Lincoln - One of the most decorated baseball players in program history returns to Nebraska in a new role, as Darin Erstad has been named an assistant coach for the Husker baseball team, Head Coach Mike Anderson announced Thursday. A two-time Major League All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Erstad will serve as the Huskers' hitting coach.
Erstad said the opportunity to begin his coaching career at the program he starred at was an easy choice.
"I didn't expect this opportunity to be here this soon, but when Mike (Anderson) asked me to come on board, it is a chance of a lifetime as a coach, and I didn't want to pass it up," Erstad said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be part of the university in a coaching role. It is a great opportunity to help some young kids develop for the rest of their lives."
"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. It is game-on from the time you step on that field, and that is the way it should be in life and on the field."
Anderson said that Erstad's work ethic, communication skills and team-first mentality make him an ideal addition to the Husker coaching staff.
"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. 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."
Erstad wrapped up a 14-year Major League career in the fall of 2009, after playing for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1996-06), Chicago White Sox (2007) and Houston Astros (2008-09). During his career, he helped the Angels to a World Series title in 2002 and two other American League playoff appearances. Erstad appeared in 1,654 games, and was a career .282 hitter with 124 homers and 699 RBIs. He was at his best in the postseason, hitting .339 in 29 career playoff games, including a .352 clip in 2002 to lead the Angels to their only World Series win.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Erstad spent the majority of his career playing for the Angels, where he won three Gold Gloves (2000-02-04) and was selected for the American League All-Star team in 1998 and 2000. He is the only player in Major League history to win Gold Gloves as an infielder (2004) and outfielder (2000 and 2002) and the first player in Major League history to win Gold Gloves at three positions (LF, 2000; CF, 2002; 1B, 2004). He was one of the greatest players in Angels' franchise history, as he ranks in the top five on team charts in seven categories, including hits, runs, doubles, total bases, RBIs and stolen bases.
His best year came in 2000 when he led the Major Leagues with 240 hits and finished second in the American League with a .355 batting average with 121 runs scored, 39 doubles, six triples, 25 home runs, 100 RBIs, 64 walks and 28 stolen bases en route to winning a Silver Slugger Award. That season, he topped the Angels in seven categories, and set franchise records for average, runs scored and hits. His 240 hits ranked 12th in Major League history and was the most since Hall of Famer Wade Boggs had 240 in 1985. That season, he made his second All-Star Game appearance and won his first Gold Glove, committing three errors in 362 total chances for a .992 fielding percentage.
Erstad was also active in the community throughout his playing career and was the Angels recipient of the 2005 Roberto Clemente Award for his efforts in the Southern California community.
A two-sport star at Nebraska, Erstad was a first-team All-American and Big Eight Co-Player of the Year as a junior in 1995, batting .410 with 19 homers and 76 RBIs. A 1995 Golden Spikes Award finalist, he finished his Husker career holding school records for most hits (six), runs (six), and RBIs (six) in a game; most hits (103) and total bases (194) in a single season (1995) and most career hits (261). In addition to his exploits on the diamond, Erstad, a two-time academic all-conference selection, was also the starting punter for the Huskers' 1994 national championship football team, helping NU to a 13-0 record.
Darin and his wife, Jessica, have three children, Jordan, Zack and Adam.