Cat Osterman is primed to end her softball career on top.
The dominant left-handed pitcher is set to compete for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, then she will defend her individual championship at Athletes Unlimited later this year before retiring.
Osterman was an Olympic gold medalist in 2004 and a silver medalist in 2008. In college at Texas, she was a three-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
She is ready for one more run at greatness, then that’s it.
“It’s just time,” she said. “I have a family and I’ve been doing this for a long, long time. Slowly but surely, the signs were there that it was time for me to phase into a new direction.”
Last season, Osterman was the highest point earner for Athletes Unlimited in games played during a five-week season played in a bubble at a sports complex in Rosemont, Illinois. The league featured 57 of the world’s best players.
Osterman didn’t go in expecting to win the individual honor — after all, she had planned to retire after the Olympics and joined the league only after the Tokyo Games were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic and she was looking for a way to stay competitive.
She said she's glad she joined and that it was an easy decision to commit for a second season.
“The cool part is that I was able to perform the way that I was at the peak of my career when I was 27, 28,” she said. “So that was an exciting moment to see. But I think more than anything, I was proving to myself that I could throw at an elite level and at a level that I was satisfied with.”
Osterman initially wasn’t sure that an individual points-based system would catch on, but it worked.
“It’s obviously super exciting for softball that there’s a pro avenue that looks like it can be sustained, not only that the fans fell in love with, but that the players fell in love with,” she said. “I know plenty of players had doubts when the idea was first pitched, but once we were in it, we were all in love with it.”
Osterman's work continued after the season. She and her husband turned a spare bedroom into a workout room. Her trainer, Lance Sewell, continues to help her get results after seven years of working together.
Her workouts have changed over the years.
“I do a little bit more of it, but less intensity than I used to simply because I’m older, but I have to also keep my body moving and let it recover the right way,” she said. “It’s very scripted out.”
Osterman said she admires stars in other sports such as Tom Brady, Justin Verlander and Aaron Rodgers who have remained elite competitors at advanced ages.
“I can relate to the fact that you’re passionate about what you do, and that you want to keep doing it as long as you’re able to," she said. "I read articles about them and I think, ‘I know what this feels like.’”
Osterman said Team USA is training together two weeks per month. If all goes as planned, the team will go into a bubble environment to limit exposure to others before heading to Tokyo.
After that, she’ll try to defend her championship. She wants fans to be able to watch her play one last time before she retires.
“It’s fun to return and see who takes the title after this,” she said. “If it’s me, there will be no Season 3 for me. If it’s not me, I’m going to enjoy watching whoever comes after that championship title.”