There may have been no more qualified general manager candidate in baseball than the one the Miami Marlins just hired to lead their baseball operations department. The résumé was extensive. Respect around the game, universal. And the news, which came Friday morning, was historic.
“[After] decades of determination, it is the honor of my career to lead the Miami Marlins as their next general manager,” Ng, 51, said in a statement released by the team. “This challenge is one I don’t take lightly. When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a Major League team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals.”
The move was both long overdue — Ng, a former assistant GM for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, had interviewed at least four times for GM openings beginning in 2005, only to fall short each time — and the natural pinnacle of the recent trend of women making significant inroads in a sport that was once closed off, if not downright hostile, to them.
“I definitely think this is a monumental moment for baseball and for any woman in the industry,” Haley Alvarez, assistant director of scouting and baseball operations for the Oakland Athletics, said in a telephone interview. Alvarez, a 27-year-old University of Virginia graduate, joined the A’s in 2017 as the organization’s first female talent-evaluator. “I think this opens a lot of doors for myself and other women in the industry, as well as any who are aspiring to enter the industry.”
As recently as 2017, MLB received a grade of C for gender hiring practices by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. “The team front offices need to have more open hiring practices so they will look more like the residents of their community and of America,” the report said. MLB launched a diversity program in 2016 designed to create opportunities in the sport for minorities and women.
With Ng working for MLB since 2011 — her most recent title was senior vice president for baseball operations — two other women, New York Yankees assistant GM Jean Afterman and Boston Red Sox executive vice president and assistant GM Raquel Ferreira, were the highest-ranking team executives in the game. Amanda Hopkins of the Seattle Mariners in 2015 became the first full-time scout in the sport in more than a half-century. And last offseason, three teams — the Yankees (Rachel Balkovec) San Francisco Giants (Alyssa Nakken) and Chicago Cubs (Rachel Folden) — hired female coaches.
“The way to conquer this is numbers,” Ng told ESPN in 2018. “It shouldn’t rest on one or two peoples’ shoulders. The fact that there’s now this larger group [of women] is a very good signal to the industry that we’re finally making some headway.”
Ng’s hiring in Miami appears to have been spearheaded by former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, a Hall of Famer who knew Ng well from their time together in the Bronx and is now the Marlins’ CEO and part-owner. Jeter, whose father is Black, has made diversity one of the hallmarks of his tenure with the Marlins, who also have a woman, Caroline O’Connor, as their COO. Ng succeeds Michael Hill, who was one of only a handful of Black GMs in the game before being let go by the Marlins after this season.
Ng’s hiring “demonstrates what I have long said, that to be a GM in Major League Baseball, you need intelligence, vision and experience,” Afterman said in a statement. “These qualities of leadership, which Kim possesses in abundance, are gender-blind. … I hope young girls (and boys) take notice of [Ng’s hiring] and further understand that there are no limits to their dreams. I congratulate the Marlins [for breaking] a barrier that needed shattering.”
Ng was born in Indianapolis and grew up in the New York area as a Yankees fan. Her parents are of Chinese descent, which also makes her just the second person of Asian descent to run on-field operations for an MLB team, following Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations, who is of Pakistani descent.
Ng is a 1990 graduate of the University of Chicago, where she was a standout in softball for four years, and began her baseball career that summer as an intern with the Chicago White Sox, who offered her a full-time position by the end of her internship. She spent six years with the White Sox, then four as the Yankees’ assistant GM — where she earned three World Series rings — and another 10 with the Dodgers as vice president and assistant GM. In 2011, she left to join MLB.
While baseball is still divided to some extent by the old-school/new-school chasm — with lifelong executives and scouts losing ground to data analysts and finance wizards — Ng has one foot firmly planted in both realms, with three decades of front-office experience in the game but also a reputation for being ahead of her time in analytics.
With Jeter in the owners’ suite and Ng running the front office, the Marlins are suddenly one of baseball’s most fascinating teams. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, they endured an eight-day shutdown amid a coronavirus outbreak on their roster — which forced them to replace 18 players once the hiatus ended — to finish 31-29 and qualify for the playoffs for just the third time in the franchise’s 28-year history.
“[We] look forward to Kim bringing a wealth of knowledge and championship-level experience to the Miami Marlins,” Jeter said in a statement. “Her leadership of our baseball operations team will play a major role on our path toward sustained success.”
All first-time GMs carry the pressure of having to prove themselves worthy of the job, but none before Ng also will have to worry about how her tenure will reflect on the growing ranks of women in baseball who view her as a role model and trailblazer — and whose futures could be affected by how she fares.
“There will be a spotlight on her with every move she makes,” Alvarez said. “But having met Kim and seeing her work in the past, I think she’ll handle it pretty calmly. I think she’ll pass with flying colors.”
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