ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –The Olympic Games will hopefully go on in Tokyo in July. This year softball is returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. Former Rockford Thunder pitcher Cat Osterman will be pitching for Team USA. Osterman won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2004 Olympics and a silver medal at the Olympics in 2008. I caught up with her Thursday in a Zoom interview. Click on the media player to view it or continue reading.
(SCOTT LEBER) Do you have any recollections of your time here with the Rockford Thunder?
(CAT OSTERMAN, OLYMPIC PITCHER) “I definitely do. 2009 was quite a year. Obviously, I made my debut in 2007 there in Rockford and had some epic battles, obviously our opening game against the Bandits, Jennie Finch was probably the highlight of that season. Winning the NPF championship in 2009 with the Rockford Thunder was definitely the highlight I think of all of our time there in Rockford.”
(SCOTT) Did you ever think you would this opportunity again to represent our nation in the Olympic Games?
(CAT) “To be honest I wasn’t sure it would actually happen, at least not while I was still playing. The fight to get back into the Olympics was a long process and every time we thought we had gained ground there would be a vote and we weren’t in and so there was a point in time where, I don’t want to say I gave up, but I just kind of eliminated the thought from my mind, so when the sport was voted back in 2016 it still wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to unretire and play, so I’m excited to be back for this showcase on the Olympic stage and hopefully it can garner enough attention and show what it’s all about that at some point we can at some point we can get back on the permanent docket.”
(SCOTT) What does the future look like? How big of a struggle will that be to make it a permanent part of the Olympics again?
(CAT) “I’m not sure. I’m not sure what the process is going to look like going forth in that realm because obviously it’s a little bit more than just playing and having good games, so but whatever it takes I’m sure a lot of us players will make sure we try to do our part to hopefully make that push.”
(SCOTT) The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everything. It’s thrown off the Olympics by a whole year. How has that impacted your preparation for these games and your teammates’ preparation?
(CAT) “We were in the middle of our 2020 tour and obviously that got halted, so we were start upping the training to be in peak condition and all of a sudden you’re sent home for an unknown amount of time and then quarantine so you had to train at home, so I think we all had to get really creative with how we train. Personally, we made an extra bedroom into a home gym. My husband stepped up and got behind the plate to be a catcher, so that way I could still be able to practice the way I needed to, and then thankfully as a team we checked in with each other. We kept each other motivated so when we got together for the first time in January of 2021 we hit the ground running. It’s been an exciting tour so far. We are blessed in the fact that Dick’s Sporting Goods has partnered with us and they support our tour which has allowed us to actually get together and train and play games. Otherwise, I’m not sure what our training would look like, but the team is definitely excited to be together and glad that we not only survived but I feel like thrived during the pandemic.”
(SCOTT) How strong does Team USA appear to be this year and who will be your prime competition internationally for those three medals, hopefully the gold medal?
(CAT) “Yea, I’m excited to take the field with this team. I think we look incredibly good. We have some amazing athletes that are playing this game. Haylie McCleney is going to be one of the best athletes to ever have worn a USA uniform in my opinion. She leads us off and provides so much energy for us and then our pitching staff is solid all the way around and I think you go through position by position you’re going to have amazing players that could be in talks for some of the greatest players ever to play the game in certain eras or certain generations. Obviously, we never take our eyes off Japan. They won the gold medal in 2008. They are the host country. There’s going to be excitement around their team so we know that they’re going to be a contender, but Canada and Mexico have put together extremely good rosters so we know there will be no game that we can take off or even let up, so we’re excited to get over there and face some really, good competition.
(SCOTT) I’m not sure how many pitchers are on Team USA, but where do you slot in in the pecking order of things? How much time do you expect to see in the circle?
(CAT) “We haven’t discussed that. There’s four of us. There’s two lefties and two righties so some of it will be matchups. Some of it will be who’s fresh and who’s not. We’re all getting ample time on tour playing against each other, so we’ll see. Obviously, it’s the coach’s decision, but as of right now we’ve all gotten the same experience and the same amount of time when we go to other tournaments in 2019 leading up to this.”
(SCOTT) Is this it then for your playing career, and if it is what a way it would be to go out with a gold hanging around your neck?
(CAT) “This will be it for my international career and then my career here in the United States will expand into August and September with Athletes Unlimited but after that it will be over, so yep we’ll hopefully win the gold medal and then come home and allow my family to see me play one more time and then we will wrap it up and be done.”