Cat Osterman on USA Softball trials: 'It might look like old Cat; it might not'

Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Image

Staring down a load of unknowns, pitcher Cat Osterman will try to earn a spot on the U.S. national team roster this week in Florida.

Olympic gold and silver medalist Cat Osterman, 35, announced in October that she was coming out of retirement with the goal of making Team USA and competing in the 2020 Olympics. This week, she shares her experience as she takes part in national team trials in Clearwater, Florida.

For the first time in a long time, my holiday plans this year revolved around softball.

It's good to have a softball in my hand again for something other than throwing batting practice to my players at Texas State. I came out of retirement for this, for the opportunity to hopefully earn a place on Team USA for the 2020 Olympics. I came back for the chance to win back the gold medal all of us who were there still feel we let slip out of our hands against Japan in 2008.

But there's no halfway in that goal. The game doesn't know it's Christmas for everyone else.

My brother Craig and his wife recently moved from Texas to Colorado. So my parents and my other brother, Chris, decided to go up there and spend the holiday with them. If it were last year, when I was still retired, my husband and I would have gone for sure. We even thought about it this year, but then panic set in. I couldn't avoid it. I need to have a plan; I'm a pitcher. And with the Team USA selection camp beginning Jan. 2, the same questions kept bouncing around my brain.

Where am I going to throw if we're in Breckenridge, Colorado?

And what happens if a massive snowstorm comes and I get snowed in?

So we made the decision to stay home. I took Christmas itself off. We opened packages with my stepdaughter in the morning, and my husband and I went to see a movie that night. But every other day was the familiar pattern of throwing, lifting and running. For the first time in a long time, I had to put softball back in the center of the universe and let everything revolve around that.

I got a little more excited, a little more anxious, each day leading up to this. I felt like I had a month to go, and then I blinked, and I had seven days to go.

Now it's here.

I feel like physically I'm in a good place, so I'm not stressing out about my body or if it can last through tryouts and that many hitters. Nothing like that. But for the first time in a long time, I'm going into a tryout, and there's kind of an unknown factor -- a whole lot of unknowns, really.

So much has changed since the last time I tried out before the 2010 world championship that we won in Venezuela. We try out in Florida now, a first for me, and stay in a hotel instead of a USOC training center. So that's different. So are most of the people. I played with Monica Abbott and Kelly Kretschman for years on the national team, but just about everyone else is new to me.

You're walking into a group of girls that are all familiar with each other. And then here comes grandma!

I need to get to know them. That's a new side for me, too, especially being older than them by as much as I am. Kelly and I have quite a few years on some of these kids. You go in, and you have to figure out how to relate to them and get along with them. That's the part I'm trying to figure out, how it fits in, because I need to do that, but I need to make sure I focus in to have a great tryout.

I told Kelly, who went through this last year when she returned to the national team, that it has been so long I don't even know what to pack for this kind of thing anymore.

She told me they give us pants, which is new because we obviously only played in shorts the last time I played for the national team. They give us socks, the shirt just like always. She said I mostly just need to have clothes to hang out in off the field.

OK, I said, but what about the schedule? I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to be killing time at the hotel between pitching assignments.

You're freaking out about nothing, she told me. She knows me pretty well.

You're walking into a group of girls that are all familiar with each other. And then here comes grandma!
Cat Osterman

It's a different sensation than even the first time I tried out for Team USA, right out of high school. I didn't know what was going to happen then, but I wasn't nervous. I didn't know any better. And by the time I got to my last tryout, I was pretty confident I was going to make the team because I had been on the team for so many years. You knew what you had to do at tryouts to keep your spot.

People scoff when I tell them I still have to make the team to get back to the Olympics. They think it's a formality. And I'm like, "OK, but I really do."

I haven't thrown competitively in three years, so I don't really know what this ball looks like against hitters. I can tell you I feel great, but it doesn't mean it's going to look great when I pitch. I'm confident where I'm at, but I'm not necessarily 100 percent confident what it's going to look like when I get on the field -- just because it's an unknown. I'm not doubting that I can be successful, but at the same time, I don't really know what it's going to look like.

It might look like old Cat; it might not. I might have to figure out how to get outs in different ways.

Once I decided to come back last fall and ramped up my workouts, it took time for things to just be consistent. Literally until probably three weeks ago, I would have days where I'd throw great, and I'd have a couple of days where I'd come home and go, "I'm going to be embarrassed if I throw like this."

The past three weeks, things have started to click, so this last week has been fine-tuning the consistency of how I feel. When I can do that, that's when the control and accuracy and being able to pinpoint my pitches the way I want to comes.

For a while it was really frustrating trying to figure out how to get that all back. Some people say it's like riding a bike, but I don't think it's like riding a bike at all. I don't even know that I have an analogy, but I thought it would come back automatically. It took a lot longer than I expected.

Sometimes, during the most frustrating days, my husband or one of the coaches at work would look at me and say, "What would you tell your kids?"

Don't you hate it when people use your own advice on you? But they were right.

We're better tomorrow for the work we put in today. That's what I tell our players. I have to remember that sometimes. In the long run, I will be better, whether today is great or not.

I'm not going to say this whole process has been all happy-go-lucky, but the hard parts are what makes it fun. I always loved softball, but I loved the challenge of pitching most of all. And this has been the greatest challenge yet.

For all the unknown, that is familiar. That has been fun to face.

I feel ready. And I know I've done all I can to be ready for this challenge.

Related Content