Jersey City lost one of its best volunteer coaches, when Charlie Straub died last week at the age of 70.
Straub was a fixture at both Pershing Field and Dickinson High School sporting events. He was a long-time coach for both the Pershing Field Little League and Babe Ruth League. He donated his time to help his friend Harvey Zucker organize the Jersey City Recreation Stars of Tomorrow program back in the 1980s and 90s. Straub was also the long-time scorekeeper for Dickinson basketball games under the eyes of former head coach Bill “Red” Drennan.
I once joked with Straub that he was everywhere in the Jersey City Heights – and he was able to do so without a driver’s license or a car. Every time I went to Pershing Field, Straub was there. Every time I walked into the gym at Dickinson, Straub was there. He also found himself at many St. Anthony basketball games as well over the years. The man was everywhere.
He also had a penchant for eating hot dogs. Every time he was spotted eating something, it was more than likely a hot dog.
His friends and colleagues mourned his loss.
“He was a coach in Pershing Field for 53 years,” said Zucker, one of the managing editors at the Jersey Journal and Straub’s best friend. “All he thought about were the kids of Jersey City and Pershing Field. He lived for them. When he fell and couldn’t go, that broke his heart. I’ll always remember his smile. There wasn’t a person who knew him who didn’t love him. He was always there for you. It was tough losing the Faa [Ed “The Faa” Ford, who died three years ago] and it’s tough losing Charlie.”
Jersey City Recreation supervisor and Pershing Field director Joe Napolitano, Jr. also has fond memories of Straub.
“Charlie was a fixture here at Pershing Field,” Napolitano said. “As we all got older, we found people that he coached that he was now coaching their kids. He was a sponsor in our league. It’s just a sad day.”
Napolitano said that he will always remember Straub’s love of music.
“He had a knack of turning everything into a song,” Napolitano said. “No matter what it was, Charlie would make a song out of it. The song would come out of nowhere. There were crazy songs. He always gave kids funny nicknames and called them by those names.”
Napolitano said that Straub had a special way of beginning any fundraising events that Pershing Field Little League or Babe Ruth League would host.
“He would sing, ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ every time,” Napolitano said. “He was just a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. He loved going to the movies. He must have seen 100 movies a year. He’s definitely going to be missed. I spoke to him last week and he was making plans to come back and see the kids play this summer. Jersey City suffered a great loss. The Faa is going to give Charlie good company wherever they are.”
Ferris head baseball coach Mike Hogan knew Straub for more than 40 years.
“There aren’t too many Charlie Straubs around anymore,” Hogan said. “Not many who put the time and effort into it. He just gave and gave and gave to kids, then gave some more. You can’t put a number on the amount of kids he helped and coached. Charlie was always there. He knew what he was doing as a coach and I don’t know many who are like that, who don’t have a kid in the league or whatever. You’re also not going to find anyone who could say a bad thing about Charlie. I never once saw him mad. He’s definitely going to be missed.”
No question, Straub was one of a kind and will be impossible to replace. The kids from the Jersey City Heights will never be the same without him…
On a happier note, former North Bergen High School pitching ace Gianni Zayas was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 29th round of the recent Major League Baseball First-Year Amateur Free Agent draft.
However, after speaking to Zayas, it appears as if he’s not going to sign a professional contract, at least not right away.
“I’m not sure yet,” said Zayas, who will spend the summer playing in the famed Cape Cod Baseball League for the Orleans Firebirds. “I haven’t decided. I talked to a lot of teams that were interested in me. I told them all I had a dollar figure in mind that I wanted to sign.”
Zayas first went to North Carolina State in 2012, but only pitched two innings there. He transferred to Seminole State Junior College in Florida last year and had a great season there, gaining the attention of pro scouts again when he topped 96 miles per hour on the Juggs speed gun.
Zayas said that the Cubs will continue to monitor him through the summer on the Cape.
“They will see if I perform well and whether they will give me what I want,” said Zayas, whose older brother, Gil, was a former pro baseball player and coach at North Bergen. “But of course, I’m excited to get drafted. It’s what every kid dreams of.”
Zayas continues a trend as he is the first Hudson County product to get selected in the MLB Draft since Jersey City native Fabian Roman was taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the 16th round of the 2013 Draft.
Zayas is the first North Bergen product to be taken in the draft since Damien Seguen was taken by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 46th round of the 2007 MLB Draft.
North Bergen head coach Patrick Brady was pleased to hear of Zayas’ selection.
“I’m extremely proud of him,” Brady said. “Getting a kid drafted doesn’t happen too often in Hudson County. It’s a great moment for our program. Gianni has matured over the last two years and he’s learned a great work ethic. Just the way he’s developed and changed makes me a proud guy walking around the hallways of North Bergen High.”…
The Emerson High School Alumni Association honored 12 Union City High School seniors with scholarships at their annual awards dinner last week.
According to the organization’s president Nick “Whizzer” Mastorelli, the group of scholarship recipients is one of the finest ever.
“They are a tremendous group of kids,” said Mastorelli, who does a remarkable job fundraising even though Emerson High School no longer exists. “We’re proud of all of them.”
The honorees are cross country runner George Adorno, football standout David Allen, swimmer and tennis player Joel Almonte, track standout Stephanie Cuaycong, soccer standouts Diego Fernandez and Laura Florez, soccer and basketball player Claudia Gomez, swimmer Fernando Maldonado, baseball player Kevin Perez, football player Robert Riera, tennis player Sted Sibri-Moquecho and volleyball player Krystel Velez. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.