If you’ve played high school sports in Franklin or Hampshire County for the past 40 years, there’s a good chance Jeff Tirrell has officiated your game.
After all, Tirrell has broadcast high school sports in the area since 1987, with his 37th broadcast expected next fall.
Tirrell currently credits games for Bear Country 95.3 FM and his work has not gone unnoticed. He was recently informed that the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association had named him this year’s media award recipient.
Tirrell will be honored at the organization’s Hall of Fame Banquet at the Westborough Double Tree Hotel on April 30.
“It always feels good to be appreciated,” Tirrell said. “I try to do my job as well as possible. Getting recognition from an organization or an individual fan who loves my work always feels great.”
Tirrell was selected for the award for his dedication and help in growing the game of football.
“Jeff’s involvement with Massachusetts high school sports, and high school football in particular, has helped generate much excitement throughout western Massachusetts,” the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association said in a statement.
The award came as a surprise to Tirrell. He received a call from a committee member, but initially thought he was getting a call to talk about Greenfield’s athletic director and football coach Mike Kuchieski, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame himself this year.
Instead, they called to tell him he’d won the media award, something he didn’t even know existed.
“I received a call from one of the board members of the State Football Association Hall of Fame,” Tirrell said. “Someone out here nominated me, a coach, but I’m not sure who. These recipients are typically from the eastern half of the state. It’s not often someone from here out here [in Western Mass.] is honored. My name came up, they asked other coaches and they must have said nice things for me to get the award.
“I had heard about Mike [being selected for induction] but I had no idea they had a media award,” Tirrell added. “This guy calls me and I didn’t connect the dots right away. I thought he was talking about Mike and wanted it published. He told me they had a media award and that I was accepted as this year’s award winner. It was the definition of something out of left field. It was totally unexpected and wasn’t something I was striving for. It just happened, which is the best surprise.”
Tirrell will be joined by Kuchieski at the Hall of Fame banquet in April, both being honored on the day. It’s all the more special for Tirrell, who grew up with the greenfield coach.
“It’s so cool that Mike Kuchieski is inducted on the same day,” Tirrell said. “We went through elementary school, junior high school and high school together. I’ve been broadcasting his games for years. I’m very happy for him and he deserves it.”
While Tirrell will attend the banquet with his wife, he will miss one of his greatest supporters.
His mother, Shirley Tirrell, died on February 21, but was able to learn that her son had won the media award before her death.
“I’m going to go there with my wife and in a way I’m going to bring my mother,” Tirrell said. “She has always been my biggest supporter and fan of my career. She knew about this before she died and I will acknowledge her tonight. This poor woman had to deal with me practicing play-by-play on a recorder in front of the TV while she just wanted to relax and watch a movie. She saw how passionate I was about it and always supported me. It’s sad that she’s gone. She’s been such a huge support of me, and in this case my career, in every way.”
If you broadcast games for 37 years, you see pretty much everything on the field or court. That applies to Tirrell, who has many memories of his time in the dressing room.
Tirrell recalled calling out the teams of Mike Duprey at Greenfield and the Chris Lapointe era at Turners Falls, but the one game that caught his eye? Seeing Peter Bergeron and Greenfield defeat Longmeadow in 1995.
“I’ve seen so many great football teams,” Tirrell said. “One game that really stands out was the greatest athlete I’ve ever broadcast in Peter Bergeron. Playing against bigger schools in the Suburban League, Greenfield had a showdown against Longmeadow in which Peter scored six touchdowns – including the game winner with nine seconds left – to win 42-37. That game Greenfield won the Suburban League. There are times when Shawn Huburt and I walk out of the dressing room feeling like we’ve played the game because we’re physically and emotionally drained from the twists and turns of the game. That was one of them.”
Tirrell has had his partner Hubert at his side since 1991 in the football broadcast. The two will play their 500th game together sometime next fall, a milestone few can match.
How long will Tirrell keep doing this? If it was up to him, there would be 500 more football games in his future.
“It blows my mind that we’re close to hitting 500 games,” Tirrell said. “I will try to continue as best as I can if my health allows it. I’ve had some health issues over the past few years, but now things have changed for the better. If health wants, I’ll keep this thing going.”