Ex-Major Leaguer comes home to take position as NU hitting coach

By Mitch Smith

For former Nebraska baseball player Darin Erstad, the last 15 years have brought a World Series ring, a pair of Major League Baseball All-Star Game appearances and three Gold Gloves.

Now the veteran first baseman and outfielder, who wrapped up his Major League career with the Houston Astros last year, is returning to the Cornhuskers as the hitting coach. Having those credentials on the bench will be valuable to the team, NU coach Mike Anderson said.

“While his success in the Major Leagues will be the first thing that people notice, his wealth and depth of knowledge may be his strongest asset,” Anderson said. “You have to be a great communicator, and Darin is that. He has the ability to take the experiences he has and transfer that knowledge to our players to help them reach their potential.”

Erstad said he was surprised and excited to have the opportunity to return to Lincoln as a coach.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be part of the university in a coaching role,” he said. “It is a great opportunity to help some young kids develop for the rest of their lives.”

Erstad said he hopes to teach the hardnosed style he honed in his 1,654 big league games with the Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros to the Husker players.

“My philosophy is to lay it on the line every day, every time you are on the field,” Erstad said. “There is a couple of ways to play the game, but there is only one right way to play the game of baseball, and that is to play hard, respect the game, and respect your opponent.”

Erstad’s World Series title came with the Angels in 2002, a season in which he also won a Gold Glove. In 2000, he was named to his second All-Star team and won the American League Silver Slugger Award with a .355 batting average and 25 home runs.

In college, Erstad starred on both the diamond and football field for Nebraska. He was the Big Eight Conference co-player of the year in 1995 in baseball and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award. He was also a punter in the football team’s undefeated 1994 season.

Erstad found success off the field as well as a professional, winning the Angels’ Roberto Clemente Award in 1995 for his community work in Southern California.

Anderson said Erstad’s giving spirit will translate well into coaching, where he will be charged with invigorating an offense that fell short of last year’s Big 12 Conference tournament.

“He understands that the most important role in coaching is to be able to serve others, and the values he has match with our program’s philosophy,” Anderson said.

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