Long-time baseball woman Kim Ng was named the new Major General of the Miami Marlins on Friday. It was a setting 15 years in the making. Or was it 93 years?
It’s been 15 years since Ng was first interviewed for a GM position in Major League Baseball – an opening with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005. But it’s been 93 years since a pro first saw him Team has been hired as General Manager. Billy Evans was the first to accept this title for the Cleveland Indians in 1927.
There are cave dwellers who are sure to fight me, but I assure you, in those 93 years there were women before Ng who qualified for the job and lost it out of fear. Not her own fear, mind you. Any woman who has worked her way up to the highest levels in a male-dominated company is overqualified, tough, and afraid of nothing, except perhaps the fragility of men who stand in the way of her success again.
Things got a little easier for these women on Friday when Ng broke through a long-standing glass ceiling and became the first female GM in a major North American men’s professional sports league. And it just got easier for Asian American girls and boys who love baseball – Ng is also the first Asian American GM of baseball. So it’s telling that just days after Vice President-elect Kamala Harris rose as an example to the country and the world of what a woman can become – a black, South Asian American – another woman on the scene, around the point after Hammer home.
Anyone with half a brain – I apologize to the cavemen above – could tell you that Ng is as qualified as she is for the opportunity she deserves.
Although she is only 51 years old, her baseball career spans 30 years. (Fun fact: when the Milwaukee Brewers hired GM David Stearns in 2015, it had been alive for 30 years!)
Ng began as an intern with the Chicago White Sox at age 21, worked her way up to director of waivers and records for the American League, and then became the youngest GM assistant in MLB, working for Brian, at age 29 Cashman and worked the New York Yankees. She joined the Dodgers in 2001 as vice president and assistant GM and was senior vice president of baseball operations at MLB in 2011. Before being named GM for the Marlins on Friday, she had interviewed and had open GM positions at least five times.
When Ng became the highest ranking woman in professional sports management on Friday, it was both a reason to celebrate and a moment to think about those who came before her and were rejected. Because, of course, the problem was never that women didn’t work hard enough, knew their way around or “fitted in”. It has always been so whether the sex that had gained power eons ago because they could physically snatch it from us would dare to give up the idea of power as strength and let their brains lead the way.
In 2015, Joe Torre, Ng’s boss at Major League Baseball and her former Yankees colleague Jim Caple, said the only thing between Ng and a GM job is the people hiring it.
“I always approach them at owners’ meetings,” said Torre. “At some point someone just has to ignore the fact that she’s a woman and just make a baseball decision. And if they do, I think she’ll get an opportunity. Somewhere.”
In March of this year, Ng joined my radio show for our Game Changers segment, which honors women who break down barriers in sports. She spoke about the challenges she faced as one of the few women in the room during her career and the importance of earning the trust and respect of leaders like Torre.
“I think there are examples for men,” she told me, “especially at the beginning of my career, before I really got promoted, who hadn’t seen women before punch training, in the front office or on the field.” There’s a novelty, but definitely a sideways glance. One of the things I’ve really tried in my career is to prove myself day in and day out and align myself with people who can be influential and who have really good reputations. “
Your list of mentors – a who’s who of baseball leadership – speaks to that goal. Torre, Cashman, Dan Evans, Bob Daly, the late George Steinbrenner. Multiple shared support for Ngs hiring on Friday via statements or social media.
“Enthusiastic about Kim Ng, who was the longest-standing candidate for general manager vacancies and was eventually rewarded,” tweeted Evans, a former Dodgers GM. “A great day for baseball, professional sports, and our society. Congratulations to the Marlins on a really great rental.”
Cashman, who teamed up with Ng for three Yankees World Series titles, said in a statement, “It is wonderful to see people accomplish their stated goals and this has been a dream of hers for as long as I have known her … “She will provide the Marlins with extensive experience and institutional knowledge, as well as a calm demeanor and an amazing communicative ability – all of which will serve her well in her new leadership role as head of baseball operations.”
In her statement on Friday, Ng admitted that she wasn’t sure that day would come.
“I don’t take this challenge lightly,” said Ng. “When I got into this business it seemed unlikely that a woman would lead a major league team, but I’m persistent in pursuing my goals. My goal now is to bring championship baseball to Miami. I am both humble and eager to move on. ” Build the winning culture that our fans expect and deserve. “
In Miami, Ng will be working with familiar faces: CEO and partner Derek Jeter, who was also a major contributor to the aforementioned Yankees titles, and skipper Don Mattingly, who trained and managed with the Dodgers under Ng. It’s just two more big names that can vouch for the quality of the GM the Marlins just hired.
“It was a difficult situation,” Ng told Game Changers, being a woman in baseball. “It’s got better, but we still have a long way to go.”