Softball legend Cat Osterman pitched her last game with Athletes Unlimited on Monday. The 38-year-old then took to social media to pen a heartfelt goodbye to her sport.

“It’s time this intimate relationship we’ve had ends,” she wrote.

“This last chapter taught me what pure joy was. You allowed me to grow in so many ways with incredible woman… You let me go out on a high, surrounded by so many I cherish and I’m grateful. It was perfect. But still, I need to move on.”

Osterman spoke with Just Women’s Sports last week, detailing how she was ready to close the door on the latest chapter in her life.

“I’m ready to walk away,” she said. “There will be no regrets. I have given everything I can to this game.”

Heading into the final weekend of the Athletes Unlimited season, and the final weekend of her softball career, pitching legend Cat Osterman is focused on just one thing: enjoying herself. 

“I’m ready to walk away,” she tells Just Women’s Sports. “There will be no regrets. I have given everything I can to this game. 

“But as a teammate, I just want to have fun.”

Coming out of retirement wasn’t even a remote possibility for Osterman in 2015 when she first stepped away from the sport. At the time, she was ready to hang up the cleats for good. 

Everything changed when softball was added to the Tokyo Olympics after being taken off the program following the 2008 Games. As Osterman explained on the Just Women’s Sports podcast last year, she was first asked to help coach the US team before deciding she still had some gas left in the tank.

Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The addition of Athletes Unlimited introducing softball as its first professional league in 2020 was a silver lining in the midst of it all.

“I am glad I unretired and came back, but I’m fully ready [to retire],” Osterman says, adding that the biggest thing she’s learned over the past two years has been how much she truly enjoys playing softball.

“I think I am very intense and serious so often that my enjoyment of the game doesn’t always come through,” she continues. “But I truly enjoyed playing and have been able to let loose in moments that I didn’t before.”

At 38 years old, getting to know new faces, be it through Athletes Unlimited or with the U.S. National Team, has been a highlight for Osterman. Season two of Athletes Unlimited has been different from season one in that the athletes are no longer in a bubble. That means more bonding activities outside of just softball. The league has enabled Osterman to connect with players she might not normally have crossed paths with, like outfielder Ciara Bryan.

“We went to a White Sox game and [Bryan] was like, ‘Hey, do you want to be in my Snap?’ And I was like, ‘Sure. I’m not a big Snapchat person, but hey, you want me in your snap? I’ll jump in and say hi,’” Osterman says. “And just to learn that that was her first MLB game ever was crazy.”

Playing with Athletes Unlimited has also allowed Osterman’s friends and family to see her play one last time after fans were barred from the Tokyo Olympics. At previous Olympics, Osterman was used to having a dozen plus family members cheering her on from the stands. 

“I’ve had a very supportive family throughout my whole career,” she says, adding that a lot of family will be coming to Chicago to watch her this weekend.

“That’s always cool to be able to see those people in the stands, and just feel their love and their presence, because they’ve been a huge part of my career.” 

Jade Hewitt/Getty Images

Heading straight from the Olympics into the Athletes Unlimited season has been a grind for the 23 players that were in Tokyo, including Osterman. 

“There were two-and-a-half, three weeks in between the end of one season and the start of the next,” she says. “That’s not really a lot of time for us to process everything, to be able to decompress, physically come down from all the training that we’ve been doing for the last two years.”

But that’s where enjoying the game and not letting expectations get the best of you comes in. For Osterman, the past four weeks have been about doing it because she loves softball and nothing else. 

Still, as many athletes continue to open up about their mental health, Osterman admits that while she’s not one to always put her thoughts on social media, it’s been a struggle. 

“I’ve been home 13 days in the last three months, and that’s tough,” she says.  “Mentally, it’s surrounding yourself with the right people, talking to the right people so they fill your love up. They fill your heart up. 

“I think for me, knowing this is the end, I approach every week with, ‘You know what? I’m going to leave everything I have out on the field.’

“Some days I have my stuff. Some days I don’t. When I don’t, it’s frustrating. But at the same time, I’ve got to offer myself a little bit of grace and know that what we have gone through in the last two years is a lot.”

Osterman will head into her final weekend of Athletes Unlimited softball in an unusual position — for the first time in two years, she won’t be captaining a team. After losing the top spot in week three to Amanda Chidester, she now sits at 10th on the leaderboard with 1,216 total points. 

After winning the inaugural individual title last season, Osterman says this season is all about having fun and not stressing about the outcome. 

“At the end of the day, does [our performance] make or break where we end in the standings? Yes,” she says. “But does it make or break our careers? No, not at all.”

Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images

No matter what happens this weekend, Osterman will still retire as one of the greatest pitchers the sport has ever known, one with one Olympic gold and two silver medals to her name. Her number has already been retired with the USSSA Pride after amassing a 95-24 record during her career on the National Pro Fastpitch. The University of Texas likewise retired her number last year, making her the first UT softball player and third woman in university history to have her jersey retired. 

Her venture with Athletes Unlimited has been just as successful and historic. Osterman will forever be the first-ever champion in league history. And while she might not repeat this year, she still made history all the same, tossing the first no-hitter in Athletes Unlimited history.

As a legendary career draws to a close, Osterman insists that she’s staying in the present, and that she’ll be focused this weekend on celebrating another successful season of Athletes Unlimited. She’s hopeful the league can continue to grow as the pre-eminent professional league in the country. 

If there’s an avenue, Osterman says she’d love to stay involved with the league. But for now, she’s excited about the prospect of finally being able to step off of the field and into the rest of her life. This time, it really is for good. 

“It’s crazy to think that I will never put on the cleats again,” she says. “But I’m excited to celebrate the end of another successful AU season with these athletes. It’s not about me. I’m obviously going to walk away. But just for them to have this avenue and to have been a part of it in the first two seasons is pretty cool.”

Editor’s note: Athletes Unlimited is a sponsor of Just Women’s Sports.

Happy New Year’s, squad. We don’t need to tell you that 2020 was the worst. But in a tough year for everyone, and a bumpy year for sports, the world’s best and brightest still found a way to break records, win trophies, lead movements, and inspire fans.

So while we’re all ready to wave 2020 goodbye, here are 20 things that happened in women’s sports that didn’t totally suck.

1. The WNBA signed a groundbreaking CBA

It’s hard to remember now, but the year got off to a sparkling start when the WNBA announced a historic new Collective Bargaining Agreement. With a significant salary bump, fully-paid maternity leave, improved travel arrangements, increased investments in marketing, and a future 50-50 revenue split, the new eight-year CBA was not just a momentous achievement for the league and its players, but a watershed moment in women’s sports.

2. And the Wubble rewrote the athlete-activist script

There will never be another “Wubble” (we hope). But what the players did this season inside their Florida bubble changed sports forever. From a season-opening moment of silence in honor of Breonna Taylor, to a nationally-aired roundtable on politics and race, the W made social justice an integral part of its season. Players wore jerseys honoring victims of racial violence, endorsed a US Senate candidate, and spearheaded voter registration campaigns, all while putting on a show on the hardwood, night in and night out.

3. They weren’t alone in answering the call

Athletes everywhere found their voices this summer. Sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, protests against racial injustice spread from the streets of Minneapolis to the tennis courts of New York, with female athletes everywhere leading the charge. Many, like Coco Gauff and Simone Manuel, spoke out at rallies and through social media. Others, like Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry, were vindicated after being punished for protesting earlier in their careers. Together, they reset the expectations of what athletes can do.

4. Naomi Osaka talked the talk, walked the walk

One of those athletes who rose to the moment was Naomi Osaka, the once-reticent superstar who in 2020 transformed herself into an outspoken activist. Osaka first led a player strike at the Western & Southern Open before winning the US Open while donning a series of seven masks, each one honoring a Black American killed by police or in an act of racial profiling. Osaka said ahead of time she needed to win every match to present every mask, and she did just that, claiming her third major title in three years while reaffirming her status as tennis’ best young player.

5. Women’s sports bucked the trend 

Sports viewership was down everywhere this year—everywhere, that is, except women’s sports. The NWSL became the first major team sports league to return to play, staging a Covid-free Challenge Cup en route to a 500% increase in television viewership on the year. WNBA regular season viewership was likewise up 68% for the regular season, while Athletes Unlimited brought softball to television, and NBC picked up FAWSL games from across the pond. In a year when sports viewership was down everywhere else, women’s sports showed up and showed out.

6. The Houston Dash won a trophy

The Challenge Cup was one small step for team sports, one giant leap for the Houston Dash. The oft-derided underdogs from H-Town played with a Texas-sized chip on their shoulders for most of the Cup, winning the club’s first-ever major trophy before double-fisting Budweisers in a celebration fit for Queens.

7. Kristie Mewis won the year

Her post-Challenge Cup shenanigans sent the internet into a tizzy (see above), while her remarkable return to the USWNT after more than six years away had many of us in tears. No athlete better encapsulated the meaning of perseverance in 2020 than Kristie Mewis, whose 2,722 days between USWNT goals was both a national team record and the epitome of grit.

8. Sabrina Ionescu cemented her status as triple-double queen

Her first WNBA season might have been cut short by injury, but let’s not forget all that Ionescu did in 2020. Already the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple doubles, she became the first college basketball player ever (men’s or women’s) to collect 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in a career—on the very same day she spoke at the memorial service for her mentor Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

9. A’ja Wilson made the leap 

We all knew A’ja Wilson was going to be a WNBA superstar. We just didn’t know when. But in year three, the 24-year-old made the leap, winning league MVP en route to leading the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA Finals. Watching her and Breanna Stewart first duel for the MVP and then for the title, it’s safe to say the league is in very good hands.

10. Christine Sinclair scored goal No. 185

Canadian legend Christine Sinclair etched her name into the history books this January when she scored international goal No. 185 at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, passing Abby Wambach for the most all-time. At 37 years old, Sinclair is the most-capped international footballer playing today (with 296 national team appearances), and is still going strong heading into next summer’s Olympics.

11. Sarah Fuller kicked her way into history

The feel-good story of the year was none other than Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller. First, she led the Commodores soccer team to their first SEC Tournament title since 1994. A week later, she became the first woman to play in a Power Five conference football game when she kicked off for the Vanderbilt team. Two weeks later, she knocked home two PATs to become the first woman to score in a Power Five game, inspiring countless fans while expertly laying waste to the trolls of Twitter.

12. We started a podcast!

We’re going to throw ourselves a high-five for this one. The Just Women’s Sports podcast debuted at #1 in sports and #16 overall, and just 20 episodes in, we’re cruising past 750,000 downloads at last check. This wouldn’t be possible without all you faithful listeners. Thank you, thank you, thank you—and rest assured, more pods are coming in 2021.

13. Alex Morgan became a mom 

Our very first podcast guest was none other than Alex Morgan, USWNT superstar and, as of May, a first-time mom. Her daughter Charlie accompanied Morgan abroad as she suited up for Tottenham Hotspur this fall, where the two-time World Cup champ barely missed a beat in her return to play. Recording two goals in five appearances for the club, Morgan is on track to lead the USWNT in Tokyo next summer.

14. Sue Bird got two rings

In a year of surprises, Sue Bird reminded us that some things never change. At 40 years old, she’s still one of the best floor generals in the WNBA, leading the Seattle Storm to their fourth league title inside the WNBA bubble while also playing a pivotal role in the league’s social justice efforts. Adding to her jewelry collection, Sue Bird also got engaged to fellow superstar Megan Rapinoe. Name a more anticipated post-Covid wedding. Spoiler alert, you can’t.

15. Cat Osterman proved age is just a number 

Pitching legend Cat Osterman likewise spent 2020 proving that age is just a number. After coming out of retirement in 2018 in the hopes of earning a spot on Team USA, Osterman casually pitched her way to the first-ever Athletes Unlimited individual title, fanning a good number of players who grew up watching Osterman play. 37 years old and still the best in the world, Osterman is on a mission to win Olympic gold in Tokyo.

16. April Ross and Alix Klineman showed they’re Olympic-ready

In a condensed season, Ross and Klineman swept the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup, winning all 12 of their matches over three weekends of competition. After winning bronze with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016, Ross and her new partner now look poised to enter next summer’s Olympics as the favorites to take home gold.

17. The NWSL announced not one, but two expansions

Already the longest-running professional women’s soccer league ever in the U.S., the NWSL looks poised to achieve even greater heights as it expands its footprint with two additional clubs. Racing Louisville FC will begin play in 2021, while Angel City FC, led by a superstar ownership featuring Natalie Portman, Alexis Ohanian, Serena Williams, and many others, will kick off in 2022. High-profile investors signal a new era of growth for the NWSL, and you better believe we’re ready for take off.

18. The LPGA proved its future is already here

All four 2020 LPGA majors were won by first-time major winners. Sophia Popov’s British Open win may have been the most unique, as the 304th-ranked player had been caddying for a friend just a few weeks before, but in each of the year’s majors, the LPGA’s parity was on display. As the year concludes, eight of the top ten ranked players are 27 or younger, and the future of the tour has never looked brighter.

19. Vivianne Miedema put the football world on notice

Speaking of future superstars: at 24 years old, Vivianne Miedema has already scored more international goals (70) for the Netherlands than any other player before her, on either the women’s or men’s teams. And this year, she became the all-time leading goalscorer in FA Women’s Super League history, with 53 goals (and counting) in only 55 appearances for Arsenal. Look for the Dutch striker to be a star at next summer’s Olympics.

20. Tara VanDerveer won game No. 1099

With a 104-61 win over Pacific on December 15th, longtime Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer passed the Pat Summitt for the most victories in Division I history. It may have come in an empty gym, but nothing could diminish the importance of VanDerveer’s achievement. “I really hope Pat Summitt is looking down and saying, ‘Good job, Tara. Keep it going,'” said VanDerveer after the game. With Stanford 7-0 and ranked No. 1, VanDerveer looks ready to add to her tally as well as her trophy case in 2021.


2020 is over. But as we look back on a year like no other, it seems only right to take a peek at what’s to come, and no sporting event in 2021 will be bigger than the Tokyo Olympics.

Next summer’s Olympics will provide the first opportunity for the world to come together since the pandemic began. No matter what happens, it’s bound to be historic, with so many pre-Olympics storylines already swirling. What will organizers do to keep everyone safe? How will athletes use the stage to drive social change, especially after the US said there will be no punishments for protesting?

And then there’s the question of who wins all the medals.

Needless to say, there will be drama, exultation, disappointment and relief, and Just Women’s Sports will be there to cover it all. Be sure to keep your eyes (and ears) peeled this winter and spring, as we’ll be rolling out special coverage starting in January. And trust us, you won’t want to miss what we’ve got cooking up.

Why did Cat Osterman come out of retirement and claw her way back onto the USA Softball National Team for a chance to fight for another gold medal at age 38? It’s simple. The southpaw pitcher has some serious unfinished business she needs to attend to.

Osterman’s first Olympic experience with Team USA was the epitome of sporting dominance and came in the middle of her illustrious college career at The University of Texas. Taking a red-shirt season in what would have been her junior year, Osterman pitched alongside legends Jennie Finch and Lisa Hernandez in an undefeated path to the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

Her first win of the tournament came against Japan, giving the U.S. the one seed out of group play. As the youngest member on the team, Osterman finished the tournament with two wins and a save and led the team in total strikeouts. In a recent interview with Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports Podcast, Osterman explains how special thatOlympic victory was for her:

“You can win other international events and hear your national anthem and it’s cool, but nothing like on the Olympic stage.”


Back in Austin the year after that tremendous experience, Osterman vividly remembers the moment her long-term Olympic dreams were swiped from under her feet. Watching ESPN with some fellow baseball student-athletes, they saw an announcement run across the bottom ticker stating the IOC would be removing baseball and softball from the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games.

“One of the baseball players was like ‘Looks like your career is going to be ended sooner,’” Osterman recalls to O’Hara. Whether the friend intended to throw such a hurtful barb is unclear, but it perfectly delineated the starkly different realities facing the young athletes. Osterman was by far the best up and coming softball pitcher in the country, if not the world. Her counterpart on the baseball side likely had a decade-long, multimillion-dollar MLB career to look forward to, but Olympic glory once every four years was the highest stage Osterman could hope to play on. Finding out from a news announcement along the bottom line of ESPN that those dreams would be over so early in her career felt like “a slap in the face.”

 Osterman spent the next two years solidifying her status as the greatest college softball pitcher of all time. Upon graduation in 2006, she was a three-time National Player of the Year, four-time All-American, and two-time ESPY Award winner. She still holds the NCAA record for highest career strike-out-per-seven-inning ratio at 14.34, as well as UT records for total victories, ERA, shut-outs, and no-hitters.

After a stellar professional debut season in the National Pro Fastpitch softball league, it was once again time to take her skills to the global stage at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In another dominant performance, Osterman’s Team USA reached the gold medal match by going 7-0 in group play and outscoring their opponents a combined 57-2. Unlike four years prior in Athens, Osterman was now the top pitcher on the team, and she took the mound for the gold medal game against Japan.

Having already defeated Japan twice in route to the championship, the U.S. seemed poised for Olympic glory once again. But when Osterman came out after five innings the U.S. was trailing 1-2. Twice the U.S. couldn’t capitalize on a one-out, bases loaded opportunity, and after a wild throw home allowed Japan to score a third run in the top of the seventh, the deflation was tangible in the American dugout.

The U.S. went scoreless to finish the inning and Japan erupted into the exuberant elation of having won Olympic Gold while handing the U.S. their first Olympic loss in eight years and their first non-gold medal in Olympic softball since 1996.


For Osterman, it was the only two runs and only loss she’d allowed on the Olympic stage. And the aftertaste was bitter.

“Not only did we not win, it was almost a nightmare game. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong,” she vents to O’Hara, “It was brutal for quite a long time afterwards.”

And the salt that made the wound extra painful? Knowing there would be no chance for redemption. As far as she knew, her Olympic career was over.

Osterman spent the majority of the next near decade working in the college coaching ranks and crushing it in the National Pro Fastpitch league, a 16-year-old pro softball league where elite level players are able to continue their craft after college, albeit for extremely minimal salaries. When she retired from the NPF in 2015, Osterman was a three-time NPF Pitcher of the Year, four-time NPF Champion, and six-time All-NPF Team selection.

Upon first hearing that softball was being reinstated for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Osterman was initially just excited for the generation of players behind her, knowing they would now get to experience what she had before. Her longtime USA Softball coach encouraged her to submit her resume for a coaching role with Team USA. Shortly after acquiescing, she had an unfiltered conversation with a close friend, admitting to her, “Why am I trying to coach the team when I think I could probably still throw?”

With the unsubtle prodding only a close confidante can provide, Osterman owned up to wanting to suit up again for Team USA. So she shook off the dust, got back on the mound, and quickly proved that even in her late 30s, she is still one of the very best. This summer, playing in the inaugural Athletes Unlimited softball season, Osterman won the league’s individual title after accumulating the most player points over the course of the season. She did so while fanning many young players who looked up to her when they were kids

Whereas she was the youngest in her first Olympics, next summer Osterman will be the oldest on the roster as she heads to Japan, against whose national team she earned her first Olympic victory and also her sole Olympic defeat. Thirteen years after that premature exit from the biggest stage in sports, Cat Osterman, one of the greatest softball athletes of all time, has the chance once again to play in the global spotlight and cap her career with the (dare I say, golden) luster it deserves.