In the 1990s, there was no better pair of baseball-playing brothers than the Eusebio brothers of Hoboken High School.
Ralph Eusebio was a fine hitting, slick fielding outfielder for the Red Wings, who went on to Brevard Junior College in Florida, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1993 and spent two years in the Cubs’ organization.
Younger brother Mike Eusebio was next. He was a fine infielder for the Red Wings and followed in his brother’s footsteps by heading to Brevard.
But the younger Eusebio’s life changed dramatically when he was clocked at 94 miles per hour on the speed gun and instantly became a pitcher, signing as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds and spending two years in the Reds’ organization. Mike Eusebio also pitched with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.
When their playing careers ended, the Eusebio brothers returned home and became coaches and instructors in their hometown, coaching youngsters on all levels.
“I always wanted to give back to kids,” said Ralph Eusebio, now 40 years old and a 10-year member of the Hoboken Fire Department. “I’d always go back home to coach.”
Mike Eusebio would find time to help kids when he wasn’t working full-time in the business world, doing human resources work.
“I always want to see kids get better,” said Mike Eusebio, now 34 years old.
Both brothers did a little bit of personal work with aspiring baseball players, giving tutoring lessons here and there.
However, things changed dramatically a little more than a year ago, when Ralph Eusebio was introduced to Union City resident Raf Hernandez, a former standout in modified fast pitch softball.
“I was doing some work at Garett Teel’s Baseball Center in Wyckoff,” Ralph Eusebio explained. “I saw that Raf was doing some work with softball players there and he told me about this idea he had.”
Hernandez had hopes of building a comprehensive baseball facility in Hudson County.
“I had a concept of having something here,” Hernandez said. “It was three years in the making.”
After receiving some financial backing from Larry Doby Jr., the son of the Hall of Fame great from Paterson who was the second African-American player to ever play major league baseball, Hernandez found a prime location in Union City on 23rd Street and Summit Avenue to fulfill his dream, building the Hudson Baseball Center.
It’s not just a place with batting cages. It’s a 5,000-square foot facility that can be converted to fit all different kinds of baseball needs.
“The concept here was to emphasize instruction,” Hernandez said. “It was all about the quality of the instruction.”
So Hernandez did the first best thing by latching on to the two baseball brothers from Hoboken.
“Raf said it was up to him to find a location and it was up to us to do the rest,” Ralph Eusebio said.
Mike Eusebio quickly said farewell to the business world and became a full-time instructor at HBC.
“I was very excited about it,” Mike Eusebio said. “To finally have a location here in Hudson County where we could teach was a blessing. I had no idea what Raf’s vision was, but when I got to see it, I was amazed. This was all Raf’s vision.”
The Hudson Baseball Center is not a simple hitting facility like most others in New Jersey.
“We wanted to be separated from the traditional batting cage,” Ralph Eusebio said. “We offer instruction in all aspects of the game.”
Ralph Eusebio handles most of the hitting and outfield instruction.
“We do a lot of work off the tee and front tossing,” Ralph Eusebio said. “We focus on mechanics. I don’t care how hard the ball is hit or where it’s going. It’s more about mechanics. I also do outfield work, how to pick up the ball coming off the bat, how to get in position to throw.”
Ralph also does work with base running.
“One of my favorite things to talk about is base running, how to read the pitchers, how to get good leads,” Ralph Eusebio said.
His younger brother does work with infield defense and pitching.
“I was always an infielder growing up and then I became a pitcher,” Mike Eusebio said. “Playing the infield was my bread and butter. When I became a pitcher, that’s when I started to study pitching. I learned about balance, mechanics, extension. I became a student of the game in pro ball.”
Mike Eusebio likes to use videos to help with the instruction.
“I like to compare to guys in the big leagues,” Mike Eusebio said. “Not every pitcher is the same, but there are some common things you can pick up. When I first started pitching, I had no idea what I was doing. I just threw hard. It’s easier for me to explain now.”
Ralph Eusebio said that he learned a lot from his younger brother. Mike Eusebio always looked up to his older brother and picked up on what he did. Together now, they form a lethal teaching combination.
“They’re not just great players,” Hernandez said. “They are great instructors.”
The Hudson Baseball Center opened earlier this year and already, HBC has been a workout facility for such high school baseball teams as Weehawken, Marist, North Bergen, Dickinson, Ferris and Hoboken and softball teams like North Bergen, Union City, St. Dominic Academy, McNair Academic, Secaucus and Hudson Catholic.
Former Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year Ashley Barron, who was a three-sport standout at Hoboken, is an instructor in softball, along with Hernandez.
Individuals are also coming to the HBC to get lessons from the talented group of teachers. The private lessons are usually limited to 40 minutes, because the students tend to get fatigued with anything longer.
But the HBC is a reality. It’s still in its infant stages, but it’s gaining steam locally.
“It really is a dream come true,” Mike Eusebio said. “It’s in our backyard. We’re working with local kids and I’m lucky to get the chance to work with my brother. It’s fun to get to see the kids develop.”
The rates are reasonable, far less expensive than what is offered in other facilities in northern New Jersey.
“You can’t get that anywhere else,” Ralph Eusebio said.
“Everything is done with a purpose,” Mike Eusebio said. “We give kids a scenario in baseball that they have to deal with, like there’s two outs and a runner on first. They have to do what you should do in that scenario.”
There isn’t a lot of memorabilia from the Eusebio brothers donning the walls. The only person honored on the walls is the Hall of Famer Doby, whose jersey hangs near the entrance, and a few of his bats. The others honored there are the students, their accomplishments and achievements, like All-County honorees or students like West New York’s Justin Willis, recently selected to participate in Team USA’s Olympic Development program.
“It’s all about them,” Mike Eusebio said. “It’s not about us anymore.”
But it helps that two of the main instructors are former pro ballplayers, who still teach with a hands-on mentality.
“We can still demonstrate what we’re teaching,” Ralph Eusebio said.
“The quality of instruction is the big factor here,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully, we can make this place grow.”
It looks like they’re already on their way.
If anyone wants to see a closer look at the Hudson Baseball Center, log on to www.hudsonbaseballcenter.com or stop by and take a look at the impressive facilities. You can call (201) 766-6072. It’s definitely a diamond in the rough right on Summit and 23rd in Union City…
EXTRA INNINGS focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area, from Little League action through travel leagues.
If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by phone at (201) 303-5792, by general mail at 1400 Washington Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.
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Please include a telephone contact name and number, in order to secure further information for a possible story. Also, if you have a picture to be used with the story, that would be a great help….--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.