A 30-year-old New Jersey high school baseball coach has died suddenly from complications related to the coronavirus.
Ben Luderer, the coach of Cliffside Park, was the starting catcher for the 2008 Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, New, Jersey) baseball team that finished 33-0 and was crowned as national champions by multiple news organizations.
Cliffside Park superintendent Michael Romagnino informed members of the district Monday morning.
The death of Luderer has devastated the North Jersey athletics community.
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“He is irreplaceable,” Cliffside Park athletic director David Porfido said Monday morning. “This should be a wake-up call for everyone.”
That feeling was echoed by Greg Butler, Luderer’s high school coach at Don Bosco and current athletic director at New Jersey's Northern Valley/Demarest.
“The message I want to get out there is that this is a war against everyone,” Butler said. “Young people need to understand and take all the appropriate steps.”
Luderer was the linchpin of perhaps the best baseball team in North Jersey history. The Ironmen finished 33-0 and Luderer handled one of the best pitching staffs in the state while batting sixth in the lineup.
Butler recalled how talented that pitching staff was, but how it never would have been successful without Luderer’s attitude.
“He was a stabilizing force behind the plate,” Butler said. “That’s what I needed, and he was a phenomenal offensive player. He was one of the more clutch players we had the whole season. His bat stands out in my mind. He would come up with runners on base and always seemed to deliver.”
Luderer went on to play at Marist, one of seven players from that Ironmen team to sign with a Division I school. The fact that he became a coach strengthened his connection to Butler.
“I was very proud of Ben, he would call and ask me for some advice sometimes,” Butler said. “He was very confident in himself and I think he embraced the challenge of being at Cliffside Park. That’s why I admired him. It’s just unbelievable.”
Porfido had a prior relationship with Luderer from a previous job, and when he was hired as athletic director, he didn’t even know Luderer was the baseball coach.
“I’m touring the facilities in April and I hear this voice and I look over and there is Ben,” Porfido said. “I was so happy to see him.”
The Red Raiders baseball program had fallen on hard times, but Luderer’s enthusiasm and energy gave the program a much-needed jolt. Participation numbers were up, and expectations were high.
Porfido said Luderer’s contributions extended beyond the baseball field. He was always willing to volunteer to help out with another program, run the grill, be a site manager, anything to help with the athletic department. His wife is also a coach in the district.
Porfido informed the team of Luderer’s death Monday morning via a video call. Butler said Luderer had experienced some symptoms, went to the hospital, but was sent home because they presented as rather mild.
“The irony of this is he was on a team that finished undefeated and felt invincible,” Butler said. “That is the mindset of young coaches and young people right now. We have to learn from this tragedy.”
Darren Cooper is a high school sports columnist for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
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