"I grew up," is how Erstad puts it. He also spent last winter retooling his swing. After learning that he had grounded out to first or second base 130 times last season, Erstad determined that he had been "rolling over" his hands, causing him to pull outside pitches weakly. This season he's turning those pitches into line drives to left and centerfields. "He seems even more aggressive this year," Oakland righthander Tim Hudson says. "He's like Nomar. Those guys, you almost have to pitch them like it's 0 and 2. They make hard contact almost all the time. You hope you limit them to a single and move on."
Erstad's suffering ended as soon as this season began. He banged out 14 hits in his first five games. At week's end he had hits in 84 of the 98 games in which he had played. (In '20 Sisler took 24 0-fers.) Only once had he gone hitless in back-to-back games. (Sisler did so twice.)
The summer that he was seven, Erstad rode in the backseat of the family Oldsmobile from North Dakota to Massachusetts to visit relatives. His father, Chuck, an avid baseball fan, made sure to stop along the way at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. A love for baseball was stoked. "It's funny, I haven't thought about that trip in years, probably since we took it," Erstad said as he slowly recalled its details before the game last Saturday. A smile broke bright as dawn over his face.
Nineteen years later, still fueled by a child's enthusiasm, he is off on another journey, baseball history again awaiting him.