Darin Erstad debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot
Born June 4, 1974 in Jamestown N.D., Erstad excelled in baseball in high school even though his school had no team. But he showed off his skills in American Legion baseball and eventually played college ball for the University of Nebraska. While in Lincoln, Erstad also served as the punter and kicker for the Cornhuskers’ football team in 1994.
But when the Angels tabbed Erstad with the first overall pick in the 1995 MLB Draft, Erstad chose baseball. One year later, Erstad debuted in the big leagues.
“I lost a lot of that No. 1 pick (stigma),” Erstad told The New York Times in 2011, “because I was fortunately blessed with the ability to play the game hard, and to play it the right way.”
Erstad hit .299 with 16 homers and 77 RBI in his first full big league season in 1997, winning the Angels’ regular job at first base but also continuing to play his natural position in the outfield. He was named to his first All-Star Game in 1998, then blossomed in 2000 when he hit .355 with 25 home runs, 100 RBI and an American League-leading 240 hits. That year, he reached the 200-hit plateau on Aug. 29 in his 132nd game of the season, becoming the fastest to reach 200 hits since the Cardinals’ Joe Medwick needed just 131 games in 1935.
Erstad played the majority of his games in left field in 2000 and won his first Gold Glove Award for his defensive prowess. He also won a Silver Slugger Award in 2000 and was named to the second of his two career All-Star Games. He moved to center field in 2001, and in 2002 helped the Angels win their first World Series title – hitting .352 with seven RBIs during the postseason and catching the final out to clinch the title in Game 7. He won his second Gold Glove Award as an outfielder that year as well.
After an injury-plagued season in 2003, Erstad returned to first base in 2004 and won his second Gold Glove Award, becoming the first player to be honored at two different positions. Erstad left the Angels as a free agent following the 2006 season, playing with the White Sox in 2007 and then spending the final two seasons of his career with the Astros.
In 14 seasons in the big leagues, Erstad hit .282 with 913 runs scored, 124 home runs, 179 stolen bases and 699 RBI.
“He’ll manage in the big leagues if he wants,” former Angels manager Terry Collins told The New York Times in 2011 about Erstad, who today is the head coach of the University of Nebraska baseball team. “He was a real sharp guy, he knew what was going on, he paid attention, he studied the game and he listened.”