OAKLAND -- Earlier this month, the United States women's national soccer team captured the hearts and minds of the entire nation as they won their second straight World Cup title.
Their incredible run served as a great reminder that women's professional sports have never been more popular, from soccer to tennis to softball and baseball. This past weekend, the A's hosted multiple events encouraging young girls to pursue their dream, whether it's on or off the field.
Last Friday, the team welcomed about 30 middle school girls from Girls Inc. of Alameda County for a panel led by A's and Chevron female executives. Among the speakers was A's Vice President of Communications and Community Catherine Aker.
"I just feel really honored that I get to be a part of panels like this," Aker told NBC Sports California. "The work that we're doing for women of the A's and the mentorship I do on a daily basis, I feel like it's my responsibility. But it's also an incredible honor for me to be able to make sure that women know about the careers that are on the field and potentially off the field with the front office."
That same night, the A's hosted more than 500 youth athletes and coaches from Baseball For All, an organization that aims to give girls a better opportunity to play and coach baseball. Founder Justine Siegal, who made history with the A's in 2015 as the first female coach of a Major League Baseball team, returned to Oakland for the event.
"The A's have been really supportive of Baseball For All and girls playing baseball," Siegal said. "I was 13 when I was first told that I shouldn't play baseball because I was a girl, and so that's when I decided I'd play forever. But incredibly, girls are still being told too often that they shouldn't play baseball, and so we had to stop that loop."
Then on Saturday, the A's teamed up with Baseball For All for their opening ceremony in Albany. Even A's mascot Stomper was on hand for the festivities.
@Stomper00 keeping the girls on their toes before kicking off the #BFAHolmesSeries this morning 😜
Follow along with all the action this weekend at this historic all-girls baseball tournament in the East Bay on Instagram 👉#rootedinoakland #baseballforall @Athletics pic.twitter.com/Pcj979HWwe— Baseball For All (@baseballfor_all) July 13, 2019
"I think it's incredible," Aker said. "Any way that we can increase participation in baseball, both for boys and girls, is incredible for Oakland, for the sport, and for girls across the Bay Area. We're really excited that (Siegal) is back here partnering with us."
Finally, on Tuesday, the A's capped the long weekend of events with a softball clinic at the Coliseum for more than 100 youth softball players. Players from Bishop O'Dowd High School's championship team helped run the clinic.
Both Aker and Siegal shared a similar message for young girls hoping to follow in their footsteps with successful careers in professional baseball.
"Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something," Aker said. "Find incredible mentors and people who really can help you along in your career. Also, make sure that you are advocating for yourself. At 13 years old, I knew I wanted to work in sports. I told every single person I possibly could, whether it was teachers, coaches, or my parents, that I wanted to work in sports.
"It's amazing when you tell people what you want to do that people come and say, 'Oh, I know so-and-so, I can introduce you to this person or that person, here's some advice for you.' I think really being able to share your vision and your ideas and goals can really help you move that vision forward."
After our girls hit dingers during the #BFAHolmesSeries HR Derby this weekend, the @Athletics surprised them with on-field tickets to A's BP 💪
Hats off to @MLB clubs like the A's for recognizing girls in baseball and believing they belong in the game, too 💙 #TheFutureisFemale pic.twitter.com/H5zBPtn6Ni— Baseball For All (@baseballfor_all) July 17, 2019
Siegal echoed that sentiment, emploring young girls to pursue their passion, regardless of what anyone may tell them.
"If you have a dream, you should go after it. Don't let anyone put you in a box. Girls can do anything."