Back in the game: Erstad joins Nebraska as assistant coachDarin Erstad has held a lot of different titles during his baseball career. World Series champion, All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, just to name a few. On Thursday he added another to the list: coach. The Jamestown native has been hired as an assistant baseball coach at the University of Nebraska, where he starred as a player from 1993-95 before becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 Major League Baseball draft by the then California Angels.
Darin Erstad has held a lot of different titles during his baseball career.
World Series champion, All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, just to name a few.
On Thursday he added another to the list: coach.
The Jamestown native has been hired as an assistant baseball coach at the University of Nebraska, where he starred as a player from 1993-95 before becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 Major League Baseball draft by the then California Angels.
Erstad, who lives in Lincoln, Neb., with his wife and three children, said this decision fell under the no-brainer category.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me this is a great place to start. I see it as a great place to finish,” said the 1998 and 2000 American League All-Star. “I have absolutely zero interest in being anywhere else.”
Erstad is very familiar with Nebraska head coach Mike Anderson. The two hit together in recent offseasons while Erstad was still playing. They had discussed him coming on board as a coach, although it happened a little quicker than anticipated.
“I didn’t think even in my wildest dreams I’d get the chance to coach at a Division I college, let alone at my alma mater this quickly,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Baseball is my passion and to have the opportunity to put that uniform back on and help young players deal with the ups and downs of playing at this level is an honor.”
Erstad is joining the team as a volunteer assistant, meaning he won’t be paid and can only recruit on campus. Anderson has said Erstad will serve as the Cornhuskers’ hitting coach, but his expertise goes well beyond just swinging the bat.
“I don’t think titles mean a whole lot, necessarily. I’m willing to help out and contribute in any way Mike sees fit,” he said.
As he was known for as a player, Erstad has dove head-first into the job. He’s already been into the baseball offices looking at tape of current players, even though team activities aren’t allowed until August.
The Cornhuskers are coming off back-to-back subpar seasons. They finished this past spring at 27-27 after going 25-28 in 2008-09. It was the first time the school has had consecutive non-winning seasons since 1975-76.
Anderson does have the second-highest winning percentage (.660) of any coach in school history. This will be the final season they compete in the Big 12, with a move to the Big 10 on the horizon for the 2011-12 year.
“Nebraska baseball has a history of success. I got the privilege to experience that first hand,” Erstad said. “Mike runs a first-class program. His record speaks for itself.”
Adding the most recognizable player in the program’s history can only help in recruiting, but Erstad said he’ll have to prove he’s more than just someone potential recruits saw playing on TV.
“That will only mean something if I can translate what I know into teaching,” he said.
Most Major League hitting instructors are former players, and few boast the credentials Erstad carries. While he would never rule anything out, he made it clear he’s exactly where he wants to be.
“I’ve learned you never close the door without exploring and keeping an open mind, but for me personally, I’m in a perfect situation,” he said. “I’m going to enjoy the heck out of this.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com