Cat Osterman prepares to compete in 2020 Olympics
Catherine “Cat” Osterman’s road to the Olympic Games as a member of Team USA’s softball squad began as a young girl tossing a baseball back and forth with her father in the backyard of her family’s home in Houston.
Osterman, the Bobcats’ director of operations, will pitch for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics this summer in Tokyo.
“Growing up, my parents encouraged me to play sports, and I played every sport under the sun,” she remembers. “Basketball was my first love, and my dad, Gary, taught me how to shoot. But I became better at softball, and my dad played catch with me. When I started playing in Little League I was in the outfield, but once I got to pitch for the first time, where I got to hold the ball every pitch of the game, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Osterman’s father helped her find a pitching coach and taught her valuable lessons in concentration and confidence.
“I’ve never been shy about saying I learned my work ethic from my dad,” she says. “He always reminded me about how much time it takes to be good at something – and to always focus on understanding what I want to do and why I want to do it.”
While in high school, the 16-year-old aced a tryout for the Women’s National Team. Three years later at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, she helped pitch Team USA to a perfect 9-0 record and the gold medal. Incredibly, pitchers gave up just one run to their opponents. Osterman took the mound again at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where Team USA went 8-1 and took silver.
“There’s a great sense of pride in being a member of the Olympics softball program,” Osterman says, recalling playing before thousands of excited international fans. “The bigger the game, the more the adrenaline flows. The key is to stay grounded. Once I’m out there before a big crowd, I use their energy to my advantage.”
The year 2008 marked the last time softball and baseball were Olympic sports. But they are back on the roster this summer; the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allows the host country to add games to the Olympic schedule, and baseball and softball are wildly popular in Japan.
When the IOC announced that softball was making a comeback in 2016, Osterman was coaching at Texas State University. The year before, she had retired from playing professionally. When she learned softball was returning to the Olympics, “I wondered if I could still play,” she says. “But I had a lot of encouragement from my friends and people I’d played with. Enough people in my life pushed and prodded me until I said I’d do it. And so far, it’s been fun and a dream come true. Being part of Team USA again isn’t just a continuation of my career, it’s the epitome of my dream.”
Tuning up for the Olympics, Team USA is playing a series of training and exhibition games around the country through the end of June. The 36-city “Stand Beside Her” tour, presented by Major League Baseball, includes three stops in Texas.
Osterman realizes this is her last hurrah. Softball won’t be an Olympic sport at the 2024 games, to be played in Paris, so Osterman knows she’ll be hanging up her spikes as a player, even though there’s a chance it could return for the 2028 games in Los Angeles. Still, she’s looking forward to resuming coaching at Texas State.
“When I retired as a player, I knew I wanted to coach,” she says. “When [Women’s Softball Head] Coach [Ricci] Woodard called me in 2014, asking if I’d like to be her pitching coach, I jumped at the chance to get back to Division I play in my home state of Texas. It’s time to train the next generation of athletes.”
Woodard recalls the days she coached against Osterman, who played at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a four-time Collegiate All-American and two-time ESPY Top Collegiate Female Athlete while earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2007.
“Cat’s dedication to the sport is phenomenal,” Woodard says. “Our players see that dedication and really respond to it. Our pitchers soak up her guidance like a sponge, and try so hard to emulate her style.”
As Osterman prepares to jet off to meet her teammates for an exhibition game, she reflects on her record. From 2001-10, her record was 59-4 with a 0.38 ERA and 832 strikeouts in 425.2 total innings.
“I know that no pitcher is ever going to be perfect,” she says. “But it’s fun to take that chance and try to be as perfect as possible. I just want to say that when I finally hang it up, I chased perfection.”