For most college athletes, you hear about their successes on and off the field, and how those achievements helped turn them into the man or woman they are today. For the few that make it to the professional level of the sport in which they participate, you hear about how college helped them prepare for the challenges they have faced, and the accomplishments they’ve made in their lives. You don’t hear much after their careers begin. For Darin Erstad, the story doesn’t stop at the professional level.
Darin Erstad is a former Major League Baseball player, mostly for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as an exceptional every-day left fielder. As the first overall pick of the 1995 Major League Baseball Draft, Erstad came out of a successful career at the University of Nebraska. In 1996, just a year later, he got his first chance at the major league competition. Over the next fourteen years, Erstad accumulated a variety of honors and awards, including a World Series championship in 2002.
Erstad is a two-time American League All-Star in 1998 and 2000. He won the Silver Slugger award in 2000, as well as three Gold Glove awards in 2000 and 2002 as an outfielder, and 2004 as a first baseman. These achievements are impressive to any baseball fan, but for Erstad and the University of Nebraska they come as no surprise.
After his Major League career ended in 2009, Erstad returned to his alma mater in 2011 as a volunteer assistant coach for the baseball team. Following the season, he was named the 23rd head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. With this opportunity, Darin Erstad can bring plenty of experience to the college students playing under his reign. As if he didn’t pride the university enough with all of his professional achievements and collegiate honors, he now has the opportunity to lead his students in this direction.
Darin Erstad joined the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers baseball team in 1993. In 1994 and 1995, he was an All-Conference selection, and that was the beginning of his awards at Nebraska. Also in 1995, as a junior he was selected as a First Team All-American, a Golden Spikes Award Finalist, and Big Eight Conference Player of the Year. Along with his success on the baseball team, Erstad was also the starting punter for the 1994 National Championship football team. By the end of his complete athletic playing career, Erstad would be very familiar with championships and awards. The Nebraska Cornhuskers claim him to be “one of the most decorated players in Nebraska baseball history.”
All of these achievements are realistic goals he can bring to the 2012 Huskers team. Each current player can aspire to reach these goals, visibly seeing the success from their new head coach. Just the presence of a successful player can be supportive enough, but Erstad has bigger plans than just being supportive. Erstad says he is looking forward to helping Nebraska baseball get back to Omaha.
Not only is it a great opportunity for the 2012 Huskers to be coached by Darin Erstad, but according to him, he is just as honored to be the coach of his alma mater. “I could not have even dreamed of having this opportunity,” he says. “We are entering unchartered territory heading into a new conference. We will continue to focus on our game regardless of our opponent. Our goal will be the same as it will be every year, get our foot in the door and give ourselves a chance to make it to Omaha.” Erstad has the collegiate and professional experience to do that for the Huskers this year and for years to come.
Success in Major League Baseball has to begin somewhere. For Darin Erstad, it began at the University of Nebraska. I would say his success will end at Nebraska as well, but who says success needs to end? Darin Erstad has already proved that it doesn’t.