As a freshman at Bishop Connolly High School in nearby Fall River, Mass., Scott Barboza ran two weeks’ worth of sprints during the preseason for the school’s freshman basketball team and promptly decided his career in sports was not going to be as a player.
This decision came despite his height. At 6-foot-5, he was convinced to play basketball from a young age.
“I was never really that interested in basketball,” said Barboza, who graduated from Emerson in Dec. 2005 with a bachelor’s in journalism. “But I always had a passion for sports and I knew I wanted to be a writer and tell stories.”
After taking odd jobs out of college and freelancing for different newspapers, Barboza landed a 30-hour-a-week gig covering local sports for the Taunton Daily Gazette — his first steady job in the journalism industry.
Barboza eventually received a full-time job from the paper, replacing a friend who left for an internship with the New England Patriots. Barboza left the Gazette in 2007 to take an internship in public relations that the same friend had just finished.
“I hadn’t really thought of a job in public relations,” said Barboza, “but it was with the Patriots, my hometown team. I remember watching them parade by from the Little Building when they won [back-to-back] Super Bowls [in 2003 and 2004]. The opportunity was too good to pass up.”
Barboza adjusted to the switch from journalism to public relations and was asked to stay on as a full-time media relations assistant when his internship was over.
He spent three years from 2007-2010 with the team, which included a trip to the Super Bowl in 2008, Barboza’s first year with the club. That game, played in Glendale, Ariz., saw New England’s bid for and undefeated season halted at 18-0, as the New York Giants pulled off a 17-14 upset over the high-scoring Patriots, in a game that’s considered an all-time NFL classic.
In the spring of 2010, Barboza’s boss with the Patriots, longtime vice president of media relations Stacey James, informed Barboza of an opportunity with ESPN Boston covering high school sports as a new addition to ESPN’s venture into providing targeted regional coverage.
From there, Barboza contacted ESPN Boston’s two editors, David Lefort and Peter Lawrence-Riddell, and he ended up scoring the job, teaming up with former Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram veteran Brendan Hall as co-editors. The two young sportswriters started the same day and were handed the keys to the entire operation.
Four years later, the ESPN Boston High Schools site, which covers all of Massachusetts and occasionally stories across New England, has gradually grown in popularity and is now among the most visited blogs on the entire ESPN Boston site.
As managers of the site, Barboza and Hall are relied on to do a bit of everything.
“We obviously [spend time] reporting and being part of the community,” Barboza said, “but the real priority is arranging the site, editing copy from our correspondents, making sure they get paid, getting photography; pretty much the only thing left to ESPN is the HTML.”
A typical day on the job includes anything from editing and checking the website to chatting with fans at an important game.
According to Hall, much of the success of the program has to do with the compatibility of the two as co-workers.
“Scott is a great cultivator of ideas,” said Hall, who Barboza calls his contemporary and best friend. “We’ve got great chemistry and great creative flair; we’re like two peas in a pod.”
That chemistry is essential right now, as the two co-editors are preparing for the busiest few weeks of the year — Hall predominantly covering the state basketball tournament and Barboza, an avid hockey fan, doing the same for the high school hockey playoffs, which span nearly a month from Feb. 24 to March 16.
“I’m like a nocturnal creature this time of year,” Barboza said. “These tournament hockey games are always at night, and once you come home from the rink it’s time to write and put the story together.”
Barboza’s most memorable game since starting his latest venture came at the TD Garden during tournament season in 2011, when Marshfield came back to beat Wakefield, 3-2, in the Division 1 state title game after Marshfield had lost its star player to an injury earlier on.
“A lot of times you get caught up in the emotion of these kids,” Barboza said. “To be there for something like that, you really can’t script it.”
When this year’s state championship game concludes, the site will quickly transition to lacrosse and baseball coverage in the spring.
Now, fully acclimated to the unusual hours and long nights that come with managing the only active ESPN regional high school site in the country, Barboza says he is happy where he is and thankful for the help and fortune it took to get there.
“Sometimes the work is pretty stressful, but you get through it,” he said. “I don’t want to be cliche here, but the way everything fell into place, I feel blessed to be doing this.”