2005-03-11 / Sports

Ben Orloff: standing tall at shortstop

By Kyle Jorrey

By Kyle Jorrey jorrey@theacorn.com

The ease with which Simi Valley senior shortstop Ben Orloff now operates one of the sport’s most challenging positions didn’t come easy—it came after years and years of practice.

It began when he was just 5, tossing an old tennis ball off the garage door and then maneuvering his body so he could retrieve it in his glove and start again. It was an activity, he said, he would do for hours on end.

Clearly, the value of good defense was something Orloff learned early on, and as soon as he signed up for organized baseball, coaches placed him where they always play a team’s most talented glove at that age—at shortstop.

Fast forward a decade and Orloff is still holding down those 90 feet between second and third, still trying to keep that tennis ball from rolling into the street.

"Defense is something you can bring with you to the field every day," the 17-year old said. "In this league, there are so many one and two-run ball games that defense is a key. The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually ends up on top."

And end up on top is exactly what Orloff did last year as an important member of Simi’s CIF-title-winning team. He batted .281, scored 29 runs and helped lead a defense that rarely faltered during the Pioneers’ end of the season 12-game winning streak.

"That team was really special—we were all so close on and off the field," Orloff said. "Every time we stepped out there, we believed we would win, and that’s just what happened."

In the championship contest at Dodger Stadium against El Dorado, it was Orloff who helped record the game’s final out, gunning down what would have been the tying run at home plate in a head’s-up play that preserved the Simi victory.

Now back for his senior year, the California native is confident that this new gathering of Simi ballplayers has what it takes for similar success.

"A lot of people are saying, ‘Hey, Simi lost everybody. They don’t have a chance,’" said Orloff, who’s already accepted an offer to play at UC Irvine. "But we don’t listen to that. We know what we’re capable of and we just go out and do it. We’re not where we want to be yet—but we’re getting there."

Just one of three returning starters to this year’s lineup, Orloff has new responsibilities this year both at the plate and on the field. But more vital to Simi’s success than anything might be his vocal leadership, which keeps his teammates on task and acts as a constant reminder of what can be accomplished through hard work.

It’s this quality, head coach Matt La Belle said, he values above any other.

"In a perfect world, Ben would get his playing out of the way and come back and coach for me," La Belle said. "Everything I’m going to say he says it before I do . . . In this sport, we have kids that are book smart and kids that are baseball smart. Ben’s both. He’s a smart kid and he’s extremely knowledgeable about the technical side of baseball. His success in the classroom really does translate onto the field."

Orloff, who has a 4.0 GPA, said he’s just always looking for an edge.

"Anything that can give me an advantage out there, I‘m looking for," Orloff said. "I’m always studying the game."

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