Darin Erstad was named the 23rd head coach of the Nebraska baseball program - and the fifth since 1947 - on June 2, 2011.
Erstad took over a team in 2012 that had failed to qualify for the postseason the previous three seasons and was making a move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten Conference. While the squad fell short of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament in 2012, improvement could be seen across the board, and the Huskers played in a conference tournament for the first time since 2008.
The Husker offense saw the biggest jump under the direction of Erstad and Associate Head Coach Will Bolt. The Huskers led the Big Ten Conference in six different categories, including home runs (47), RBI (375), runs (413), total bases (916), on-base pct. (.384) and slugging pct. (.445).
The Huskers also made noise on the national scene, as they ranked in the top-20 nationally in seven categories, including top-10 rankings in both batting average and scoring.
After hitting .270 as a team in 2011, the Huskers hit .315 in 2012 to rank eighth in the country. The Huskers also ranked eighth nationally in scoring with 7.1 runs per game after scoring 5.4 runs a game in 2011.
With a more disciplined approach at the plate, NU had 106 fewer strikeouts than it had in 2011, while playing three more games in 2012. The Huskers also produced 150 more hits, drove in 107 more runs and hit 17 more home runs to lead the Big Ten with 47 home runs. No other team in the league hit more than 38 homers.
Three Huskers were named first-team All-Big Ten, including shortstop Chad Christensen, outfielder Rich Sanguinetti and designated hitter Michael Pritchard. Overall, eight Huskers earned All-Big Ten honors across the first, second and third teams.
Pritchard, a sophomore in 2012, continued his development at the plate and posted a 25-game hitting streak during the season-the third-longest streak in school history. For his efforts, he was named a third-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Four players from the 2012 team were picked in the 2012 MLB Draft, including 23rd-round picks Travis Huber (Minnesota Twins), Kale Kiser (Chicago White Sox) and Richard Stock (Cleveland Indians), who all signed contracts. Christensen was picked in the 35th round by the Miami Marlins, but chose to return to Nebraska for his senior season in 2013.
A two-time Major League All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Erstad spent the 2011 season as a volunteer assistant coach with the Husker program. In his role, he helped lead a pair of Huskers to All-Big 12 honors, including third baseman Cody Asche. Asche became NU’s first position player to earn All-America honors since 2006, as he hit .327 with 12 home runs and produced a school-record 27 doubles en route to second-team All-America honors in 2011.
One of the most decorated players in Nebraska baseball history, Erstad was a first-team All-American and finalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award in 1995, before embarking on a 14-year career in Major League Baseball.
Erstad wrapped up his professional 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 playoff appearances. Erstad appeared in 1,654 games, while finishing his career as a .282 hitter with 1,697 hits, 124 homers and 699 RBIs. He was at his best in the postseason, hitting .339 in 29 career playoff games, including a .352 clip during the Angels World Series run in 2002.
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). Erstad was one of the greatest players in Angels’ franchise history, as he ranks in the top five on team charts in eight categories, including at bats (4th), runs (4th), hits (4th), total bases (4th), doubles (4th), RBIs (4th), stolen bases (4th) and games played (5th).
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, with his records for average and hits still standing entering the 2013 season. His 240 hits are tied for 13th in Major League history entering the 2013 season and were the most since Hall of Famer Wade Boggs had 240 in 1985. In 2000, Erstad made his second All-Star Game appearance and won his first Gold Glove, committing just three errors in 362 total chances in left field 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. He finished his Husker career holding school records for most hits (6), runs (6), and RBIs (6) 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.
A native of Jamestown, N.D., Erstad played American Legion Baseball and hit .495 with 18 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 doubles as a senior. He was the state tournament MVP in both 1991 and 1992 and a three-time all-state pick. Erstad was a 13th-round pick by the New York Mets in the 1992 MLB Draft and earned first-team all-state accolades in four sports (football, hockey, track and baseball) in high school.
Darin, and his wife, Jessica, have one daughter, Jordan, and two sons, Zack and Adam.