Tokyo Games

New Braunfels resident Cat Osterman is set to return to the Olympic stage to try and help Team USA win the gold medal during the upcoming Tokyo Games. Osterman, one of the best pitchers in softball history, is already a two-time Olympic medalist.

In late July, a tall Texan with an intimidating stare and an untouchable curveball will step onto the field for one final showdown.

New Braunfels resident Cat Osterman — one of the greatest pitchers in the history of softball — is set to reprise her role with Team USA as the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics finally get underway. Osterman, who left for Japan on Friday, is determined to help the Americans capture gold after falling short during their most recent try back in 2008 in Beijing.

With softball set to make its Olympic return, so is Osterman, who came back to the diamond in 2018 after retiring in 2015 to pursue coaching. Of course, after making the Team USA roster for the 2020 Olympics, Osterman had to endure the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic that reshuffled the deck in terms of athletic schedules across the globe.

But now the 38-year-old southpaw is prepared to take the big stage once again.

“We weren’t sure if this day was ever going to come,” Osterman said. “It’s just nice to know that departure is upon us, which means the Games are a go.”

Osterman’s playing career has already reached legendary status, as the former University of Texas star is a three-time National Player of the Year, a four time All-American and a two-time Olympic medalist. Osterman led the Longhorns to three Women’s College World Series appearances and still holds the WCWS record for most strikeouts in a seven-inning game (18).

Her collegiate days also included 20 no-hitters and nine perfect games.

Osterman helped lead Team USA to gold during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but Japan toppled the Americans 3-1 during 2008’s gold medal game. Osterman and her new teammates are intent on regaining their crown in Tokyo.

“I don’t know that there are words that can truly describe how you feel when you hear your national anthem on foreign soil and being able to represent everything you do with ‘USA’ across your chest,” Osterman said. “No matter what aspect of life you’re representing, it’s obviously a very honoring experience to be able to know that you represent others back home. I know we all take that very seriously.”

Osterman’s journey back to the playing field included some improvisation brought about by last year’s quarantine. She said she was able to use the Texas Bombers’ facility in town to stay sharp while also converting her own home into a makeshift gym.

“I knew that I had to keep training and I had already been using the performance lab that Scott Smith and the Bombers have in New Braunfels, so Scott ended up just giving me a key and said, ‘Use it whenever you need to,’” Osterman said. “I made a gym at home and spent a lot of time at the H-E-B soccer fields, where I was doing a lot of running by myself in the early mornings or late at night.”

Osterman has lived in New Braunfels for nearly five years with her husband, Texas State golf coach Joey Ashley, and her step-daughter, Bracken. She said she was familiar with the town from her days as a water park patron and has grown to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.

“I visited here quite a bit as a kid having cousins in San Antonio — Schlitterbahn was a once-a-summer experience,” Osterman said. “I enjoy being out of the city — a little bit of country living with animals running around.”

During her first trip to the Olympics in 2004, Osterman was the youngest member of the Team USA roster. Now, she’s one of the squad’s seasoned veterans, as only she and fellow pitcher Monica Abbott have Olympic experience.

Both hurlers, who happen to occupy the top two spots on the NCAA’s all-time strikeout list, have tried to prepare their teammates for what’s to come.

“Obviously, a lot of things change over time, and it’s been a while since we’ve been in the Olympic Games, but at the same time we are able to share emotionally and mentally what we went through as youngsters and first-time Olympians,” Osterman said. “It’s been fun to share that and reflect on our time as Olympians in the past.”

Softball spent the past 13 years on hiatus from Olympic competition, and its future remains in doubt past this summer’s Tokyo Games. Softball will not be included in the 2024 Paris Games, and the 2028 Los Angeles Games are still up in the air.

Despite widespread popularity in the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada, Osterman said the sport is still trying to make more headway in Europe, where many International Olympic Committee (IOC) voters reside.

“The gap between the Olympics and the sport of softball is unfortunately detrimental for athletes’ dreams,” Osterman said. “Softball has kept growing and we’re excited for that to carry over to the Olympic stage. Japan absolutely loves softball — the best professional softball league is in Japan. Australia loves softball. Canada loves softball.

“Globally, it’s a great sport. We’re still working on figuring out how we break through in Europe.”

Osterman’s dreams of a successful ride into the international sunset will begin on July 20 against Italy in Fukushima, Japan. Following the completion of the Tokyo Games, Osterman is set to compete with Athletes Unlimited in August prior to re-entering retirement — for good this time.

“I totally know that this year is the last one I’m playing, and I’m fully prepared to return and hang them up,” Osterman said. “I don’t know fully what that’s going to entail every day, but I’m excited to experience it and kind of write my own schedule.”

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