A 17-year veteran who played for four MLB franchises during his career, 37-year-old second baseman Mark Ellis officially retired from baseball on Tuesday.
Ellis, who primarily played third base for the Florida Gators from 1996-99, was a three-year starter for UF and the Most Valuable Player of the 1998 Gainesville Regional, where he hit .500 with three home runs and 10 RBI.
Ellis had at least one hit in 28 of 31 career postseason games for Florida and holds school records for runs scored in a career (240), most home runs in a single game (three), most stolen bases in an inning (three), most homers from the shortstop position in a single season (14, 1998) and most career doubles in the SEC Tournament (six).
He also holds a number of career top-10 marks for the Gators including being second in hits (319), doubles (61), at bats (941) and total bases (500); fifth in assists (624); seventh in home runs (36) and games started since 1983 (211); eighth in runs batted in (164), stolen bases (56) and sacrifice bunts since 1985 (20); and 10th in games played (224).
Ellis was also arguably the best player on Florida’s 1999 team, leading that year’s squad in batting average (.344), at bats (244), hits (84), runs scored (56), doubles (18), triples (3) and assists (193).
After his collegiate career, Ellis was selected in the ninth round of the 1999 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals but never played for the franchise after two years in the minors. He was acquired by the Oakland Athletics via trade, spending 2002-11 up at the majors with the franchise but missing the entire 2004 season (torn labrum), most of the 2006 postseason (hand) and the last two months of 2008 (shoulder) due to injuries. Oakland eventually traded Ellis to the Colorado Rockies during the 2011 campaign. He finished his career with a two-year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers and one final season in 2014 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ellis’s achievements on the professional level were also impressive, and he was even portrayed as a character in the Moneyball. He led the A’s in batting average (.316), on-base percentage (.384) and slugging average (.477) in 2005. The next season, he broke the American League record for best fielding percentage for a second baseman (.99685). In 2007, he became the seventh Oakland player to ever hit for the cycle and tied a team record with 70-straight games without an error. His .991 fielding percentage ranks fifth all-time among second basemen.
“I took a lot of pride in my defense,” Ellis told the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s what kept me in the big leagues. All those great pitching staffs I played behind, I tried to do anything I could to help them win.”
The oft-injured Ellis suffered a major scare in 2012 when he took a cleat to the leg and nearly lost the appendage to amputation if not for doctors acting quickly and putting him under the knife. In the final season of his career, he suffered an oblique strain that knocked him out of action in August.
Though Ellis is not yet a member of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame, he is a shoo-in for a nomination any year now as one of the greatest players in school history. Athletics general manager Billy Beane hopes Ellis will continue his career as a member of Oakland’s front office.
“Mark was the consummate professional, both on and off the field,” Beane told the Chronicle. “He brought a work ethic and consistency that you want all young players to emulate. In my 18 years as a GM, we have had a lot of players I have been particularly fond of; Mark was one of those. After some deserved time with Sarah and his children, I’m hopeful, when he is ready, Mark will continue his baseball career with the A’s.”