Cat Osterman Embraces Renewed Perspective With USA Softball
The last time Cat Osterman took the mound at a USA Softball training camp, the state of the senior national team's Olympic future looked bleak. It was 2010, and softball was out of the Summer Games for the foreseeable future, leaving Osterman's hope for Olympic redemption uncertain.
Now, almost a decade later, the 36-year-old Osterman is back with Team USA after a nine-year hiatus, and her sights are firmly set on returning the United States to gold-medal glory at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The last time Osterman and the sport of softball appeared in the Olympics, Japan upset the then–defending Olympic champion Americans to claim the gold medal in 2008 at the Beijing Games.
"There’s a little bit of unfinished business," Osterman told Softball America in a phone interview. "There was a finality of the feeling in '08. We want to hopefully go over there and bring back the gold for Team USA."
The road to Tokyo began this week for Team USA, as the squad opened up its 2019 season with training camp in Des Plaines, Ill., which is set to conclude this weekend with exhibition games against two National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) opponents, Osterman's former team, the USSSA Pride, and the Chicago Bandits. The national team will then begin a slate that features six events throughout the summer, including the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru.
"The philosophy of [USA Softball] has remained the same since 2002 when [Osterman] first came into the program at the national-team level," Team USA head coach Ken Eriksen told Softball America over the phone. "She has picked up right where she left off."
Despite it being a similar training process and philosophy for USA Softball ahead of an Olympic year, things are different this time around for Osterman, a two-time Olympic medalist.
"It’s different this time," said Osterman, who had been retired from competitive softball since 2015 before she returned to Team USA earlier this year. "As much as I know the names of my teammates, it’s not the same group I played with before. I’m the newbie, but not the newbie at the same time. It’s fun to get to know my new teammates and just kind of start over and hit the ground running."
Also different for Osterman in 2019 is her perspective on the sport she's been entrenched in for three decades. As the stepmother of a seven-year-old girl named Bracken Ashley, Osterman now trains with a renewed outlook and sense of motivation.
"My perspective on the game has changed," said Osterman, who is also the associate head softball coach at Texas State University. "I have a stepdaughter now and it's fun to have her watch me training. I want to show her what it means to work hard and have success. It’s eye-opening when you have a child in your life who you are able to have an influence on."
The southpaw's overall mentality in the pitcher's circle has also been altered from how it once was.
"This biggest thing I feel coming in this time is that I’m not nearly as stressed about the outcome of things," Osterman added. "I know the game and I know the process."
And part of that process for Osterman will be her ability to use her experience and renewed perspective to her team's advantage going forward. As one of five pitchers named to the 2019 senior national team, which includes her 2008 Olympic teammate Monica Abbott, Osterman is viewed by her coaching staff as a vital part of USA Softball's formula for success.
"I don’t think we’ve had as deep a pitching staff for a while as we do right now," Eriksen added. "99% of our success will be how our pitching staff is going to react and bounce back. To have someone of [Osterman’s] experience on our team, it definitely makes me sleep a lot better at night."