LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Darin Erstad goes into his first job as a head coach with the confidence one would expect from a guy who played 14 years in the majors and was a two-time All-Star.
Nebraska hired Erstad on Thursday to lead his alma mater’s baseball program into the Big Ten, and his immediate goals are high.
“Win the Big Ten championship, go to a regional, super regional and on to the College World Series,” Erstad said at his introductory news conference. “There are no points for second place in my book.”
Erstad, who turns 37 on Saturday, made a fast ascent after serving as a volunteer hitting coach for Mike Anderson this past season.
He’s a known quantity to Osborne. Erstad was the punter on Nebraska’s 1994 national championship football team and the first pick of the 1995 major league draft.
Erstad retired in 2009 after 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros.
“He cares about Nebraska baseball a great deal,” Osborne said. “He is interested in developing and serving players. Money does not seem to be a major concern of his, which is refreshing in this day and age. I don’t think he’ll do this job to get ready to go to the next job.
“He’s had experience at the highest level and knows what good baseball looks like, and probably knows what bad baseball looks like.”
Erstad’s salary was not immediately available from the school.
Osborne fired Anderson on May 22, a day after the Huskers finished in last place in the Big 12 and failed to qualify for the conference tournament for the third straight year.
The Huskers had made their first two College World Series appearances in 2001-02 under Dave Van Horn and a third in 2005 under Anderson. But the Huskers haven’t been to an NCAA regional since 2008 and are 82-80-1 overall and 27-53 in Big 12 games the past three seasons.
“I’m humbled and honored to have this opportunity,” Erstad said. “It’s a little faster than I would have expected anything to ever happen. Sometimes things happen for a reason. This is the place and time, and let’s do this thing.”
Erstad said he would hire two new full-time assistants. One, he said, must be a “stud recruiter” and the other a pitching coach who “has got to be incredible right out of the chute.”
Erstad has remained close to the program. He and his wife Jessica donated $1 million to Nebraska’s football stadium improvement project in 2004.
“There isn’t another place I would rather be,” he said. “Am I completely experienced for this job from a recruiting standpoint and administrative standpoint? No. From the support we have here and the coaches we have here, I’m gong to lean on them and learn quickly.”
Osborne said he interviewed six candidates and was going to invite two of them to visit campus. Once Erstad expressed serious interest in the job, Osborne said, the plan changed.
“I didn’t think it was fair to bring those other guys in,” Osborne said. “I felt he was the best candidate, and it would have been a waste of their time to do that.”
Erstad was a first-team All-American and finalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top player in 1995.
Osborne, who won the first of his three national titles with Erstad as his punter, said the Jamestown, N.D., native has what it takes to be successful.
“I don’t think it’s going to take long at all,” Erstad said. “We’ve got experience in our lineup, we have tremendously talented young pitchers and we have another class coming in. A lot of times these kids come from different settings where they’re showcased and they need to learn how to win.”
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