Team USA softball star Cat Osterman has waited 13 years for Olympic redemption

Softball player Cat Osterman poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympic shoot on November 22, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Softball player Cat Osterman poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympic shoot on November 22, 2019 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Softball is back in the Olympics for the first time since 2008 and veteran pitcher Cat Osterman is hoping to help lead the United States to gold medal redemption.

August 21, 2008, was the day to forget for the United States softball team. Not only was Team USA upset by Japan 3-1 in the Beijing Olympics ending a string of 22 straight victories, but softball was eliminated from Olympic competition.

There would be no retribution coming in 2012 or possibly ever.

Cat Osterman was the starting pitcher that day. The normally dominant lefty gave up 2 runs in 5 innings of work and took the loss that still sits with her to this day.

“Obviously 2008 was not the ending we wanted and I think the fact that we weren’t back in the Olympics at that time,” Osterman said. “The finality of it really stung just a little bit.”

Enter Tokyo 2021 and the return of softball to the Olympic stage. Team USA is loaded up for another run at a gold medal with two holdovers from the 2008 silver medal squad, Osterman and fellow lefty hurler Monica Abbott.

The two veterans are surrounded by a different youthful energy.

“The difference is this team is a little more fun-loving loose teams,” Osterman explained. “You’ll see the passion and the love of the game come through a little bit more. I’m excited to take the field with them. They’ve changed my perspective on the game just a little bit and just been able to enjoy it a little bit more.”

Osterman has always been the focused, serious type. Her husband, Joey Ashley, the golf coach at Texas State University where Osterman coaches softball, has learned that first hand. Osterman put Ashley to work during the pandemic to keep her pitching form sharp. She needed a catcher in the backyard.

Cat Osterman hopes softball will return for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles

“I am very fortunate that he has stepped up to get behind the plate and allowed me to train especially with the pandemic cause there was a while where I wasn’t sure how I was going to throw,” Osterman said. “He tells me quite a bit that was better than I made it look. Thankfully the marriage hasn’t been tested too much in those bullpens.”

That doesn’t mean Osterman is completely satisfied with her husband’s volunteer performance.

“I’ll give the A+ in protecting all of his body parts, but a B-. When you are looking for a good catcher you don’t necessarily want to see a ball taken out of the zone six inches,” Osterman said.

That competitiveness ultimately led Osterman back to the field after retiring from professional competition in 2015 while softball was still banned from Olympic competition. That changed August 3, 2016, for what was supposed to be the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Softball is very popular in select countries,” Osterman said. “Here in the United States, it is super popular. Japan loves it which is why we are in these Olympics. Baseball, softball is highly regarded over there like it is in the United States.”

But the return will be short-lived at least for now. There will be no softball in Paris 2024, but the games do come to Los Angeles in 2028.

“I think the biggest push we have to make is it’s still not a primetime sport in Europe and unfortunately that is where a lot of our IOC voting members are and so we just need to continue to grow the sport a little more globally,” Osterman said. “Fingers crossed it gets into 2028 and then after that, it can back on the permanent docket where it belongs.”

Whatever the future of Olympic softball will be, Osterman will go back to retirement after the games. Going out with a gold medal to match the one she won in 2004 seems appropriate.

“We have all the tools that those teams had in the past,” Osterman boasted. “We have a great defense. Our infield is some of the best players, they compare to the best players I have played with. Our outfield is just as fast as teams I’ve had in the past.”

Plus, a veteran lefty in the pitching circle ready to bookend a phenomenal career in Olympic gold style.

“An extra year gave me time to get in a groove and get into a place where I feel I am 100 percent confident,” Osterman recapped. “I don’t know that I would have gotten to my A+ game last July, but I would have been really close, but now I know it’s in there and I know what I need to do.”

13 years is a long time to wait for another opportunity you didn’t know would come. It is finally here for Team USA softball. Game one is versus Italy on July 21.

Cat Osterman talked to FanSided live from DICK’s Sporting Goods in San Antonio. DICK’S is helping support Team USA softball.