophomore year, he was the editor of the sports section.
Massarotti had considered attending journalism school, but Tufts offered him everything he’d need.
“Back then, participation was an issue, so there was great opportunity there for someone like me to jump right in and start writing,” he said.
By the time he arrived on the Hill, Massarotti had started an internship at ABC 5 in Needham, Mass., where sports anchor Mike Lynch took him under his wing. For the Daily, he covered Tufts football and had a weekly column, and as an English and classics major, he was pushed to refine his writing.