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Cat Osterman's Legendary Career Ends With Athletes Unlimited

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(Photo by Jade Hewitt via Athletes Unlimited)

ROSEMONT, Ill. — First, the bell chimes repeatedly, signaling something momentous is about to occur. Then, the cymbals crash, leading into a high-energy introduction from a string orchestra.

The intense entrance music can only mean one thing: Cat Osterman—the great Cat Osterman—is coming in to pitch.

Osterman warms up to “Rest In Peace,” the theme song for WWE wrestler Mark William Calaway, better known as The Undertaker. While the two took their athletic abilities in very different directions, they have quite a bit in common—both are lifelong Texans with a shared hometown of Houston, and both recently retired after long, highly successful careers.

“I was a wrestling fan growing up, and I’ve been fortunate in my connections in Austin to have given The Undertaker’s daughter some pitching lessons and gotten to know him,” Osterman said. “I (used the song) as an ode to him last year, and a lot of people liked it, so I kept it for this year.”

Ten months after The Undertaker—the longest-tenured wrestler in WWE history—called it quits last November, Osterman did the same on Monday night with Athletes Unlimited, bringing an end to an illustrious career that included three Olympic medals, four Big 12 Pitcher of the Year selections with Texas and four National Pro Fastpitch championships.

Osterman took a year off from college softball to be with Team USA in 2004, helping the Americans win gold in Athens. She pitched well, but took the loss in the gold medal game four years later in Beijing, as Japan took home gold while the U.S. collected silver.

Following the 2015 NPF season—her eighth year in the league, during which time she posted a cumulative 0.91 ERA—Osterman retired to focus on her assistant coaching job at Texas State. But when softball was reintroduced for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, she returned for another shot at gold.

“She’s always encouraged people to play longer,” said Jazmyn Jackson, who played with Osterman during her second stint with Team USA. “That’s a huge part of her legacy. She’s inspiring us to play as long as we can.”

Team USA was again denied the gold medal by Japan in the pandemic-postponed 2021 Games, but it was hardly Osterman’s fault. The left-hander did not allow a run in 14.2 innings across four appearances, striking out 15.

Osterman may not have won the second gold medal she came out of retirement for, but her comeback gave her the chance to compete in the first two seasons of Athletes Unlimited. Wearing number 38—representing her age at the Tokyo Olympics—she dominated AU’s inaugural season in 2020. Her 2,408 points were nearly 400 more than the second-place finisher, and her 1.53 ERA was the league’s best by more than a full run.

Following the Olympics, she decided to play one final year in Rosemont before hanging up her cleats for good. While she wasn’t quite as dominant this time around, Osterman was still a captain four times during the five-week season. She also threw the first no-hitter in AU history on Aug. 29 and a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts on Sept. 13. In her final start, she took another no-no into the sixth, ending with 6.2 innings of one-hit ball.

“After Season 1, I had such a great experience that it was almost a no-brainer (to come back),” Osterman said. “The athletes truly buy into what this can be and know that this is the next step for professional softball.”

The dramatic entrance music reflects Osterman’s personality. In a clip shown frequently on the video board at Parkway Bank Sports Complex, players were asked to name who they thought was most the most intense competitor, and Osterman was the near-unanimous answer.

Osterman kept up that intensity in Rosemont while helping shape the next generation of elite pitchers. Randi Rupp, who had a stellar collegiate career under Osterman’s tutelage at Texas State, was one of the league’s top arms, with a 2.72 ERA in 18 innings.

“I’m still a little dependent on her to try and fix me,” Rupp said. “It’s always good to be on her team so she can help me make those adjustments.”

In her first game this season, Osterman gave the start to Odicci Alexander, who became a household name at this year’s Women’s College World Series for James Madison. Rookies Carrie Eberle and Alyssa Denham also showed potential to become aces of the future.

So while the bell signaling Osterman’s entrance has rung for the last time, her impact on professional softball will continue to be felt for years to come.

“I hope I pushed people to be better. I hope I set a standard of what expectations and hard work look like,” Osterman said. “I hope everybody knows every time I took the field, I put my all into every single pitch, continued to compete to win every single game and gave the game all I had.”

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