STRATFORD—Bob Mastroni remembers the early days of walking down the hill to the athletic fields behind Bunnell High School.
“It was a mudhole,” Mastroni recalled. “You know what? My kids would be on the field picking out glass. It was a horrible place.”
But it was always home.
On Friday night, before the Bunnell Bulldogs kicked off their 2019 high school football season against Joel Barlow, that plot of land was named after Mastroni.
Bunnell dedicated “Mastroni Field” to the longtime Bulldogs football coach and also officially named the Wojnarowski Family Field House, which sits adjacent to the southeastern end zone.
“This is the culmination of my whole career,” said Mastroni, who spent 10 years coaching at Fairfield Prep before coaching 24 years at Bunnell. “It’s beyond anything I ever anticipated. This is an unbelievable honor for me and I’m very proud of it.”
Mastroni grew up in Stratford and graduated from Stratford High School.
“I’ve always lived here,” he said. “I’ll die here and I’ll be buried here.”
When he was coaching at Fairfield Prep, he said to himself that the only job he’d ever take was the Bunnell job.
“I thought if I ever had a chance to be a head coach, the only school I was interested in was Bunnell,” Mastroni said. “I just liked the kids. I thought it would be a good fit and when the job opened I took a shot. I never thought I’d get it. I was surprised when I got it.”
It was 1977 and, upon his arrival, Mastroni knew he’d never leave.
“This was home,” he said. “I never looked anywhere else.”
In his 24 years at the helm of the Bunnell program, Mastroni’s teams went 152-90-3 and won four conference championships.
“I knew there would be times when I’d have leans years because you never know what’s coming down the hill,” Mastroni said. “My feeling was I’d be here for the good years and the bad years. I’d stick it out.”
In the year 2000, though, health issues forced Mastroni away from the sidelines.
“I always told my players I’d give them everything I had, but I asked for the same in return,” he said. “Health issues became paramount and I couldn’t give everything I had, so I stepped down.”
In nearly a quarter-century, though, Mastroni left his mark not just at Bunnell but on the town’s entire athletic scene.
“Bob is beloved by everybody here at Bunnell,” athletic director Wayne Thrall said. “He’s somebody who I believe is genuinely in coaching and education for the right reasons, to help the students.
“He’s made such an impact within the community that it was clear to us (the naming committee) he was really deserving of this honor,” Thrall added.
Mastroni will be the first to tell you, though, he didn’t do it alone.
“It was a combination of great coaches, and players and families,” Mastroni said. “That’s what made it possible. No one person could ever do it.”
One of those families—The Wojnarowski Family—have always been vital to Bunnell athletics and they shared the stage with Mastroni.
Back in the mid-1980s, when the Bunnell Field House was built, the Wojnarowski’s led the charge.
“Their sons all came up playing athletics here at Bunnell and Jack and Arlene were heavily involved in the Bunnell Booster Club,” Thrall said. “When the discussions began of the need for a field house, they stepped up and led the charge getting it built.”
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