Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne has announced that Darin Erstad has been hired as the head coach of the Husker baseball program.
"Darin is very passionate about Nebraska and especially our baseball program," Osborne said. "Nobody is going to work harder than Darin. He showed that both here at Nebraska and in Major League Baseball, and that will be the same as our head coach."
Erstad, a two-time Major League All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 MLB Draft and spent 14 years in the majors, before retiring following the 2009 season. A two-sport standout at Nebraska, Erstad was a first-team All-American and Big Eight Co-Player of the Year in his final season as a Husker in 1995.
"It is a great honor to be the new head coach of the Nebraska baseball program," Erstad said. "My family and I believe strongly in what the University stands for, and I am excited to have this opportunity to help influence kids' lives in a positive way and help them turn into young men. I am committed to helping them grow as people."
Nebraska conducted a thorough search that included interviews with head and assistant coaches from around the country. Osborne said he was impressed by the interest in the job, and the reputation of Nebraska baseball on a national level.
"Coaches from major conferences in all parts of the country were interested in this job," Osborne said. "They know we have first-class facilities and a strong commitment to having a successful baseball program."
Erstad spent the 2011 season as a volunteer assistant coach with the Huskers. In his role, he helped lead a pair of Huskers to All-Big 12 honors, including second-team All-American Cody Asche, NU's first position player to earn All-America honors since 2006. Asche hit .327 with 12 home runs and a school-record 27 doubles this season.
"It is nice to have a feel for what's here in our program," Erstad said. "That will help in evaluating players. I know their mindsets, and for the players' sake, it is probably nice to have some continuity in the program. They are familiar with me, and I am familiar with them. They are good kids, and I am excited to have the chance to work with all of them again."
Osborne, who coached Erstad on Nebraska's 1994 national championship football team, said Erstad carries the traits of a successful leader.
"Character, integrity and loyalty are the types of things that are always difficult to assess, but Darin has a great track record in those areas. I have seen that first-hand. He knows our players and they have a lot of trust and confidence in him, which gives him a head start over other coaches," Osborne said. "He is a very knowledgeable baseball person, and he will put a good staff together."
Erstad is just the fifth head coach of the Nebraska program since 1947. A native of Jamestown, N.D., the 36-year-old Erstad and his wife, Jessica, have a daughter Jordan, 5, and two sons Zack, 3 and Adam, 1.
Darin Erstad was named the 23rd head coach of the Nebraska baseball program - and the fifth since 1947 - on June 2, 2011.
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, NU's first position player to earn All-America honors since 2006. Asche hit .327 with 12 home runs and a school-record 27 doubles en route to second-team All-America honors this past season.
One of the most decorated baseball players in program 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 American League playoff appearances. Erstad appeared in 1,654 games, and finished as a career .282 hitter while totaling 1697 hits, 124 homers and 699 RBI. 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 title.
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 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 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 (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.
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 1991 and 1992 and a three-time all-state pick. Erstad was a 13th-round pick 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 three children, Jordan (5), Zack (3) and Adam (1).
Erstad at a Glance
Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Date of Birth
June 4, 1974
Wife: Jessica; Sons: Adam (1); Zack (3); Daughter: Jordan (5)
Nebraska Baseball Press Conference
June 2, 2011
Athletic Director Tom Osborne
On the interview process...
"First of all, thank you for coming. Thought we'd save you some time so you don't have to follow tail numbers and airline reservations and all that kind of stuff. First of all, I might just say that I was a little bit surprised that there was as much interest in the baseball job as there appeared to be. It seemed that a great many applicants, from many conferences around the country, were complimentary of our facilities and they realized there is a fairly significant commitment to baseball here. That seemed to be fairly common knowledge. One thing that they often commented on was the fairly recent past success we've had. It was appealing to them because I think everybody wants to know if they go some place at least it's been done there. For that reason we had a lot of applicants. Did a lot of screening and ended up talking to a lot of people and interviewed six. Some of those were assistants coaches, some of those were head coaches, and they weren't just from the south, they were from the north as well."
On interviewing Coach Erstad...
"The first person I talked to was Darin when I started the process and Darin showed a great deal of wisdom at that point, because he indicated that he should probably talk to his wife, so I figured that he was a very knowledgeable person when you start off with that parameter. I wasn't really sure where he was, so I narrowed the list of outside candidates to two, and was planning to bring them in and meet various people here to interview them. Then I had another conversation with Darin, at that point he indicated that he and his family were fully committed to the job and that he understood what it would involve. I thought it probably wouldn't be fair to bring the other guys in, because I felt he was the best candidate and it would be a waste of their time to do that."
On why he hired Coach Erstad
"The reason I feel strongly about Darin is I think he is committed for the right reasons. He obviously cares about Nebraska baseball a great deal. He is interested in developing and serving players and he can tell you a little bit about that. Money does not seem to be a major concern of his, which is kind of refreshing in this day and age, and then there are some other things that were important. No other destination, I don't think he is going to do this job to get ready to go to the next job. He's had a lot of experience at the highest level. He knows what good baseball looks like and he probably knows what bad baseball looks like. Lastly, I did take the time to call quite a few of the players and really didn't find anybody who was not very supportive and complimentary of Darin. They have a lot of trust in him. They feel that he is somebody who would be a great fit."
On what advantages Coach Erstad will have because he knows the players...
"The big advantage that he has is that he knows the situation here. He knows the players and they know him, and sometimes it takes awhile to get adjusted, so I think there will be an adjustment period, but it won't be as long and it won't be as pronounced as it would otherwise. We're just really pleased he wants to do this. I think he'll be the ideal choice. You didn't come here to listen to me, so I'm going to sit down. I'm supposed to engage in a little show business, I have to give him a hat so come on up Darin...."
Head Coach Darin Erstad
"A while back, I had a meeting with Coach Osborne. I sat in his office in South Stadium and I had a video tape in my hand of punting I did. He looked at me and we watched. I hit a few, he was like, 'That was a good one.' I was thinking 'That was the best one I could kick.' (He) didn't really have much for me. Next thing I know he says, 'Do you want to play football for Nebraska?' (I said) 'Yeah, of course.' Then he says 'No really, do you want to play football for Nebraska?' I said 'Absolutely,' and we walked across the hallway and changed my scholarship over from baseball to football and won a national championship. Eighteen years later, I'm sitting in North Stadium and he's asking me about my interest in the head coaching job for the baseball team. I said 'Yes' and he said 'Are you sure?,' and I said 'Yes.' Let's just say, winning a College World Series championship would be a nice way to finish that story.
"I'm humbled and honored to be here, to have this opportunity. It's a little faster than I would have ever expected anything to happen. Sometimes things happen for a reason. This is the place and time; let's do this thing. From a winning side, yeah, we want to win a national championship. From an academics side, I understand the importance and I saw what Mike Anderson, Dave Bingham and Eric Newman did. The APR was perfect. That structure is in place and the kids get it. They understand what is expected from them and I am going to carry that on. Not only that, but I'm going to do the same thing. I didn't get my degree (yet), I haven't finished, but the last few years I've been taking classes to finish my degree and I'm committed to doing that. It was supposed to be a surprise for you, mom, but surprise, this kind of sped that up too. Like Coach (Osborne) said, there isn't another place I would rather be. Am I completely experienced for this job from a recruiting standpoint, from an administrative standpoint? No, but the support staff that I have here and the assistant coaches we're going to have, I'm going to lean on them and I'm going to use them and I'm going to learn quickly. I am just so proud and so honored to be standing here. I can't think of a better place to be."
On how fast he can turn the program around
"I don't think it's going to take long at all. We have some experience in our lineup. We have some tremendously talented young pitchers, we have another class coming in and just getting them in line, getting them to play hard, play to win and play for each other. I think a lot of the times, these kids come from different types of settings where they are showcased and they need to learn how to win. We're going to teach them how to win on the baseball field, off the baseball field and on all walks of life. I've said it so many times; I came here as a boy and I turned into a man. There is no way I personally could have ever signed out of high school and been ready, but I left after three years here, ready to go. Now I am in the process of finishing the rest of my education while I'm doing this."
On what his wife, Jessica, told him about taking the job
"She said 'Fine, whatever.' (laughing) Honestly, we talked, and family is very important to me. I've heard so many times, is it the right thing for the family, are you ready to commit the time? I've never been afraid to commit time to anything, so that is just not an issue. But what I was sensitive towards was 'Is this the right thing for them? Is it the best thing for Nebraska?' What really sold me were two things. One thing my wife said to me was the affect that you could have on so many kids is just amazing. Coach Osborne - look how many people he affected throughout his whole life of influencing their lives. She said 'You're in that same position to do that as well.' I was like, 'That's pretty powerful stuff.' To have a passion and a purpose in life and doing this at Nebraska, I couldn't think of a better place. For my kids, at first you're at the baseball field all the time and you think maybe you're going to miss them, but they just fell in love with the players. I mean, they're sitting by the dugout, they know all their names, their walk-up music and their numbers. They were a part of it, I didn't think it'd be able to be that way, but it turned out that way. That sealed the deal for me. That was pretty special seeing that."
On if he saw this as a path he wanted to pursue as his major league career was winding down
"I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. I played with a lot of guys who had that five-year plan perfectly set out and two years later they're spinning their wheels and it didn't work out. I just kept an open mind after my playing career was over. Well, I'm glad I kept it open. We moved back here before Coach Anderson even offered me the volunteer job and then it didn't even cross my mind to be a head coach. I had this grand plan of helping Mike get things back on track, and plans tend to not work the way you want them to sometimes and here I am."
On if he will be retaining any assistants and what his timeline will be for filling out the entire staff
"I am going to get two new assistants. I am going to fill the volunteer role and the operations role. Curtis Ledbetter will stay in operations. In the other spots, I've had conversations and we're going to try and get this done as quickly as possible. We're in that process."
On the traits he is looking for in his assistants
"Absolutely number one, a stud recruiter. I'm going to have somebody run this ship as far as recruiting goes. I'm going to have to lean on them. Obviously I need to learn a lot and I'll learn fast. The second one, pitching coach, slam dunk great pitching coach. The guy has to be credible right out of the shoot. The other guy I just want a lot of fire. I want somebody who knows their thing. Since I was pretty much horrible as a hitting coach, I probably should put them in charge of hitting. I'll just oversee the other stuff."
On the challenges he sees as keeping Nebraska a high-profile program in the Big Ten
"I think Nebraska sells itself. I think it's a pretty easy sell as far as program and facilities. Once you get them on campus it's over, they fall in love with it for good reason. I think my actions speak louder than words as far as moving my whole family back to this city before any of this even happened, just the pride we have in this place. As far as recruiting challenges in the Big Ten, we'll just have to be darn good at what we do and evaluate the right guys and not miss and be able to put that together. That will go back to the recruiting coordinator really being able to do his thing. I don't have experience in recruiting, but I've been watching baseball games and playing in them for a long time, I know what talent is and I know what it looks like. We'll be just fine."
On the biggest thing he took away from the 2011 season
"For me it was the passion that the players had. They just put so much work into it. To see them not succeed was very frustrating and I felt terrible for them. They did what we asked them to do and it just didn't get done for whatever reason. I think that was probably the most refreshing thing, the type of players we have and the type of people we have. They're tremendous people and I feed off of that."
On what he thinks are the things that have been missing the past few years
"Consistency. There were a lot of times where the going would get tough. Sixth, seventh inning you're in a game and have one little piece of adversity and boom, six or seven runs. Then the demeanor of the team would waiver, confidence would be lost and we never really had that fight. I think that just goes to having them prepared to play. It will be my job to have them prepared to play, it will be my job to have them prepared to play and they will be prepared to play. They will be ready for those situations. Like I said, we have to teach them how to win and we will."
On talking to any of the players
"I've called almost everybody. I've tried to call everybody some, everybody is dispersed for summer, league so I haven't been able to get through to all of them, but I've called them individually and told them the situation that I'm the head coach and we're brining two new assistants in. I am big on keeping lines of communication open. I want them to be honest with me and I'm sure going to be honest with them. I just think that is the best way. They seem pretty responsive."
On what his goals are for next year
"Win the Big Ten Championship, get to Regionals, Super Regionals, straight to the College World Series. If we're shooting for anything less than that, I'm not taking this job. There are no points for second place in my book and that's just the way it's going to be. That's the expectation and the standard that we're going to be held to. If they don't have that, they're going to have to get on board pretty quickly because that is what we're going to ask."
On if it was strange taking Coach Anderson's job
"It was awfully strange. You just never know. It wasn't even on the radar, it didn't even occur to me that would happen. When the opportunity came, it was a chance of a lifetime. I couldn't pass it up. I called Mike last night. He was so supportive, said congratulations and anything he can do to help. It was just a compliment to the kind of guy he is."
On when he started considering the head coaching job as a serious opportunity
"Probably in the last week, maybe. It happened pretty fast, but we had good talks with my family and a few conversations with Coach Osborne. One thing led to another and it just felt right."
On what qualities of a coach motivated him to be successful when he was an athlete
"Honesty. Just being completely honest with what a guy was feeling, what standing you are with the team. The other one is consistency, treating players the exact same way regardless if they are 20-20 or 0-20. I just believe you have to stay the same. Baseball is so full of ups and downs. They're your guys and you're going to stick with them through the whole thing. Those are the two things that I respected most about the coaches I played for."
On if he has talked to Bubba Starling
"I haven't. I said hi to him at our Kansas game, he was there, but I have not had any contact with him. I'll reach out to him. I have through email a couple of times through the season. I'll talk to him just like any other recruit and treat him like any other recruit. He has a decision to make and we'll see what happens."
On how long it took him to know that Nebraska would be a special place when he started playing here
"I thought it was pretty special on my recruiting trip. I was here for the Washington football game in 1991. I was pretty much sold right there sitting with my dad in the north end zone watching them warm-up. It was just the passion, you feed off of that. I didn't follow Nebraska in high school. You get around it, get hooked. Obviously we moved our family back here, we believe in it. We want our kids to go to school in Lincoln. Regardless of what would have happened with this situation, they're going to school here, we're raising our kids in Lincoln. That is how much we believe in this place."
On where he will look to recruit from
"We're for sure looking to Big Ten areas. I just have the philosophy that no one is getting south of us. Being from North Dakota, being around South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, if there is a player up there we are going to get them. You just have to do your homework. Obviously east, you're going to have to do your homework. If there are guys in Texas, we'll go to Texas. California, we'll go. As far as a staff, we'll have tremendous connections all over the place and we'll use them all and get our relationships built throughout the country and see where it takes us."
On if the day-to-day grind of the situation factored into his decision
"The grind; that is what I've always done. I've never done anything that looked pretty. Grinding is kind of fun to me. That part of it, the work side of it, had absolutely no bearing on this decision. We're all in."
On his approach to the offense compared to last year
"I'm sure it will be different. I think it will be much more aggressive. I really want a lot of speed on offense. I'm a big action guy. I learned under the best, Mike Scioscia, it's chaos on the base paths and that's what we're going to have, straight chaos. That is what we're going to build it around. There are going to be people flying around everywhere."
On if someone who is a baseball player wants to punt, will he let them do that
"I sure will."
What Others Say About Erstad
ESPN Commentator Kyle Peterson
"I think it is a fantastic hire. In Darin, you have somebody who is universally respected around the game. I've got to know him a little bit on the field and a little bit off the field and he is incredibly respected. He knows the game; he has played at the absolute highest level, and more importantly, he played at the college level very well right there in Lincoln. For a variety of reasons, I think it is an outstanding hire."
LA Angels Manager Mike Scioscia to Huskers Illustrated
"Darin is going to be an incredible mentor, teacher and leader. His understanding and passion for the game will resonate with his players at the University of Nebraska. Darin will instill competitiveness in the program like no one else."
Nebraska Third Baseman Cody Asche
"It is a great hire and step forward for the Nebraska baseball program. I know everyone on the team is excited to have Coach Erstad as our head coach. He is someone a lot of guys look up to and he will be a great leader for us next year."
Nebraska Catcher Cory Burleson
"He brings fire and passion to the game. That wears off on the team. We saw that last season and we're excited to see what he can do as a head coach when he's calling the shots. It is going to be fun, but we also know he is going to demand us to work hard as he teaches us how to win."