Softball is back at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, after being dropped following the 2008 Games due to a lack of popularity. The International Olympics Committee announced in 2016 that the sport would be making its way back to the spotlight for the Tokyo Games, given how celebrated softball is in the host country of Japan.
But softball isn't alone in making its return to the big games. Two-time Olympic medalist Cat Osterman (aka Catherine Leigh Osterman) will be back on the pitch, playing for the first time on the Olympic stage since the sport was put on the back burner.
New and seasoned fans alike are curious to learn more about the talented athlete. Keep reading for everything you need to know.
Cat Osterman is considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
Born in Houston in 1983, Cat had her first foray into sports by way of basketball, as Newsweek reports. She admitted via social media that the sport was her "first love."
"I was going to play in WNBA, but then pitching stole my heart, and my dreams were changed," she wrote on Instagram in April 2019.
"At 11, I asked for pitching lessons for my birthday present. When I told my dad pitching was what I wanted to do, the man made our driveway my pitching haven," she recalled. "After denting the garage, he found tarps to cover it ... When I got into [junior high] and sports made us have to pitch at night, he installed flood lights to allow us to see."
All the practice paid off for the left-handed three-time National Player of the Year who pitched for the national team from 2001 to 2010 and stood alongside Team USA when they took home the gold at the 2004 Games and finished in second place in 2008.
After her 10-year career with the USA National Team, Cat retired from playing professionally in 2015 and was actually coaching at Texas State University when she heard the news that softball would be returning to the Olympics. She came out of retirement to be part of the Games, per Newsweek. The outlet also notes that the sport is unlikely to return for Paris 2024, meaning that Tokyo might very well be Cat's swan song.
Cat has an "extremely supportive" husband and stepdaughter.
When it was announced in 2018 that softball would return for the Tokyo Games, Cat laced up her cleats once again. "The more I thought about it, I thought I could still throw at an elite level," she revealed to People in 2021. "I thought I should un-retire and come back and help this younger generation make a run at a gold medal."
Part of Cat's motivation had to do with how things ended the last time she was on the Olympic stage: The USA had lost to Japan in 2008, ending the games with a silver – rather than a gold – medal.
But the COVID-19 pandemic, and the one-year delay it caused for the Olympics, put a wrench in Cat's training. "The only thing you could do during quarantine was work out, so I was almost overdoing it," she also told People, explaining that she had to "re-gauge and reorganize" her routine. "My husband and I had already talked about it, and he was like, 'You're going to do what you got to do. You're going to keep going for this.' Him and my stepdaughter are extremely supportive," she said.
Cat lives with her husband, Joey Ashley, and his daughter, Bracken, in San Antonio. Like Cat, Joey is an athlete himself; he works as an assistant coach to the Texas State men's golf program and previously spent over a decade coaching high school golf.
And though they only tied the knot in September 2016, it turns out these two had previously dated in college, breaking up after graduation due to Cat's softball career taking off. "Four years ago today, he invited me to 'go out with him and some friends,'" the softball pro captioned an Instagram post in November 2018, commemorating their anniversary.
"This was 9+ years after I broke up with him once college was over and my softball career awaited me," she continued. "I drove down to San Antonio to go out with him and 1 friend! I can't say I was disappointed because the second I saw him, my heart raced and I knew this was it .... 11 months later, we were engaged .... and he is my happily ever after."
Cat told People that after the Summer Games, she's planning on finishing her career with Athletes Unlimited, then returning to Austin and working part-time for RBI Austin, which gives underserved communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball.
Outside of baseball, she also got her real estate license. Perhaps she'll start working together with her husband, who also works as a realtor?
Good luck to Cat! We can't wait to see what she does next.