Erstad exits quietly

Darin Erstad was once known for his booming leg as a punter at Nebraska and a polished hitter with the Cornhuskers baseball squad.

On Wednesday, he told the Jamestown Sun in a story that appeared in The Forum, that he’s no longer looking to catch on to a major league team. In other words, he’s set to retire.

Looking back, he should’ve been hitting his Paul Molitor-prime right about now. It just didn’t end up that way.

When he hit the big leagues with Angels in 1997, he went on a on a tear, reaching 200 hits faster than any player six decades. Plus, he had the defense that made many a highlight reel. His North Dakota counterpart Rick Helling, the Fargo Shanley pitcher, was making his own mark, giving the region plenty of reasons to pay attention to our boys in the bigs.

Of course, there was Phil Hansen of Oakes, N.D., playing with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and Matt Cullen and Jason Blake making their debuts in the NHL and the Forum’s sports section had plenty of reasons to start breaking out daily charts on their progress.

But Erstad, after helping the Angels win the World Series in 2002, couldn’t stay on track. The former leadoff speedster began stints on the DL and his days jumping to the White Sox and Astros were forgettable.

It’s unfortunate because Erstad, who was always so tightly wrapped up in his daily workout routine that he barely took time early in his career for scribes from Fargo, wasn’t the player he once was and someone who couldn’t reach superstar status in his prime as the nation focused on the steroid-era home run chase toward, oddly enough, another local guy, Roger Maris.

While he deserved a better sendoff, Erstad’s 13-year career was solid. It’s not Cooperstown, but for Jamestown and the rest of the region, it was a job very well done.