Greg Beals and Darin Erstad didn't cross paths until both were in the Big Ten.

The latter, however, still made an impression on a group of players that Beals coached in the late 1990s.

Beals, who just wrapped up his ninth season as Ohio State's head baseball coach, would hang still pictures of players in the hitting cages during his days as an assistant coach at Kent State.

One was of an Anaheim Angel named Erstad.

"I could see it in the back of my head now," Beals said Thursday. "It was just balance and extension. You could see it in the picture."

Erstad and Beals exchanged lineups on May 26 prior the Big Ten Tournament championship game at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Nine days later, Erstad announced his resignation after eight seasons, citing his desire to spend more time with his family.

It caught many by surprise. That included Illinois coach Dan Hartleb, who said he and Erstad had conversations about balancing coaching and family over the past two or three years.

"He wanted to see his kids grow up and see their activities," Hartleb said. "I didn't know it (Erstad stepping down) was happening, so it was a surprise, but it wasn't a shock."

Beals understands Erstad's decision and the timing of it.

The 49-year-old has three daughters of his own, the oldest in college at Ohio State and two others who just wrapped up their senior and sophomore years of high school, respectively. They're athletes and Beals missed a lot of their events.

"It's tough at times," said Beals, who was on his phone while watching his daughter's softball practice Thursday, one day before leaving for Texas to recruit. "Fortunately, my kids understand and I think they have a sense of that's what dad is, that's what dad does, and they love that. But it does make you miss some things, and that's hard.

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"You spend a lot of time texting your kids, and I've watched several (club) volleyball games on Facebook."

Hartleb has two kids, one in college and one in high school. He, too, said it's tough missing activities.

"There have been a lot of things I have missed, everything from First Communions ... miss all their athletic events," he said. "You miss a lot and your spouse gives up so much and they handle so much. Your kids, they give up a lot, but they don't know the difference.

"On the flip side, there are some neat things that go with it. Our kids grew up in some pretty cool atmospheres and they get to see some great events. It's a trade-off."

Big Ten coaches are watching from afar as Nebraska looks for Erstad's replacement. There is intrigue as to what level of coach the Huskers can land.

Any perceptual hangups, primarily recruiting against warm-weather schools for baseball talent, don't mean the Huskers can't make a home-run hire, Beals said.

"That's always going to be a challenge," he said. "But man, especially at Nebraska, I think you can attract — not that Ohio State and every (Big Ten) school can't — you have the support, you have the fan base. There's an awful lot to like there."

Hartleb and Beals said they were always impressed with how hard Nebraska played. When Hartleb heard the news of Erstad's resignation, he shot a text to the former two-sport Husker athlete.

"I just told him the Big Ten took a hit," Hartleb said. "I know it's a loss for Nebraska, but a loss for the Big Ten, because he's a great person and great coach."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


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