Late to the Game: Cat the Great


Assistant editor Chris O’Connell isn’t from Texas; he’s from New Jersey. That’s OK though—he’s here now. But without growing up in a place that cherishes college sports the way many parts of the South—and especially Texas—do, Chris has taken it upon himself to learn more about all aspects of college athletics in a series we like to call Late to the Game.

Looking at the box score from Monday night’s game against the Dallas Charge, it might seem that USSSA Pride pitcher Cat Osterman is hanging up her size-12 cleats prematurely. In what was her last start in the state of Texas, the 32-year-old looked her vintage self, striking out nine batters over 6 1/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits—all singles—and issuing only one walk.

Osterman, BA ’07, Life Member, is perhaps the most dominant female athlete in the history of the University of Texas. A four-time All-American, the lefty was also named three-time USA Softball National Player of the Year and, upon her graduation, was the NCAA all-time leader in strikeouts. Though that record has since been broken—by Monica Abbott, she of the other UT in a different shade of orange—Osterman has continued her reign of terror on fast-pitch batters, winning gold and silver medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, respectively, and posting a sub-1.00 ERA over the course of her eight-year professional career. Last year, Osterman was undefeated as a starter, winning 18 games, throwing a no-hitter in July, and winning her second consecutive Triple Crown. So why is Osterman retiring?

“I just know it’s time,” Osterman told the San Antonio Express-News. “I have, at some point, to devote my time to coaching. I’ve always wanted to coach, and to do it I have to do it full time.”

Osterman is an assistant coach at Texas State, and, ostensibly, she’d like to be a head coach for a major college team. I can readily think of such a school about 30 miles up I-35 from the Bobcats’ campus in San Marcos that’d love to have her someday. Until then, rather than spread herself thin between coaching and playing, she’ll walk away from the sport she has played continuously since the fifth grade.

In 2013, Osterman announced her first retirement, one that obviously didn’t stick.

“I thought I was ready,” Osterman said to ESPNW. “And then once I got immersed in it again, I realized I wasn’t.”

You may remember Bo’ing from the last edition of this column. That’s being dominant in two sports at once. I’m firing up the sports lingo machine again. Well, Osterman really Favre’d that one. Of course, this refers to Packers, Jets, and Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who announced his retirement seemingly every offseason for half a decade, only to return shortly before training camp each season, much to the chagrin of ownership. The difference here? Favre kinda stunk up the joint on his way out. Packers fans, with stud Cal QB Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings, would have loved for the 40-something Favre to kick rocks and join the trade-show circuit. When Osterman announced her impending retirement in 2013, she went on to have the best season of her career, setting records in wins (19) and strikeouts (255). She also tossed two no-hitters en route to the Cowles Cup Championship and the MVP award. Perhaps in Osterman’s case, announcing retirement is some sort of motivational power-up, a mental talisman that clears the ennui-filled cobwebs of the athlete’s mind. Maybe she’s bored. I cannot speak from personal experience, but it’s entirely possible that when total supremacy becomes commonplace, your chosen vocation gradually evolves into a daily slog.

All speculation. She’s likely just ready for the next phase of her life. And who can blame her?

Will Osterman stay retired? Will she spend her days filling out lineup cards from the outskirts of the diamond and eating tortilla soup at Garcia’s? Or will the self-awareness of her singular potency atop the pitcher’s mound, the chalky plume of powdered rosin drifting through the summer air, and the fierce snap of the catcher’s mitt upon receiving a sizzling green orb from her left hand be enough to lure her back for another season—or two? This is probably the last we’ll see of Cat the Great, the virtually un-hittable southpaw wonder from the Gulf, at least on that side of the divide.

However, once upon a time, Packers fans would have eaten their foam cheese hats if they thought Favre would have donned purple in the Twin Cities for the rival Vikings. We all know how that one turned out.

If you’d rather listen than read (no judgment), you can do so below:

Illustration by Melissa Reese


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