Jami Lobpries

Kissimmee, FL-June 13, 2014- A pitcher teaching hitting camp, A Texas Longhorn taking special interest in a future Texas A&M Aggie, and a debate about reading Harry Potter. What do these three things have in common? All served as the foundation for a bond between USSSA Florida Pride veteran Cat Osterman and Pride rookie Cassie Tysarczyk.

Cat and Cassie UT game

When 12 year-old Tysarczyk signed up for the University of Texas’s softball hitting clinic, she never expected her camp hitting coach would be the Longhorns’ All-American pitcher Cat Osterman. Nor did she realize the most lasting lesson she would learn at Texas softball camp would have nothing to do with her swing. As a wide eyed sixth grader, Tysarczyk showed up to camp looking to interact with Longhorn players and learn drills to help her become a better softball player. Rather than memories of breaking down the swing or talking hitting approaches, Tysarczyk’s greatest memory is a conversation with Osterman that started off as a debate about reading.

“I’m over there putting balls on the tee and I start talking to my group about Harry Potter. Cassie was just standing there with this scowl on her face so I was like ‘what?’ And she said ‘reading’s stupid.’ So I went on this whole rant about how I was reading Harry Potter and kept talking about the whole hitting clinic.”

What Osterman never realized is that her rant hit home with Tysarczyk.

“Our conversation wasn’t softball related at all but she took the time to pose her values and passion for reading on me and it made a difference” said Tysarczyk.

That conversation between 12-year-old Tysarczyk and then-college junior Osterman made a lasting impression embedded in life lessons. On the drive home from camp, Tysarczyk had her dad stop at a bookstore so she could pick up not one but the first two series of Harry Potter. According to Tysarczyk’s parents, this new passion for reading she developed at softball camp made Cassie a better student-athlete.

“Cat helped Cassie realize that a successful athlete must have much more than athletic ability. An athlete must never stop expanding or sharing her knowledge. Cassie never had a passion for reading, and Cat got her interested in the Harry Potter series,” said Christi Tysarczyk, Cassie’s mom.

The Tysarczyk family made sure they let Osterman know the influence she had on their daughter. “I got a letter from her mom and dad a couple months later telling me thank you for what I did at hitting camp. They said Cassie’s now reading all the time and her grades are improving.”

Tysarczyk grew up outside of San Antonio (about 80 miles from Austin) and followed the career of Osterman throughout Texas, the Olympics and the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF). Her family would travel to Osterman’s games and stay after so Cassie could talk with her role model and former camp coach. Osterman was no stranger to Tysarczyk’s career either. While coaching at DePaul University, Osterman was recruiting one of Cassie’s travel ball teammates so she got to watch Cassie play during tournaments. Even when Tysarczyk decided to go to Osterman’s rival college, Texas A&M, she still kept up with her former camper via Twitter. She also watched games whenever she had a chance.

The passion for reading instilled by Osterman helped propel Tysarczyk through college. Tysarczyk graduated from Texas A&M in three years with a degree in psychology and has already completed a full year of her Masters degree in sport management. She also continues to share reading lists with Osterman to this day.

After completing an All-American senior season on the field, Tysarczyk signed a two-year contract with the USSSA Florida Pride. The signing of Tysarczyk to the Pride meant she would now play behind the camp coach she once idolized.

“My first thought [when we signed Tysarczyk] was that of irony. I want to say I laughed, not because I couldn’t believe she was on our team, it was just comical to see the whole story come full circle.”

Becoming a professional softball player allows Tysarczyk the opportunity to live out another one of the life lessons she learned as a 12 year old camper: being a role model to young players.

“I’m basically the athlete she [Osterman] was to me. You can look at being an athlete now and kind of take for granted all the little kids to come to your game and want to take pictures with you. I can never take that for granted because of what I learned from Cat at such a young age.”

Cassie autographsCat autograph signing

Today, the Aggie and the Longhorn, the camp coach and the camper, put on the same Pride uniform and take the field together, as teammates and as role models. The NPF provides a setting for stories like Osterman, 31, and Tysarczyk, 21, to come full circle. It provides a setting where young players can aspire to be like their college camp coaches and role models. And it provides a setting where Tysarczyk can serve as the same role model Osterman once was to her. Osterman believes Tysarczyk is the type of player who will remain a role model on and off the field for a long time.

“I think she has a great future if she wants it to be long. She’s been eager to learn and she has what it takes to have a long career. She has the passion and the want to be a difference maker both on and off the field.”

Tysarczyk’s passion for being a difference maker off the field developed through that initial conversation 10 years ago. Osterman never realized her passion for reading Harry Potter and her impact as a hitting camp counselor would mold a young softball player. A young softball player who would one day become her professional teammate.

“Cat has been both a mentor and friend to Cassie and I will always treasure the special bond they share” said Tysarczyk’s mom. That special bond was created through the magic of Harry Potter.

What does Harry Potter have to do with softball ? In regards to wizardry, not much. But in regards to a conversation starter, an impacting life lesson, and the launch of a friendship that transcends the world of wizardry to the world of professional softball, Harry Potter was magical.

About USSSA Florida Pride:

The USSSA Florida Pride is a professional franchise in the National Pro Fastpitch League that is owned and operated by USSSA. The amateur organization of USSSA has multi-sport coverage and encompasses teams and players from the United States and abroad.

About NPF:

National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, TN. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names of Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women’s fastpitch softball since 2002.

About USSSA:

The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), headquartered in Osceola County, Florida, USSSA is the World’s Largest Multi-sport Athletic Organization. Founded in 1968, USSSA has grown to over 3.7 million participants, competing in 13 nationally sanctioned sports including Baseball, Fastpitch, Slow Pitch, Karate, Basketball, Soccer and more! For more information on USSSA and to register your team visit USSSA.com. Also be sure to visit USSSAToday.com for the latest USSSA News!