Cat Osterman honored at LLWS

Softball star crosses Williamsport off bucket list

Cat Osterman honored at LLWS

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- "Being here," softball star Cat Osterman said from a practice field on the sprawling Little League International complex, "is almost a bucket list item."

That's quite high praise coming from a ballplayer who shattered pitching records at the collegiate level, played softball professionally for nearly a decade, and won gold and silver medals at the Olympics. Now, she can add another honor to her ledger: enshrinement in Little League's Hall of Excellence.

The 33-year-old Osterman is just the fourth woman to be inducted -- she'll enter alongside Torii Hunter and Tom Coughlin this year -- as well as the first to be recognized for a career in softball. But long before she earned Hall of Excellence-worthy accolades, Osterman got her start at age 10 in Houston's Bear Creek Little League by following in the footsteps of an older neighbor who played the sport.

"She made the Little League All-Star team," Osterman said. "I saw that hype, and that's what really motivated me to start playing.

"They were cleaning out their house not long ago, and she found a letter from me that said, 'Dear Emily, I want to be like you.'"

Ironically -- or fittingly, depending on your perspective -- Osterman arrived in Williamsport for her induction ceremony in the midst of the National Pro Fastpitch championship series, pitting the Chicago Bandits against her former team, the USSSA Pride. The 6-foot-2 southpaw retired from her NPF career after the 2015 season, and in her final campaign she led the league in both strikeouts and innings pitched, whiffing 183 over 121.2 frames.

"When they gave me the date, I had to pick and choose," Osterman said of the Hall of Excellence ceremony before Game 20 of this year's Little League World Series. "But obviously [a trip to Williamsport] is something I didn't want to turn down. When I got the call, I was beside myself.

"I also think it's huge because NPF acknowledges it. It's celebrating our sport more than anything."

And as clearly as she can remember Olympic glory, her five professional no-hitters and her NCAA-record seven perfect games at the University of Texas, Osterman recalls the day she stepped onto the mound for the first time, sparking a passion that would ultimately morph into a career.

"More than anything, I remember my first experience in the pitching circle," Osterman said. "Because of the Little League rules on how many innings a pitcher can throw, [my team] needed someone to try. I said, 'Why not?'

"I don't know how successful I was, but I do know I struck out one batter, which to me meant that I was meant to do this. That experience gave me something that I wanted to keep working at. And for my 11th birthday, all I asked for were pitching lessons."

Now a coach for Texas State University's softball team, Osterman strives to ensure that all young girls have an opportunity to develop similar feelings for the sport.

"Little League gives everybody a chance to compete for something bigger," she said. "Have fun, and let yourself fall in love with it."

Allison Duffy-Davis is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.