Cat Osterman knows exactly where a certain clock is at USA Softball’s training facility in Bradenton, Florida. That clock counts down to the team’s first softball game at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, softball’s return to the Summer Games.
Osterman will be there, hoping to win her second gold medal and her third Olympic medal overall.
And then what?
“Everyone keeps asking me that,” Osterman said on Monday after taking part in a virtual appearance on behalf of DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation and its Sports Matter Giving Truck.
Osterman is one of several athletes that has partnered with DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation and its Sports Matter Giving Truck. The goal was to hand out 10,000 pieces of baseball and softball equipment to children in under-resourced areas. The truck made its first trip during the holidays last December, and the truck is making stops again in eight cities in March.
Osterman was part of a stop in Houston on March 15 to surprise softball and baseball players with donated equipment. This being a pandemic, Osterman was able to surprise the young baseball and softball players via a Zoom connection in the Giving Truck. She was actually in Bradenton, training with the U.S. team, before playing a game in Gainesville, Florida, on Tuesday, followed by a break from camp until mid-April.
“Obviously I would have loved to have been there in person,” Osterman said. “But Dick’s allowed me to be there virtually and have a chance to interact with up-and-coming athletes to get some gear and feel special. It was a truly incredible experience. In-person would have been even better, but we made the most of it.”
Osterman described partnering with DICK’s as a ‘no-brainer,’ especially with this particular appearance being in her hometown of Houston. She originally heard about the Giving Truck on a podcast, after which DICK’s approached her and several other athletes, including her Team USA teammate, Haylie McCleney, who played collegiately at Alabama and took part in an event in Mobile, Alabama, last week.
‘No-brainer’ might well describe Osterman’s return to Team USA. She won a gold medal with Team USA in 2004, sandwiched in between her four years at the University of Texas, which ended in 2006.
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Osterman’s career with Texas is practically unmatched. She was a four-time All-American with the Longhorns and left Austin with her fingerprints all over the program’s and the Big 12’s record book, with UT records in wins (136), strikeouts (2,265), and earned run average (0.50). She remains in the Top 10 in NCAA history in several different categories, including wins and strikeouts. Osterman was a three-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
When she left Texas after the 2006 season she knew that softball was exiting from the Olympics, the result of a secret vote taken by Olympics decision-makers in 2005. Osterman and Team USA went on to win silver in Beijing in 2008, and then softball advocates around the world worked for nearly a decade to get softball back in the Olympics. Meanwhile, Osterman embarked on a professional career with the Rockford Thunder and the USSSA Pride in the National Fast Pitch League. The Pride retired her number. And then Osterman retired.
Until 2018. Once softball was reinstated as an Olympic sport, she knew she had to come back. But this, the Tokyo Games, is it for Osterman, who will be 38 after the Games conclude.
“Oh, 2021 will be the last year I play softball,” Osterman said. “I had already retired once, so I un-retired to do this. I’ll be the oldest person to play for the U.S. in the Olympics for softball. I came out of retirement to help the younger players win a gold medal and have that experience, and that’s the only reason I came back.”
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That’s part of the reason 2020 was so disheartening to Osterman and her teammates. Team USA was ready to go for Tokyo, and then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. The International Olympic Committee made a quick decision to postpone the Olympics for one year, to 2021. The team broke camp and headed to their respective homes.
Osterman called it a “huge disappointment” not to be able to play last year. But, as many athletes did during the pandemic, they adjusted.
“As a team, we figured out how to come together and grow from it,” Osterman said. “We’re probably tighter now than we were last year, mentally and emotionally speaking, and that is paying off now on the field. We’re excited to showcase our sport again. We want the younger players to have that chance, to showcase our sport and get it in front of the right people.”
The same could be said for her involvement with DICK’S and its Giving Truck.
The truck will make eight stops this month in Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Tampa, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; Houston, Texas; El Paso, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; and Los Angeles, California.
Other athletes participating include baseball players like Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler, Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen, and Houston Astros pitcher Kyle Tucker.
Youngsters receive 10,000 pieces of baseball or softball equipment at each stop. Osterman got to watch via Zoom as young baseball and softball players opened up their gift bags. Those players received new gloves, shirts, pants, socks, and other equipment, and Osterman said the best part was just hearing the excitement in their voices as a new season approaches.
“This event is so important because it helps reach out to kids in different leagues that need gear so they have more chances to participate,” Osterman said. “Baseball and softball have so many life lessons. Some of them aren’t able to play because of (not having gear). The DICK’S Foundation and the Giving Truck are doing incredible things to allow kids the chance to play baseball and softball and have those life lessons.”
Those are the same life lessons that Osterman learned playing softball as a kid in Houston. And those will probably be helpful once she finally hangs up her glove after the Olympics. She seems content with not having an answer for the ‘what’s next?’ question right now. She resigned from her job as an assistant coach for Texas State softball last year. She got her real estate license in November. Her calendar appears pretty open after the Olympics end on Aug. 8.
“I’m looking forward to having a free schedule,” she said. “I don’t want a strict nine to five job.”
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