Orloff joining 'Eaters coaching staff

A spokesman for UC Irvine athletics confirmed Tuesday that the school was making changes to its baseball program, adding validity to a published report on Monday that former UCI All-American Ben Orloff had joined the program as an assistant coach and that Associate Head Coach Pat Shine had left.

UCI baseball coach Mike Gillespie and UCI Athletic Director Mike Izzi did not return phone messages Monday or Tuesday asking for comment and Associate A.D. for Athletic Communications, Bob Olson, said in an email on Tuesday that "some changes are being made with the UCI baseball program, but we can't get into specifics at this time."

Kendall Rogers, a national college baseball reporter representing Perfect Game USA Baseball, reported on Twitter on Monday that Shine was out and Orloff, who retired recently as a minor-league player in the Houston Astros organization, had been added to the staff.

Additional sources close to the UCI program also stated that such a change had occurred.

It remains to be seen what role Orloff will assume on a staff that includes assistant Bob Macaluso and volunteer pitching coach Daniel Bibona, both of whom are expected to return. Macaluso has spent six seasons on the staff while Bibona, a former UCI All-American pitcher whose professional career was cut short by an arm injury, was a first-year coach in 2013.

Shine, rumored to be a candidate for the head-coaching vacancy at Cal State Northridge, worked six seasons under Gillespie as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. Shine was also an assistant at UCI from 2002 through 2004 under then-coach John Savage.

Gillespie, who has one year remaining on a two-year contract extension to a five-year deal he signed when he took over before the 2008 season, has failed to guide the team to NCAA regional berths each of the last two seasons, halting the Anteaters' run of six straight years in the postseason.

The aforementioned postseason streak included the program's only appearance in the College World Series in 2007, as well as Super Regional appearances in 2008 and 2011.

But after averaging 42.3 wins in the first four seasons under Gillespie, 73, a member of the American Baseball Coaches Assn. Hall of Fame who is four wins shy of 1,000 in 26 seasons as a Division I head coach, UCI averaged just 32 wins the last two seasons.

Further, losses to graduation, the Major League Baseball draft and serious or potentially serious injuries to three of the five incoming recruits who signed early last fall, have created doubts about UCI's ability to compete in a Big West Conference that placed three teams (Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Barbara) in the 2013 postseason.

Orloff who won the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation's top collegiate shortstop as a senior in 2009, was a big part of UCI's rise to national prominence. He was a four-year stater from 2006 to 2009 and owns UCI career records for hits (281) runs (178) and games played (241). Orloff was the Big West Conference Player of the Year in 2009, when UCI went 22-2 in conference play, captured the program's only Big West championship, was ranked No. 1 the final six weeks of the regular season, and played host to an NCAA Regional for the first and only time.

Orloff, taken in the 19th round of the 2008 Major League draft by the Colorado Rockies, was a ninth-round pick of the Astros in 2009. He retired June 7, having played 41 games of his fifth professional season for the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Double-A Texas League.

Orloff, known for his superior baseball IQ and strong leadership qualities as a player, was heralded by Gillespie in 2009 as having the best on-field intelligence of any player Gillespie had ever coached.

"I don't know how else to say it: His instincts, his clue, his feel for the game, his baseball IQ, is like nothing else," Gillespie said of Orloff in 2009. "It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen ... I mean he should be a major league manager. He might be wasted as a major league manager, because they can do so little, in terms of all these little things ... He probably should be a college coach, a college head coach. And he's ready to do it right now. I'm not kidding, he's a better coach than I am."

Shine was long thought to be Gillespie's successor. But the program's recent downturn, attributed to, among other things, a lack of recruiting depth, brought criticism on both Gillespie and Shine.

Shine, who also served as UCI's third-base coach, missed the final 23 games of the 2012 season. It was later learned that he had been suspended for his part in an on-campus incident involving another university employee. The incident was never publicly acknowledged by the athletic department.

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