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From the Bench: Gooch Holbert to Miss First Game in 25 Years Friday and He's Endorsed his Replacement

By Jeff Toquinto on September 16, 2018 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Bridgeport High School’s football team is laced in tradition. Nothing at all groundbreaking there.
 
From long-tenured coaches using the same schemes and variations of it for decades that has led to decades of winning and state championships along the way all the way to the sideline personnel and voices in the press box, familiarity has bred success at BHS. Part of that tradition will be missing this coming Friday.
 
In what is among the most anticipated or is the most anticipated games of the football season, the Indians public address announcer Gooch Holbert won’t be on hand. You heard that correctly.
 
When the Indians battle Robert C. Byrd this coming Friday, Holbert won’t be on hand. In fact, he won’t be on hand for what will be the 2018 homecoming contest.
 
For the first time 25 years – that’s a quarter of a century to you numerically challenged folks – Holbert’s seat will be filled by someone else. The good news is that there isn’t an illness or a family emergency forcing his absence from the game.
 
Instead, Holbert will be away at a wedding. His son Adam Holbert will be marrying Chelsea Shoff the evening of Friday, Sept. 21. Of course, that takes precedent.
 
Even if he had any doubts about finding a way to get around it – and he has zero doubts – he has another obligation beyond father of the groom. He’s going to serve as the minister for the wedding.
 
My daughter-in-law asked me if I would perform the service,” said Holbert. “I don’t know if there’s anything more humbling.”
 
For those why they didn’t know about Holbert being ordained, there’s a reason for it. It just recently happened.
 
“I guess a lot of people’s reaction would be ‘that I can’t do that.’ Turns out I could so I went ahead and became ordained,” said Holbert. “I know it’s a big game, but things are in good hands.”
 
Indeed they are. Yet, here’s the irony. Holbert has been doing the public address announcing at BHS varsity football games longer than his one-game replacement has been on the earth.
 
And for those who are close followers of all Bridgeport sports, you know who it is. BHS senior Caden Shmigalsky not only take over the microphone, but will do so in arguably the biggest game of the year.
 
For those wondering who Shmigalsky is, if you’ve taken in boys and girls basketball games at BHS for the past few seasons he’s the young man doing the PA work there. He’s also does soccer and has dabbled in football before too.
 
“I’ve done junior varsity and freshman football, but I haven’t done any football at the varsity level,” said Shmigalsky. “This is a huge leap because it will likely be a big crowd and a big opportunity. I know there’s pressure to do well, but I’m going to be prepared.”
 
Here’s the thing. I’m certain he will be. And not because he’s a likable young man.
 
Shmigalsky is a regular in the press box. I’ve watched him stand by Gooch Holbert and get tips and take pointers from Travis Jones and soak it all in. He did that BEFORE he ever knew he’d be filling in for Holbert.
 
“I’ve listened to Gooch for several years and being next to him at games you can see who consistent he is,” said Shmigalsky. “I’ll do what Gooch does and that’s keep everything short and sweet. Travis has always told me that less is more and I’ve always remembered that. You also have to keep the energy going and keep the focus on the game and not on yourself.”
 
Shmigalsky speaks as if he’s been around the block on the microphone. In a sense, based on his time with the other sports, he has. Yet, it makes one wonder how does a youngster who is still in school not only get to call varsity and other sports and never receive complaints about his effort.
 
“I love sports and my father takes me to a lot of Steelers games and that’s where I got the love for wanting to do this,” said Shmigalsky. “I heard Larry Richard on the PA and thought that would be cool and that’s how I got the interest.”
 
He got a break when long-time BHS basketball public address announcer and former BHS teacher Richard Bailey missed games due to illness. Shmigalsky got the call and that opened the door.
 
“(Principal) Mr. (Matt) DeMotto called me into the office and asked me if I was interested in doing it when Mr. Bailey was ill,” said Shmigalsky. “I just couldn’t believe it because it was something I wanted to do and now I had the opportunity.”
 
Now, he will call the game Friday night. Barring inclement weather, it will likely be the biggest crowd at Jamison Field all season long.
 
“I’m excited for it and doing some soccer and then moving up to the basketball games has given me the confidence to do it and have some fun,” said Shmigalsky, who plans to go to Fairmont State University and major in business with a minor in communications or finance.
 
For those thinking that’s the end of the road when the seasons conclude in 2019, they would be wrong. Shmigalsky plans on staying put if possible.
 
“I’ve already told Mr. DeMotto that after I graduate from high school I’m not going to leave and he was fine with me continuing,” said Shmigalsky. “Maybe after graduating it will get easier because I catch myself getting excited at basketball games and other sports. I don’t plan to get caught up in things (on Friday).”
 
The really cool thing about the son of Todd Shmigalsky and Christy Kirkwood is that Gooch Holbert knew where to turn. And for someone who has managed a task for 25 years, he didn’t take it lightly.
 
“He was the first person I thought of,” said Holbert, who said he’s let Shmigalsky announce band and a few other things at Friday games. “Sure he’s a good kid, but he does a good job and is always trying to learn. That impressed me when it happened the first time and it still impresses me. If you need to tell him something he listens.”
 
This Thursday will be the last time for one of those lessons. Holbert and Shmigalsky will meet to go over everything to make sure the game goes off smoothly for the fans.
 
“It’s nice to listen to someone like Gooch. He’s done this for a long time. I’d be stupid not to listen and try to have a great game where the fans get what they need and that’s the basic information,” said Shmigalsky.
 
I’m sure they will. The voice may change on Friday night, but the delivery should be the same. And it is good news knowing a legend like Gooch Holbert has a pinch hitter on deck whenever he’s needed.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Gooch Holbert calling the recent East Fairmont game, while Caden Shmigalsky is shown doing halftime work at the same contest. Shmigalsky is shown in the third photo, while the tools of the trade are shown below. Top two photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.


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