Ben Luderer, the head baseball coach at Cliffside Park and a member of the 2008 Don Bosco Prep team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation, died Monday from complications of the coronavirus.
Luderer, 30, was remembered as a key member of a national championship baseball team and an up-and-coming head coach by his former high school coaches Monday.
“It’s a shocking loss,” said Greg Butler the head coach of the 2008 Don Bosco team and now the athletic director at Demarest. “Even the invincible aren’t invincible. That was a group of guys who could not be beaten, then something like this happens and shows just how vulnerable we all are.
He was a healthy, strong, athletic, 30-year-old head coach.”
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Luderer was a special education teacher at School No. 6 (middle school) in Cliffside Park.
“He is irreplaceable,” said Cliffside Park athletic director David Porfido. “I cried all morning.”
Porfido said he informed players of Luderer’s death via video conference on Monday.
“We all live by rulebooks and manuals, but there was nothing for this,” Porfido said. “When I told the kids there was nothing but silence.”
Luderer went to the hospital last Friday when he felt symptoms consistent with coronavirus, according to Porfido, but he was sent home.
“I was told things went bad on Sunday night,” Porfido said. “He died at his home.”
Luderer played his college baseball at Marist. He was one of seven Division I players on a Don Bosco team that went 33-0. At Marist, he also met his wife Brandy, who coaches volleyball and basketball at Cliffside Park.
“We were playing in the county championship game in 2006 and we had the game wrapped up,” said former Don Bosco head coach Leon Matthews. “Ben was only a sophomore and I wanted to put him in the game. He turned to me and said ‘coach, let the senior finish it up.’
He was selfless. You don’t forget a kid like that.”
During the historic 2008 season, Luderer was given the job of catching and managing one of New Jersey’s premier pitching staffs. The two aces were left-hander Eric Pfisterer and righty Eric Dennhardt.
Pfisterer went on to pitch at Duke and was a 15th round draft choice of the Cincinnati Reds as a senior. Dennhardt went to Boston College and also played in the Reds organization.
“I needed him to control that pitching staff,” Butler said. “You needed to be a heck of catcher to handle their stuff and work the game.
“His senior year he hit in the six-hole for us and I don’t think he went into a slump all season. It seemed like he had a clutch RBI in every game.”
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“With Ben you never had to coach effort,” Matthews said. “Ben was a little round when he came to us as a freshman from River Dell. But he got himself in shape and he worked on everything. He loved practice. He was one of those first-to-arrive, last-to-leave kind of kids.”
Matthews, who coached Luderer his first three seasons at Don Bosco and in travel ball, said he was on his way to becoming an outstanding coach.
“He loved coaching, he loved teaching and making kids better,” Matthews said. “It gave me chills to watch him coach.
“I can only imagine what kind of loss this is for the kids in the Cliffside Park program. There are a lot of guys who don’t pour their hearts into the kids. I watched him and he taught every kid the same from his best players to those who were on his bench.
“He was going to be a great coach,” Matthews added.
Butler, who also directs the Bergen County Tournament, said Cliffside Park was on its way back to becoming prominent.
“When I was a kid, Cliffside Park was a good program, but in recent years it fell off the rails,” Butler said. “He helped bring that program back to respectability. I was excited to see it.”
Ben preached education-based athletics,” Porfido said. “He learned Spanish so he could communicate better with some of our kids and their parents. He related to our kids in any way possible. Ben did a tremendous job of getting our program to the next level. We have two juniors who signed letters of intent and two seniors going to play in college.
“He was a friend to everybody and just a tremendous person to be around. It’s just horrible.”