By Barry Faulkner
9:31 PM PDT, June 12, 2013
Ben Orloff, the most decorated player in UC Irvine baseball history, retired as a professional player on Friday, in the middle of his fifth minor-league season with the Houston Astros organization.
Orloff, who won the Brooks Wallace Award that goes to the nation's top shortstop, was Big West Conference Player of the Year, won Rawlings and American Baseball Coaches' Assn. Gold Glove awards and was a first-team All-American as a senior in 2009, went four for five in his final game on June 4.
In 41 games and 131 at-bats this season for the Corpus Christ Hooks of the Double-A Texas League, Orloff hit .298 with 11 runs batted in, 20 runs and five stolen bases.
Orloff, who played shortstop, second base, first base and third base for the Hooks this season, hit a combined .290 in 116 games at Single-A Lancaster (77 games) and Corpus Christi in 2012, totaling 44 RBIs and 10 steals between the two stops.
Orloff represented Israel in a qualifying tournament for the World Baseball Classic in September.
He was drafted in the ninth round (No. 281 overall) by the Astros in 2009 after being selected in the 19th round in 2008 by the Colorado Rockies. In his first full season in the minors in 2010, he hit .307 in 238 at-bats for the Tri-City ValleyCats, for whom he was team MVP and led them to the New York-Penn League championship.
At UCI, he hit .358 as a senior, helping the Anteaters finish 45-15 and earn the No. 1 national ranking for the last six weeks of the regular season. He helped UCI finish 22-2 in Big West action in 2009, winning the program's first and only conference title.
Also in 2009, he led the team in hits (91), runs (62) and stolen bases (18), had a .976 fielding percentage with only seven errors. He finished as UCI's career leader in hits (281), runs (178) and games played (241). A four-year starter, he played every inning of his final 215 starts. His 61 stolen bases rank second in school career annals.
But even beyond his statistics, it was Orloff's exceptional knowledge of and devotion to the game and his leadership skills that helped endear him to teammates, coaches, opposing players and coaches, as well as observers.
In his four seasons, including the program's lone trip to the College World Series in 2007 and its only home regional in 2009, UCI was 170-75-1 for a .693 winning percentage.
He was also UCI's Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2009, when he received his degree in criminology.
Orloff, a product of Semi Valley High, was not available for comment Wednesday, but he has long said he has an interest in coaching at the college level.