Cornhuskers off to solid start in Big TenFARGO — Three years ago, Darin Erstad’s baseball playing career was winding down.
By: Tom Mix, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Three years ago, Darin Erstad’s baseball playing career was winding down.
The Jamestown native played his final big league season in 2009, but it didn’t take long for Erstad to get the itch to return to the dugout.
Erstad, who played 14 seasons in the major leagues, served as a volunteer baseball coach for the University of Nebraska in 2011 and took over as head coach of his alma mater last June.
So far so good for Erstad’s transition into the coaching ranks.
“I absolutely love it,” Erstad said. “It’s been fantastic. I have a tremendous group of guys that work hard, play hard and it’s a pleasure to work with them.”
This spring, he’s guided the Huskers to a 22-12 start and a 5-4 record in the Big Ten.
The Huskers finished 30-25 last season and haven’t qualified for the NCAA tournament or won a conference championship since 2005.
As a three-time Gold Glove winner in his big league career, Erstad said he’s used his playing experience to help him adjust to coaching.
“You just prepare yourself,” Erstad said. “The one thing I’ve always done is trust my instincts. You don’t second guess yourself when things don’t go right, because this game is full of failure and you are going to fail, so you have to trust your instincts right or wrong.”
Erstad has played for a lot of successful coaches in his athletic career. He was a punter on Tom Osborne’s 1994 Huskers football team that won a national championship. He played under the likes of Mike Scioscia, Joe Maddon and Ozzie Guillen in the big leagues.
Drawing from the lessons of past coaches is something Erstad has tried to do early in his coaching tenure.
“All the coaches I’ve had from my Babe Ruth coach Tom Gould to my Legion coach Jeff Young to all the coaches I’ve had professionally have formed me into what I am,” Erstad said. “You just take bits and pieces from all those guys.”
Erstad, who played baseball for the Huskers from 1993-95, said he has noticed there is a greater attention to details on and off the ball field from when he played NCAA Division I baseball, but he’s enjoying everything about his new job so far.
“It’s a work in progress,” Erstad said. “With a whole coaching staff change, there is going to be some transition. I’m pleased with the way they are approaching the game, they’re playing hard and that’s the first step. Once you have that foundation in place, then you can build off of that.”
“I think we’ve been pretty consistent, but now as far as execution and finishing games, those are things that will come next. We’re out there to win every day, but I think our best baseball is still ahead of us.”
Mix is a sports writer at the Fargo Forum