catretiring

Cat Osterman decides to retire

Courtesy of Graham Hays of ESPN.com

Few athletes ever seemed in more control of their surroundings than Cat Osterman did in the pitching circle of a softball diamond. She will exit the circle the same way, at the time and in the manner of her choosing.

Osterman confirmed to espnW that she intends to retire from competition at the conclusion of her upcoming National Pro Fastpitch season with the Florida-based USSSA Pride. The announcement comes on the pitcher’s 30th birthday and more than a decade after she first arrived on the national scene as a star at the University of Texas.

“When I first joined the national team, I always thought 2012 would be it,” Osterman said. “And obviously, with [softball] getting voted out of the Olympics and the NPF being a continuing option, I stuck around. I can still throw, obviously, but I just have a passion for coaching, and I have a passion for wanting to have time to do other things. So in my heart, as much as I still love the game, my heart’s not in it to keep playing past this summer.”

Cat Osterman led Rockford to an NPF championship in 2009 as the league’s MVP. She won another title in 2010, with the Pride.

A two-time Olympian, two-time world champion and the only three-time national college player of the year, Osterman is universally considered one of the greatest pitchers in softball history. Easily identifiable by her 6-foot-2 frame and the shortened version of her given name, Catherine, the left-hander became one of the sport’s most popular stars during a period of domestic growth, marked by increased attendance and television ratings for college softball and the continued survival of a professional league. She also was one of its most visible international advocates before softball was dropped from the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games.

A Houston-area native who stayed in-state rather than play for one of college softball’s traditional West Coast powers, Osterman led Texas — which started its varsity softball program just five years prior to her arrival — to three appearances in the Women’s College World Series. The Longhorns twice fell one win shy of the championship round. A four-time All-American, she is the only three-time winner of USA Softball Player of the Year, college softball’s top award.

She struck out 554 batters as a freshman in 2002, at the time the second-best single-season total in NCAA history, but a mark she would beat in her junior and senior seasons. Although since passed by Monica Abbott as the NCAA’s career strikeout leader, Osterman remains the record holder for strikeout rate by a comfortable margin. Known more for the incredible spin and movement she was able to get on pitches rather than her pure speed, she is the only pitcher who ever averaged two strikeouts per inning for an entire college career, totaling 2,265 strikeouts in 1,105 2/3 innings.

She took a year off from school to compete with the United States national team that won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Osterman, the youngest player, struck out a team-high 23 batters and didn’t allow a run in 14 2/3 innings in Athens.

Her national career continued after college, when she won back-to-back world championships with Team USA in 2006 and 2010, in each case starting the gold-medal game. Her greatest international disappointment came during the 2008 Olympics, when the U.S. lost in a pitching duel against Japan in the gold-medal game.

catretiring2Along with many stars of the era, she retired from international competition following the 2010 ISF World Championship in Venezuela and committed herself full-time to NPF, the four-team domestic professional league that plays a summer schedule. Prior to that, she won an NPF championship with the Rockford Thunder in 2009 and another with the Pride in 2010. She also competed professionally in Japan after leaving the national team.

Slowed at times in recent years by injuries, including surgery after the 2011 season to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome, she nonetheless remains one of the most dominant pitchers in the sport and arguably its biggest draw after Jennie Finch retired. Fully healthy last summer, she led NPF with a 0.71 ERA and finished second to Abbott in strikeouts.

Currently an assistant coach at Division II St. Edward’s University in Austin, where her former college teammate Lindsay Gardner is the head coach, Osterman is unlikely to leave softball entirely behind.

“Even when you have tough days and you think you want to get away from the game, there’s nothing I know as well as I know the game,” Osterman said. “I really enjoy giving back, and seeing other athletes be able to fall in love with the game and get better with the game. I will always remain part of it. Coaching is probably going to be my extended future. I can’t see myself giving that up. I’m very much still going to be a part of it.

“Even though I’m not playing, hopefully I can still be around the NPF and do some things to help the league and the sport grow.”

The NPF also released the news:

 

Fastpitch Softball Legend Cat Osterman Announces Retirement

Nashville, Tenn. – Cat Osterman, the standout left-handed pitcher for the Florida USSSA Pride, has announced plans to retire from National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) following the 2013 season. Considered one of the most popular and decorated fastpitch softball players of all-time, Osterman is a two-time Olympian and the only three-time national college player of the year.

After six seasons with the NPF, Osterman announced her retirement plans Tuesday, her 30th birthday.

“It was a hard decision for me to decide to hang up my cleats after this season, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Osterman said. “I’ve enjoyed a great run, both with the National team and the NPF and I look forward to watching the next generation of players continue to help the NPF grow. I can’t say enough about the opportunity the NPF has given all of us and I’m proud to have been part of both the Rockford Thunder and the USSSA Pride, as well as the NPF.”

Osterman joined the NPF in 2007 as a pitcher for the Rockford Thunder and later moved to the USSSA Pride in 2010. Osterman won back-to-back NPF Championships in 2009 and 2010 and was named NPF’s most valuable player for the 2009 season.

In her 2011 season, Osterman broke the team strikeout record and led the league with 156 strikeouts. She also led the league in wins with her 14-2 regular season record. Osterman was named to the Combat All NPF Team for the 2012 season, in which she achieved 134 strikeouts and a 0.71 ERA.

“Not only is Cat the best pitcher in the world, she is a consummate professional and incredible team player who is always supporting the league and her teammates,” said Don DeDonatis, General Manager of the USSSA Florida Pride. “The impact Cat has had on USSSA fastpitch, the Pride, and the NPF is immeasurable.”

In addition to her professional career, Osterman played on the USA National Team, where she won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2004 and an Olympic Silver Medal in 2008. She also helped the team win three World Cup Championships in 2006, 2007 and 2010.

Osterman spent her collegiate career at the University of Texas, where she led the team to three Women’s College World Series appearances. During her tenure at Texas, she set the NCAA strikeout record and strikeout ratio record and has the second most shutouts of all time with 85.

“The success of the NPF is due in large part to our ability to attract top-tier talent, such as Cat Osterman,” said NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf. “Cat has had a profound impact on our sport and has elevated the prominence of our League. Professional softball won’t be the same without her.”

 

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!