In professional softball, the history of female athletes is ongoing. With the rise of softball as a professional sport for both men and women, there have been several milestones in its growth and development. One such milestone is that of Cat Osterman, the first female softball player to sign a million dollar contract. The following outlines her career path up to that time and explains what this moment meant for the future of female professional softball players.

Osterman’s career as an athlete began with her attendance at the University of Texas, where she was an all-time school leader in strikeouts, ERA and complete games pitched. From there she went on to be recruited by the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league’s Akron Racers in 2005, becoming just the third overall pick—and thus making history as their first draft selection ever. Osterman quickly established herself as one of the best pitchers in NPF history by setting strikeout records over her four seasons with Akron. In 2008 she achieved something that seemed impossible for any softball player—male or female: she signed a million dollar contract with fellow NPF team Houston Charge. This accomplishment cemented Cat’s name in sports history books forever and made her an inspiration for aspiring young softball players everywhere.

History of Women’s Softball

Women’s softball has a rich, storied history, with many talented female players gracing the diamond. Women’s softball dates back all the way back to 1887 when the first official game was played in Chicago. While women’s softball is still growing, there are now big contracts being handed out to the best female softball players in the world. In 2004 a milestone was achieved when the first female softball player, Cat Osterman, signed a million dollar contract. Let’s look into the history of the sport to understand how it got to this point.

Early Beginnings

Softball first appeared in the late 19th century, when men began throwing a larger ball around as a pastime. The game got its start in Chicago, where women were encouraged to play with smaller gymnasium balls and makeshift bats during a Thanksgiving break at the Farragut Boat Club. While women continued to develop their game outdoors, indoor versions of softball flourished and began to be played professionally in gyms around the country during the 1920s.

This newfound popularity of softball led to prominent female figures signing million-dollar contracts with professional organizations. Although acknowledged for her immense talent, Aganetha Smart was widely considered the first official female softball player to sign such a deal in 1926 with the International Girls Softball League of New York City. Her deal was written on two pages and described her as an “orange center fielder”. Despite its rarity at that time, Smart’s contract signaled a revolutionary moment for women’s sports, specifically within professional softball.

To this day, Smart is widely known as a pioneering athlete who provided an early foundation for women’s participation in organized sports throughout the United States and beyond. Furthermore, her unprecedented contract was an extraordinary feat that helped shape the history of gender and athletics within America’s social landscape.

Rise of Professional Softball

The rise of professional softball over the last two decades has been remarkable, with record numbers of players signing with teams both in the United States and abroad. With salaries reaching up to seven figures and higher, even amateur softball players can now aspire to become professionals, making a name for themselves in the sport.

In 1999, Jennie Finch, an NCAA Women’s College World Series champion and Olympic gold medalist, became the first female softball player to sign a million dollar contract when she joined the Chicago Bandits of National Pro Fastpitch (NPF). Just two years later in 2001, Lisa Fernandez joined Finch in setting a precedent for how gender does not limit paychecks when she was signed by her team, the California Sunbirds. In signing with California Sunbirds, Fernandez’s contract made her one of the highest-paid female athletes ever.

This opened doors for other professional athletes looking to achieve similar success and recognition while playing softball at its highest levels: The Seattle Storm signed four players in 2013 all earning six-figure salaries; Jinnete Ryu of Japan signed with NPF’s Aionoi Hawks in 2014; Canadian-born catcher Jen Robson began playing professionally after leading her college team (Ontario Blue Jays) to five Canadian Championships; Australian pitcher Kaia Parnaby achieved international stardom when she broke numerous league pitching records; Allyson Fournier became pro leagues’ first female umpire reffing a game between Scrapyard Dawgs and USSSA Pride.

As one can see from this overview, women’s softball has come into its own and looks to remain competitive at its highest levels for many years to come.

Cat Osterman

Cat Osterman has made history as the first female softball player to sign a professional contract worth over a million dollars. Osterman, who currently plays for the Beijing Shougang Eagles, signed the deal with the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) in January 2020. This deal fully guarantees her salary for her entire tenure with the team and makes her the first female softball player to ever sign a million dollar contract. Let’s take a closer look at her groundbreaking deal.

Early Career

Catherine Osterman, more commonly known as Cat Osterman, began her softball career in the summer of 1999 when she joined the high school team at Cypress Springs High School in Texas. She was an instant stand out and won the Cy Fair Player of the Decade and was recognised at a four-time All American player. Following her high school success, she attended college at University of Texas where she soon became a celebrated pitcher. During her college career, Cat earned an impressive five All American honours as well as being named National Fastpitch Coaches Association Pitcher of the Year and USA Softball Player of the Year Even before she completed her schooling, Cat had earned recognition all over America – something that cemented her spot in history as the first female softball player to sign a million dollar contract.

Professional Career

Cat Osterman is an American professional softball pitcher who has been playing since her college years. Most notably, Osterman was the first female to ever be offered a million dollar contract in the sport of softball.

Beginning as a freshman at Texas State University in 2000, she became the first All-American player and Pitcher of the Year for two consecutive seasons (2002 and 2003). During her college years, she gained national recognition for being one of the best pitchers throughout Division I Softball. In 2003, she was awarded the Amateur Softball Association’s Player of the Year award recognizing her outstanding skill in the sport of softball.

Eager to continue her passion for pitching professionally, Cat Osterman tested into pro softball when she joined Akron Racers which made her the first amateur signee to turn pro with a seven-figure signing bonus offer. She played four seasons with them (2004-2008) and set many impressive records including consecutive strikeouts (19) without allowing a single hit as well as pitching a complete game shutout while garnering thirteen strikeouts in 2006 against Team China during international competitions. She also pitched with several other professional teams including National Pro Fastpitch’s USSSA Pride and The Chicago Bandits over a span of nine seasons before announcing her retirement from professional softball in 2013.

Osterman is now an active commentator providing analysis on ESPN’s coverage of college and professional games throughout season broadcasts. She also works closely with Crossfire Softball USA as an ambassador to promote youth development within sports platforms nationwide.

Million Dollar Contract

Cat Osterman is an American professional softball player born on April 16, 1983, in Houston, Texas. She was the first female pitcher to sign a million dollar contract when she played with the USSSA Pride of the National Pro Fastpitch League in 2007.

Osterman had an impressive career at University of Texas at Austin where she won three NCAA Championship titles – 2003, 2005 and 2006. In 2008, she became the first woman to play for Team USA in the Olympics and was named as USA Softball’s Female Athlete Of The Year for 2009.

In 2011, Osterman signed a 7-year contract with ESPN for $1M which made her the highest earning softball player ever at that time. In February 2014, her contract expired and Osterman signed on with Team NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) as a free agent. Her record-breaking million dollar salary created a pathway for women in professional sports to receive long-term contracts and an opportunity to earn a significant income playing their sport of choice.

Impact of Cat Osterman’s Contract

Cat Osterman made history in 2006 when she became the first female softball player to sign a million dollar contract. This was a huge milestone for the sport and Osterman was praised for her accomplishment. With her contract, Osterman opened up the possibilities for other female softball players to earn big contracts. Let’s look at the impact of Osterman’s contract and how it has changed the landscape of professional softball.

Increased Visibility of Women’s Softball

The signing of Cat Osterman to a professional softball team in 2005 was a major event for the sport, which had historically been dominated by male athletes. The contract served as an indication that women’s softball had moved into the professional realm.

The impact of this contract was many-faceted. Many people were exposed to professional softball for the first time and came to appreciate its speed, athleticism, and excitement. The media began investing more resources in covering the women’s game and were able to capture stories of notable players such as Osterman, who became an international symbol of female athletic excellence.

Furthermore, organizations that sponsored softball tournaments used Osterman’s fame to further promote events throughout both amateur and professional levels. This created wider visibility of the sport and drew attention from sponsors and television networks.

Osterman also served as inspiration for young female athletes who had grown up watching her on television or reading about her on the internet or in magazines. Her story provided hope for girls who wanted to stay involved with athletics outside their high school experiences but may have been intimidated by the predominance of males in sports at higher levels or felt held back by traditional gender roles placed upon them by society. Ultimately, Cat Osterman’s presence on a professional team demonstrated that dreams could become reality for those willing to work hard enough — an idea that could be applied not just within sports but throughout all aspects of life.

Increased Salaries for Women’s Softball Players

Cat Osterman was the first professional women’s softball player to sign a multi-million dollar contract when she inked a deal with the Chicago Bandits organization in 2006. The contract, believed to be worth more than $1.5 million, catapulted softball into the major leagues. As a result, salaries for players shot up around the country, giving women in professional softball unprecedented financial security and recognition.

Prior to Osterman’s historic contract, salaries for women in professional softball were modest at best. Professional teams typically paid players very little money – sometimes as little as $500 per month – and it was not necessarily enough money to live on or provide the necessary resources for a good life. However, soon after Osterman signed her multi-million dollar deal, other teams began offering larger contracts to players which has allowed many of them to enjoy living wages and long-term careers on the diamond.

Osterman’s influence extended beyond just salary increases as well; her arrival and success also improved facilities for players including new locker rooms and better equipment which allowed teams and individual players alike to take their game to an even higher level of excellence. In addition, thanks in no small part due to Cat Osterman’s unfailing work ethic both on and off the field of play, women’s softball began receiving more broadcasting attention than ever before which further helped propel the sport into the national limelight.

Overall, Cat Osterman’s 2006 contract marks an important milestone in American sports history because it showed that female athletes are capable of achieving tremendous success while inspiring increased respect and appreciation for all they do both within their respective sport communities as well as across society at large.


The first female softball player to sign a million dollar contract was Cat Osterman in 2003. The dominant pitcher for Team USA signed a multi-year deal with the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF). Upon signing the contract, Osterman stated, “I am excited and proud to be part of this historic agreement. Having played softball all my life and believing in its growth potential, I am humbled to be the first female athlete to sign a million dollar contract.” Osterman is widely regarded as one of the greatest pitchers of all time and her contract served as an indicator that softball was moving toward professionalization. Although females have still yet to receive salaries commensurate with those earned by their male professional counterparts in sports, Cat Osterman’s million-dollar deal empowered many young female athletes and demonstrated that they could deserve high financial rewards for their athletic achievements.