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N.D. native, former MLB All-Star Erstad takes over Nebraska baseball program

Former major league All-Star Darin Erstad appears during a news conference during which he was introduced as Nebraska's new baseball coach, Thursday, June 2, 2011, in Lincoln, Neb. (Photo/Dave Weaver)

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska has hired former major league All-Star Darin Erstad to lead his alma mater's baseball program into the Big Ten.

Erstad's hiring was announced Thursday on the university's website. Athletic director Tom Osborne was to introduce Erstad at an afternoon news conference.

Erstad, who turns 37 on Saturday, served as a volunteer hitting coach this past season. He 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.

"It is a great honor to be the new head coach of the Nebraska baseball program," Erstad said in a statement. "My family and I believe strongly in what the university stands for, and I am excited to have this opportunity to help influence kids' lives in a positive way and help them turn into young men. I am committed to helping them grow as people."

Osborne fired Mike 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.

Erstad has remained close to the program. He and his wife Jessica donated $1 million to Nebraska's football stadium improvement project in 2004.

"Darin is very passionate about Nebraska and especially our baseball program," Osborne said in a statement. "Nobody is going to work harder than Darin. He showed that both here at Nebraska and in major-league baseball, and that will be the same as our head coach."

Osborne had indicated last week that a hire might not be made until after the NCAA tournament ends later this month.

He interviewed an undisclosed number of head and assistant coaches before going with Erstad.

Erstad helped coach second-team All-American Cody Asche, a junior who batted .327 with 12 home runs and a school-record 27 doubles this season.

"It is nice to have a feel for what's here in our program," Erstad said. "That will help in evaluating players. I know their mind sets, and for the players' sake, it is probably nice to have some continuity in the program. They are familiar with me, and I am familiar with them."

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.

"Character, integrity and loyalty are the types of things that are always difficult to assess, but Darin has a great track record in those areas. I have seen that firsthand," Osborne said. "He knows our players and they have a lot of trust and confidence in him, which gives him a head start over other coaches."