2020 Olympics: Cat Osterman is a wife, a stepmom, a pitching coach and a 36-year-old who hopes to add another job this week — Olympian
Cat Osterman remembers marveling at some of her U.S. Olympic softball teammates back in 2004 and 2008.
She was a youngster on those teams, still pitching at Texas the first time, fresh out of college the second time. She was in a completely different station in life than Jennie Finch or Stacey Nuveman or Leah O’Brien-Amico. They were wives. Mothers. Multi-taskers. They seemed like super heroes to Osterman.
“Back then, I looked at them like, ‘How are you doing this?’” she said.
Nowadays, she asks a slightly different question.
“How are we doing this?”
This week, the U.S. Olympic softball team selection begins in Oklahoma City. The trials start Wednesday with 29 hopefuls, and when all is said and done early next week, the 15-member team will be announced.
No player has a more interesting road than Osterman.
In 2015, she walked away from competitive softball. The hard-throwing lefty had pitched eight years in the National Pro Fastpitch League and was one of the best on the planet. But she decided it was time to move on. In addition to being the pitching coach at Texas State in San Marcos, she was planning a wedding and getting ready to become a stepmom.
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She wanted to devote her energy to that new life.
But then a couple years ago, Osterman was named to the coaching pool for the U.S. women’s national team. In early 2018, she received an email to gauge availability and interest for the 2020 Olympics.
One day, Osterman was talking with her boss, Texas State coach Ricci Woodard, about it.
“There’s not really a part of me deep in my heart that wants to coach,” Osterman said of the national team.
“Well,” Woodard said, “why?”
Osterman came clean.
“If I’m going to spend that time on the road and away from everything, I want to be playing.”
Osterman figured she’d have to give up her job at Texas State, where husband, Joey Ashley, is the golf coach, and she wasn’t willing to do that.
But a few days later, Woodard had some news.
“If you want to try this,” she told Osterman, “we’ll make it work.”
Knowing she could stay at Texas State was big, but what about her husband and her stepdaughter, Bracken? Osterman knew Ashley hadn’t wanted her to retire, but yet, they were only dating when she was still pitching. He had little idea the time and effort she would need to devote.
“There will be times that I’m working out till 9 or 10 o’clock at night or I’m going to throw a bullpen at 8 at night because that’s the only time I can get it in," she told him. “There’s no way I can do this halfway.”
Ashley was on board, so Osterman got to work. She ran and lifted and biked and got her body in shape that winter, and then in the spring, she started throwing.
In July 2018, she privately threw three innings against hitters from the Scrap Yard, a pro team in Houston. Even though she didn’t feel completely like her old self, she threw well.
Her dad, Gary, went with her — “I was 35 … ,” Osterman said with a laugh, “but a pitcher’s dad is always a pitcher’s dad” — and he was honest about what he saw.
“You can do this if you really want,” he said.
In January, Osterman tried out and made the national team. She was back in the circle pitching again, but throughout this past summer, she got to work on competing again.
“The mental part probably has been the biggest challenge for me this last year,” she said, adding she dealt well with ups and downs before retiring and expected that mental toughness to return quicker than it did. “That’s just not how it goes. I think that’s normal.”
She paused and chuckled.
“I guess we don’t know what’s normal — most people don’t take three years off and decide to play again.”
Osterman, 36, is in a different place than when she retired — and a much different place than when she was last on the Olympic team. That has brought challenges.
But it has also brought rewards.
“It’s really cool to have a stepdaughter who gets to watch the process,” she said of 7-year-old Bracken. “Not that she fully grasps all of it because one of her first comments was, ‘Are you playing again to get rich?’”
Osterman had to laugh.
“Oh, baby,” she told Braken, “if only you knew.”
Bracken is a regular companion when Osterman goes to the cages and got to see her stepmom play a few times this summer.
Osterman has long felt it important to inspire little girls to work hard and dream big, but now, there’s one under her own roof who looks up to her.
“As much as I try to get her not to brag too much,” Osterman said, “she’d told quite a few people, ‘Guess who my stepmom is?’”
Bracken’s stepmom may soon be an Olympian.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.
U.S. Olympic softball trials
When: Wednesday through Sunday
Where: USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium Complex
Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, go to TeamUSA.org/USA-Softball.
Wednesday: 9:30-11:30 a.m., skill evaluations; 4:30-7:30 p.m., games
Thursday: Games 10:30-noon and 5:30-7 p.m.
Friday: Games 10:30-noon and 5:30-7 p.m.
Saturday: Games 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.