Erstad no stranger to the road
JAMESTOWN -- Darin Erstad has been on the road his entire life.
From summer American Legion baseball trips with Jamestown Post 14 to long road hauls while a part of the University of Nebraska football and baseball teams to playing mostly every healthy day of his Major League Baseball career, Erstad's no stranger to the pavement.
"I've been traveling my whole life for baseball," Erstad said. "We travel a lot as a family. It's something I've always enjoyed -- being on the road, getting to see different places. I've lived out of a suitcase for 14 years. I'm quite used to it."
And the road trips have continued for Erstad, who just finished his first year as head coach of the University of Nebraska baseball team. While the in-season trips mirror his career, the offseason sees Erstad on the recruiting trail, something new to the two-time All-Star who won a World Series in 2002 with the Anaheim Angels.
Time on the road isn't a big deal to Erstad, who said he doesn't view convincing recruits to come to Nebraska as difficult, either.
"Baseball's baseball -- it's not tough to sell Nebraska," he said. "It means so much to myself and my family. I couldn't imagine doing this for another school. I wouldn't do this for another school. It's easy to go out there and recruit and sell Nebraska. It's meant so much to my life."
Erstad said when he got the job, it was surreal. He had been the hitting coach, and before that, a volunteer assistant.
"It was almost too good to be true," Erstad said. "It's hard to believe. To have that opportunity come so quickly, you just never know. It did come faster than I could ever dream of, but sometimes ... things arise."
In his first season, Erstad's Cornhuskers finished 35-23 including a 14-10 mark in the Big Ten that was good for fourth place. They lost to Penn State to open the Big Ten tournament, stayed alive with a win over Michigan State, but fell to Ohio State 6-2 in an elimination game.
He had three starters in top 10 in the conference in batting average including a league-best .387 from Michael Pritchard. The Huskers were second in the conference in average as a team at .314, not far behind conference leader Purdue (.316).
Defense seems to be a strong point among the Huskers as well, as they finished second in fielding percentage (9.74), committing just 59 errors in 58 games.
However, pitching remains something to be desired, as Nebraska finished eighth with a 4.40 ERA. The Huskers were ninth in earned runs allowed, besting only Indiana and Michigan. They were also 10th in opponents' batting average at .291, ahead of only Northwestern.
"We took baby steps this year," Erstad said. "It's not something that's gonna be built overnight. They decided to make a coaching change and when they did, that (meant) there was something structurally wrong. It's gonna take time to get it going in the right direction.
"This was the first step in many. We'll just continue to plug away."