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. She shared her experience with espnW as she took part in national team trials in Clearwater, Florida.
One day not so long ago, my 7-year-old stepdaughter, Bracken, asked me if I was playing softball again because I wanted to be rich.
"Oh, child," I remember laughing, "if only you knew the reality."
No, the email I anxiously waited for Monday wasn't going to make me rich. Whether or not it included my name among the 18 athletes selected to play for Team USA this year, I would be out the door and on the way to work almost as soon as I read it. The Texas State players I coach start practice Thursday, so it's a busy time. And head coach Ricci Woodard and our other assistant, Haley Long, and I had to move offices on Monday. The email wouldn't change any of that.
It's difficult to find the right words to explain what made me come out of retirement after three years away. But whatever it is, it's strong enough that it steered me through too many workouts and hours of training to count over the past year, just so I could pack my bag for home Sunday as unsure of my fate as everyone else at the selection camp in Florida.
Having been through tryouts before and knowing the process, I've seen people perform well and still not make the roster. So there was no part of me that was sure that I was on the roster.
It was probably one of the most competitive tryouts I've ever been part of, to be honest. There were some really competitive ones in the past, but I just think all around, this one got to a point where you couldn't pinpoint that one person who didn't have a good tryout or that one person who was obviously head and shoulders above everybody else. It felt like everyone there got into their groove and showed their talent. There is no way that this decision was easy for the committee.
It's not like I went in there and totally dominated in my old fashion at all. I struggled in some parts and felt like I was back to my old self in parts. When you haven't seen a hitter in a game situation in more than 1,200 days, it's going to take some getting used to.
I did eventually find my groove a little bit. I think the game has evolved, too. So part of it for me was trying to figure out what kind of game am I going to have to have? Am I going to be able to think about strikeouts? Or am I going to have to figure out how to pitch to contact?
In my opinion, I felt I had showed well enough that I could do this again. But there was no part of me that knew what the email from USA Softball on Monday morning was going to bring.
I was awake by 6:30 in the morning, despite being exhausted by the time we got home from the airport Sunday night. I did my normal yoga routine. It actually wasn't hard to concentrate on that because my body needed it after so many days of intense softball and travel. But the rest of the morning was pretty hard. I tried to read a little, but nothing stuck. I kept wanting to check my email or look at the clock. I paced around the house. I even did the dishes.
Finally 8 a.m. arrived, and the email showed up in my inbox.
I told my husband, who was looking over my shoulder, to go away. There was no way I wanted him scanning the roster faster than I could and finding out first. Thankfully the names were in alphabetical order, which made it less likely that I would skip over myself. When I saw my name, I screamed and hugged my husband. I can't even explain how rewarding it was to see that.
I am not even too proud to say I bawled like a baby. I just cried.
The journey to get back and be able to join the team was one thing, but after being at tryouts, I'm really excited to be around this group of athletes. They're a really good group of humans that happen to play softball really well. That part excites me. Especially with an age difference and everything, it was super exciting to get to know them.
There is still unfinished business for me. It was never fully about the fact that I felt like I lost the gold-medal game. Everyone on that team feels like they are to blame. I know it because we talk about it just about every time any of us get together. We all think we could have done something more. I heard from a bunch of them, either after the roster was announced or during the trials, from Jennie Finch, Leah O'Brien-Amico, Stacey Nuveman and more. They're all excited.
"Instead of completion, this is the beginning. Being selected is the beginning." Cat Osterman
But I've also seen the core of this new team win world championships. They know what that tastes like. To have a chance, along with my 2008 teammate Monica, to get redemption with them and hopefully taste the ultimate success of being on top in Tokyo, it's an exciting thought.
So I don't think the reason I came back has changed. Not really. But I think the camaraderie piece makes it a little more exciting now. Knowing who I have the chance to go to battle with, that part of it is really exciting. I love the conversations I have with Aubree Munro, one of the catchers on this team. I love how Haylie McCleney's messages get me fired up all the time.
Instead of completion, this is the beginning. Being selected is the beginning. I have to go out this summer and show I can still do this competitively on an international stage. Then I have to get through the next tryout, then I can focus on Tokyo. I don't think there will be any closure until the Olympic Games are done. For right now, it's the beginning and an exciting beginning.
Bracken asked me if I made the team when we picked her up from a friend's house Monday night. She was pretty excited when I told her that I did. I'm not sure how aware she is of exactly what all of this means. But she saw me pitch in my last pro season. And when we go in the backyard, she has the mechanics of pitching down a little bit just from watching. And she can hit a ball pretty well just from watching. She picks up on it and enjoys being around it.
I'm hoping that with a year and a half until the Olympics, she'll be able to get something out of this journey, too.
Then maybe she can see why I'm playing softball again.