On June 3, 2006, Cat Osterman played softball for the last time in a Texas uniform.
In the 16 years that followed, no Longhorns softball player wore Osterman’s number 8. Former UT coach Connie Clark wouldn’t allow it. She set aside Osterman’s number as she had previously with number 14 which once belonged to Christa Williams, who pitched in Texas from 1998-1999 and, like Osterman, was also an Olympian.
Not that ambitious rookies still aren’t asking for No. 8.
“We were always kind of laughing, like, yeah, well, that one won’t be available,” Clark recalled Monday.
After:Hailey Dolcini launches Texas past No. 1 Oklahoma in series finale
Mike White replaced Clark after the 2018 season. Williams’ No. 14 has been dusted once since the coaching change, but the rule for Osterman’s No. 8 has remained the same.
This rule, however, was unofficial. Until last weekend, anyway.
On Saturday, Texas officially retired Osterman’s number. She was honored at a pre-game ceremony just before the Longhorns’ upset against No. 1 Oklahoma at McCombs Field.
“Coming to Texas was a dream come true, and then being able to have the career I had was just something I never imagined,” Osterman said. “To culminate all of this and now be able to say your number has retired from a program that means so much to you, it is truly an honor.”
Osterman played in Texas from 2002 to 2003 and again from 2005 to 2006, missing the 2004 season as she prepared for the first of her three Olympic appearances.
In the 1,105⅔ innings she pitched, Osterman went 136-25 with a .51 ERA, 2,265 strikeouts, 20 solo hits and seven perfect games. She still holds most of UT’s pitch records. His mark of 14.34 strikeouts in seven innings remains an NCAA standard.
Osterman, the only four-time American softball star from Texas, led the Longhorns three times to the Women’s College World Series. She was the American Softball Player of the Year in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
“When you think of Texas softball, Cat Osterman is the name you think of. She’s synonymous with it,” White said.
“She’s such an icon,” Clark said. “Just becoming a household name around the world and being able to represent Texas at the highest level and doing it with class and integrity is pretty special.”
Many of these aforementioned accomplishments were read aloud during Osterman’s ceremony. While her jersey was displayed on a nearby easel, Osterman was accompanied to the pitching circle by her parents, husband, daughter-in-law and in-laws. One of her two brothers missed the festivities, but she said that absence was forgiven since “my sister-in-law is getting induced tomorrow night.”
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso hugged Osterman and Sooners senior Lynnsie Elam presented him with flowers. Osterman also turned 39 on Saturday, so a reported crowd of 1,698 — the largest ever at McCombs Field — sang happy birthday to him in the fourth inning.
Osterman also threw the ceremonial first pitch. Megan Willis, who served as Osterman’s catcher at Texas for two years, was behind the plate to take the offer.
“(Megan) asked me, is this the last time I catch a pitch? Or are we going to do it a few more times?” Osterman said. “That was the running joke.”
In the minds of many, what happened on Saturday was long overdue. Previously, Texas had a long-standing policy against removing jerseys from its female athletes. The Athletic Department’s Hall of Honor, which inducted Osterman in 2011, was considered a crowning achievement.
An athletic department now headed by Chris Del Conte recently began rethinking how it honored women who had played in Texas. During the 2019-20 school year, Kamie Ethridge and Clarissa Davis got their jerseys up in the rafters at the Erwin Center.
Texas planned to retire Osterman’s jersey on March 25, 2020. However, the pandemic ended the season on March 13. Nor was the ceremony postponed until the following spring.
Earlier this school year, Texas put Osterman’s name and number on the wall outside the press box at McCombs Field. She was honored at the Texas-Kansas football game in November. And what had been unofficial for so long became official on Saturday.
“Just a little more real to make it officially official,” Osterman said.
After:Former Texas star Cat Osterman looks to end his decorated softball career at the top
Osterman retired from competitive softball last fall. She looked after her softball development academy associated with RBI Austin. She’s also a color commentator for Texas softball on the Longhorn Network, so she was also working Saturday.
From his place in the press box, Osterman watched Hailey Dolcini lead Texas to a 4-2 win over previously undefeated Oklahoma. While pitching a full game, Dolcini allowed only two hits.
“I tell him all the time, I’m a fan,” Osterman said of Dolcini. “It’s fun to watch her and watch her work and chop hitters. And I think the biggest thing was just mentally, she wasn’t fazed no matter what Oklahoma threw at her.”
A transfer from Fresno State, Dolcini grew up in California. As a young player, she looked up to pitchers like Amanda Scarborough and Danielle Lawrie. And like many, she idolized Osterman.
“The impact she had on me personally is unparalleled,” Dolcini said. “I think we were really trying to give him the best birthday present possible and I think we did.”