Sports Spotlight: Darin Erstad

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Last week, when the University of Mary played basketball at Division One Nebraska in Lincoln, fans got to catch up with one of the greatest athletes to come out of the North Dakota, Darin Erstad.

Erstad is in this week's Sports Spotlight.

When Erstad arrived at a speaking engagement last week, something tripped the memory of the former Angels outfielder.

"There is a heavy accent that I'm very familiar with," said Erstad, Nebraska head coach.

It was the unmistakable twang of a North Dakotan, 150 of them, actually. In Lincoln to cheer U-Mary basketball on that night against the Huskers. Now the Nebraska baseball coach, the Jamestown native remembers that same support from his playing days.

"They put the games on the radio in Jamestown, and the only complaint I really received was that the games got kind of late because it was two hours later into the night, but to this day. The support I received from North Dakota, you know it's just a very special place," said Erstad.

Before amassing more than 1,500 hits over 14 Major League seasons, Erstad played Legion Ball with the Jamestown Eagles. He batted nearly .500, but in a pre-digital age, there were challenges getting noticed.

"I think we left we might have left the state of North Dakota one time, to play in Cody, Wyoming. So, to say the exposure wasn't there is an understatement," said Erstad.

Fortunately, Nebraska came knocking. Erstad was taken by the Angels with the first overall pick in the '94 draft. But it was his work in with Nebraska football, 5 months earlier, that Husker fans remember.

"In Nebraska, most people don't even know I played baseball. They knew me as the punter. Football kind of runs the ship around here," said Erstad.

When you bring home a national football championship, that tends to happen. But for those back in Jamestown​, they remember listening to the radio late at night, to support one of their own. It's that kind of spirit, that Erstad finds so endearing.

"As soon as you meet someone from North Dakota, you might not have been there for 30 years. But both people, all of the sudden, they might have lived in Texas and Ireland and they have totally different accents and they get together and 'Ya, You Know' it just comes back to. You know it's in your blood and I just love North Dakota," said Erstad.

He's made a living on a field of manicured sod, but the untamed prairies of North Dakota remain his home.