Out of the blue, actually out of the Los Angeles Dodger blue, Darin Erstad is happy with his decision to bow to the “power of ‘N’.”
The Nebraska baseball coach explained Tuesday his role as a candidate to manage the Dodgers.
After a whirlwind 10 days from the time he was contacted to when he withdrew his name as one of four finalists for the job, Erstad was tempted, then positive he was staying with NU.
“I love the sun going down and hearing the kids in the neighborhood and the basketballs bouncing and kids playing tag in the dark — all of those kinds of things that have a value to me, and I grew up with that,” Erstad said. “I want my kids to grow up with that.”
Erstad was on a recruiting trip to Florida when Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers director of baseball operations, called.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t think they were joking," Erstad said. "As we talked more, it was for real. To get the opportunity to interview for the position was very humbling.”
In the end, someone else will get the job, and Erstad will try to get the Huskers back to the College World Series in his fifth season with the team.
He will still drive his kids to school and tuck them in at night, he said. The former high school star from North Dakota will also be around for the rest of the Lincoln Senior Hockey League season with the Green team in the Gretzky Division.
He asked himself why he was a candidate in the first place. College coaches frequently move to the pros in football and basketball but not in baseball.
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"Why is my name popping up? It’s not real,” he said. “I was informed last Wednesday I was a finalist and it became real. I just had that thought of ‘What am I doing?’ This is where my heart’s at. I went home and talked to my wife (Jessica) and said I wanted to stay here.”
He explained that as manager he could rely on a bench coach and pitching coaches and use his strengths — dealing with the clubhouse and the media — and that combination was intriguing to the Dodgers.
The 14-year major-leaguer who was a top draft pick out of Nebraska and a punter for the 1994 NU national championship football team, said, “It was nice to know that somewhere along the way, I was doing things the right way.”
Erstad explained that when he retired from baseball he moved to Lincoln, bought a house and didn’t have a job. He was asked by the university to help the baseball program, and the next year he was named head coach.
He said the major-league post is much different from coaching in college.
“It’s 162 (games) plus six weeks in the spring, and you’re talking nine to 10 months away from your family,” he said. “I like seeing my family in the stands here.”
Erstad is the father of Jordan, 9; Zack, 8; and Adam, 5.
The former All-Star and winner of the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards talked with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who are still good friends, and some scouts and other major-league personnel about the job.
The Huskers went through national letter of intent signing day during Erstad’s interview process, but he said that had no ill effects. (Erstad does not release scholarship commitments until after the June baseball draft).
“I’m trying to create a culture and want to be able to affect kids’ lives in a positive way, at a young age, when they are still green and hungry for developing, not just as baseball players, but as people. I think that is pretty powerful stuff,” Erstad said.
Nebraska opens its season Feb. 19 and begins the home season March 8.
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