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Girls learn MLB careers within reach during panel

Special to MLB.com

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Elle Van Giesen loves playing baseball. But the San Francisco teenager also would love to one day work for the front office of a Major League Baseball team.

That dream can come true, Van Giesen was told Thursday night, as she and 64 other girls' high school baseball players listened to a distinguished panel of women discuss their professional careers with MLB and what it took to reach their goals.

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Elle Van Giesen loves playing baseball. But the San Francisco teenager also would love to one day work for the front office of a Major League Baseball team.

That dream can come true, Van Giesen was told Thursday night, as she and 64 other girls' high school baseball players listened to a distinguished panel of women discuss their professional careers with MLB and what it took to reach their goals.

The session concluded the second day of the four-day inaugural Girls Baseball Breakthrough Series camp hosted by MLB and USA Baseball at Historic Dodgertown. The panel included Major League Baseball's senior vice president of baseball operations Kim Ng, manager of umpire operations Raquel Wagner, Minor League umpire Jen Pawol and Miami Marlins pro scouting assistant Alex Rigoli. The moderator for the panel was MLB chief diversity and inclusion officer Renee Tirado.

"It's important for us to show these girls that there are women out there doing these types of jobs. I think we're all examples," Ng said. "I think we're seeing more and more women at the entry level [in MLB front offices] getting into baseball. I think you see broadcasters now, reporters, there are trainers now as well as sports scientists out there. So I think we're seeing it in all facets of the industry."

Girls leave it all on the field at Dodgertown

Each of the four panelists related the varied roads they took to attain the careers they have in professional baseball today. Wagner, for instance, said she wanted to be a plastic surgeon when she was in college before changing her mind, and she said she has no regrets.

"Not everyone goes from wanting to be a doctor to working in baseball," Wagner told the young audience, many of whom have aspirations to remain in baseball following graduation from high school. "It's a different path, but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world."

Video: Breakthrough Series provides opportunities for girls

The one common theme that Tirado and the panelists emphasized was that determination and a solid work ethic are key factors in the process of having a career in professional baseball, whether as a player, coach, umpire or front-office executive.

Girls baseball takes center stage in Vero Beach

"You will have your naysayers," Ng warned them. "It's hard when you're the only girl out there. It's hard to break down those barriers, but all they need to know is that you're a good teammate."

Rigoli's advice was to "learn everything you can every day and broaden your horizons, take the extra lap every day."

Pawol, who played on the first Team USA women's baseball team in 2001, said she loves her job even on hot, steamy afternoons in Florida when there are hardly any fans in the stands.

"If you love something and enjoy doing it, hold on to that," Pawol told the girls, many of whom are the only female on their high school baseball team. "Cultivate it. It could become a career."

That's what inspires Van Giesen to keep dreaming.

"It's just amazing to see that [these women] didn't quit baseball after high school, and there's a future for us in baseball if we choose it," Van Giesen said.