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Panel explores women's opportunities in MLB

Ng hosts discussion on growing gender diversity in game
MLB.com

The first woman to fight for her place in the baseball world was Bernice Gera, who spent years battling in court for the right to become the first professional female umpire in 1972. Women have come a long way in baseball in the 45 years since.

That much is apparent this All-Star Week, where ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza has given a public face to the significant and often behind-the-scenes strides baseball has made in terms of gender diversity. The game continues to evolve in this way, with more women undertaking leadership roles and sparking positive change within the sport.

The first woman to fight for her place in the baseball world was Bernice Gera, who spent years battling in court for the right to become the first professional female umpire in 1972. Women have come a long way in baseball in the 45 years since.

That much is apparent this All-Star Week, where ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza has given a public face to the significant and often behind-the-scenes strides baseball has made in terms of gender diversity. The game continues to evolve in this way, with more women undertaking leadership roles and sparking positive change within the sport.

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

Such was the topic of the star-studded panel fit for All-Star Week that sat down to discuss baseball gender diversity Monday in Miami prior to the Home Run Derby. The panel, made up of women from several front-office fields, sought to educate on the hurdles women still face in the industry and the progress they've made in overcoming them.

The panel was hosted by Kim Ng, one of baseball's foremost pioneering women. Ng, who currently works as a senior vice president for baseball operations for Major League Baseball, was the youngest person and the first woman to present a salary arbitration case when she did so in 1995, became an assistant general manager at age 29, and she has worked as an executive for the White Sox, Yankees and Dodgers.

The goal of the discussion was to "raise eyebrows, in the right way."

"When I first wanted to get into baseball, I tried, it wasn't that easy and I kind of gave up and did something else. It's not easy to get into if you're a man or a woman. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little harder to get into being a woman," said Rebecca Seesel, manager of international baseball operations for MLB. "What I've learned over the last six years is you should be comfortable being yourself. You have skills and you have experiences that will make you valuable in whatever you're interested in."

Dana Parks, assistant in baseball operations with the Tampa Bay Rays, said she grew up loving the Phillies, and she lived out her dream of working in professional sports. Now she's part of a team that assists in analytics and scouting.

"When I was younger and a fan, it was must more results-based," Parks said. "From a scouting perspective, so much more process-oriented. You don't want to see what a player does, but how is he doing it? Do I think he can repeat it? It's much more granular. It's more a how and a why than a what."

Ceci Clark, performance coach with the Cleveland Indians, was the first woman to be hired full-time by MLB to work in mental training. She talked about the challenges and opportunity that comes with such a position.

"I think knowing yourself is a big component, going in. A lot of the questions that might be easily answered for your male counterparts -- because many have come before them -- may not be answered for you," said Clark. "Some of the infrastructure isn't there yet, and you often answer those questions, being the first person to do so. It's not an easy first place, but it's really exciting, and you have a chance to define It."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.