Dakota Datebook

Darin Erstad, Baseball Great

Friday, June 4, 2004

Today is the birthday of baseball great, Darin Erstad of Jamestown. He was the #1 overall pick in the Junior Amateur Draft in 1995, when he was chosen to join the Anaheim Angels.

As a youth, Erstad excelled in almost every team sport offered in Jamestown. While at Jamestown High School, he was the state champion in the 110 & 300 hurdles, was named Mr. Hockey, and was the 1992 North Dakota Associated Press Athlete of the Year. He was also All-Conference & All-State for football, hockey & track. He even named his dog Hank after Detroit’s Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg.

At the University of Nebraska, Erstad played both football and baseball. In 1993, he made Academic All-Big 8 Team, and in 1994, he was 1st Team All-Big 8. He was also the Cape Cod League’s MVP and Baseball America Preseason 1st Team All-American.

In 1995, before his draft pick, he wasnamed First-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball; was named Player of the Year by College Sports Magazine; was voted Top Prospect in the California League; was the Big Eight Conference Player of the Year; and was the punter & kicker for Nebraska’s National Football Title Team. In 176 collegiate baseball games, he earned 46 doubles, eight triples, 41 homers, and 182 RBIs, and he finished his 3 years at Nebraska with a batting average of .356.

When Darin was drafted, he was the first college outfielder picked overall first in 30 years. The last time an outfielder was chosen #1 was when Ken Griffey Jr. was drafted in 1987. Erstad spent his first year with the Angels on a farm team at Lake Elsinore, but by the following year, he was voted best arm in the Pacific Coast League and moved up to the Big Show.

After just 132 games in 2000, Erstad reached a 200-hit plateau; the last two players in either league to meet that mark so quickly were St. Louis Cardinals’ Joe Medwick (131 games in 1935 ) and the Philadelphia Athletics’ Al Simmons (125 games in 1925).

Up to this point Erstad’s career team highlight has to be when his Anaheim Angels team won the 2002 World Series over the San Francisco Giants. Darin caught the fly ball that was the last out of the seventh and last game of the series, sealing the victory for the Anaheim Angels.

Darin is still close to the folks back home, despite his fame and glory. During his first year in the big leagues, he donated $25,000 to Jamestown and the Special Olympics. When he signed a new deal with the Angels three years later, $200,000 from his salary went toward developing Little League fields in North Dakota and Southern California.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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