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Pete Sheppard, once a staple on WEEI, is still talking sports on Florida radio

Radio host Pete Sheppard, formerly of WEEI in Boston, has been working in Florida for nearly six years.Courtesy Pete Sheppard

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Upon arriving here a few days ago to take a turn in the rotation covering the Red Sox, I turned the key in my rental car (a sweet, sweet Corolla, humblebrag) and the radio started up in concert with the engine.

I instantly recognized a very familiar voice talking about sports in a familiar time slot, but in an unfamiliar place. It was almost jarring enough to make me wonder whether the plane I’d just deboarded was some sort of time machine.

The voice belonged to Pete Sheppard, the boisterous former host and “SportsFlash” anchor at WEEI who was best known for his role on the highly-rated, Glenn Ordway-helmed “The Big Show” in afternoon drive in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.


Now, I’d known Sheppard was cohosting an afternoon drive program in Florida, even had heard him once or twice during a visit to spring training a couple of years ago. But it was still stunning to hear that bullhorn voice roughly 1,500 miles and a decade past expecting to hear it.

“It is funny how it’s all worked out,’’ said Sheppard on Tuesday. “I’ll have been down here six years fulltime as of April 1. But I still hear from Boston fans all the time who remember something from the WEEI days. Sometimes it feels like a long time ago and sometimes it doesn’t at all.”

He cohosts the 2-6 p.m. weekday program with Craig Shemon — like Sheppard, a 36-year veteran of sports radio — on ESPN Southwest Florida. Sheppard’s New England fandom is ingrained in the program, and Boston personalities such as The Sports Hub’s Scott Zolak and Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell make occasional appearances.

The show can’t have on current WEEI personalities as guests. The station is owned by Beasley Media, which owns 98.5 The Sports Hub. WEEI is owned by Audacy.


But Sheppard does have one of his former WEEI co-workers on regularly, in a role that helps demonstrate the differences between sports radio in Boston and Florida. Jon Meterparel, who was the third voice on “Dennis and Callahan” at the same time Sheppard was a staple on “The Big Show,’’ has a regular Wednesday appearance on “Shemon and Sheppard.”

And what do they talk about? Mac Jones’s grip on the Patriots’ quarterback job, perhaps? Whether Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla is ready for the bright lights of the playoffs? The Bruins’ perhaps unprecedented dominance?

A little bit. But mostly? Deep dives into the latest happenings in Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.

During Meterparel’s appearance this past Wednesday, that night’s North Carolina-Boston College men’s basketball matchup was the primary topic.

Every major professional sports league in North America would have to have folded for a college basketball conference tournament game to be discussed at length on Boston sports radio.

“It’s the diversity of what we get to talk about that I love more than anything about doing sports radio down here,’’ said Sheppard, who famously quit WEEI on the air in 2013, but was in the station’s good graces when he left the market a few years later.

“We have our Florida contingency down here, our Northeast contingency, we have what I call a Big Ten contingency — there are more Ohio State fans down here than you would believe,’’ said Sheppard. “We talk a ton of football — college football is the most popular sport in the country after the NFL — but it’s never really the same subject.”


During his time at WEEI, Sheppard once got so fed up with the Red Sox that he declared that he was a Yankees fan. It was clearly a bit, but Sheppard says that it’s important to him that opinions on his current show are authentic.

“I don’t believe in fake opinions and contrarianism,’’ he says. “There’s nothing worse than fake radio.”

Sheppard says he no longer listens to Boston sports radio, but sees occasional headlines on Twitter about what the shows are discussing.

“I saw Greg Hill [WEEI’s current morning host] show up on my Twitter thing and one of the topics of the show was, ‘Has Mazzulla worn out his welcome?’ ’’ said Sheppard. ‘’Are you crazy? The Celtics just went to overtime with the Cavaliers [on Monday night] without three starters. Yeah, sure, Grant Williams should have hit the free throws [he missed a pair in a tie game with 0.8 seconds left in regulation], but jeez, that’s the [expletive] I do not miss.”

Sheppard chuckles and reveals more context on why this is his take.

“Mazzulla went to my high school [Bishop Hendricken in Rhode Island],’’ he says. “I love Joe. So I might be a little biased there.”

Will Middlebrooks a cut above the rest

Will Middlebrooks, good natured and still plugged in to the game, has acquitted himself well in the NESN Red Sox broadcast booth this spring. He’ll be the Sox’ best analyst before this season is done. Middlebrooks, who was part of the studio programming last year, still raves about the opportunity to make his debut in the booth late last season with the now-retired Dennis Eckersley and play-by-play voice Dave O’Brien. “Eck was so good at this, so passionate about baseball and being a great broadcaster, for such a long time,’’ said Middlebrooks. “I think about how fun it was to get the chance to work with him a lot.” … Interesting to note that the majority of stories on MLB.com refer not to a “pitch clock,’’ but to a “pitch timer.” The pitch clock — hey, that’s what it is — has instantly made the game a better television product, but Major League Baseball appears sensitive to the notion that the game now adheres to a clock. It shouldn’t fret. Even George Carlin would be cool with this change.


Chad Finn can be reached at chad.finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.