Ng certainly thought so. She started in baseball the same year, 1990, that Elaine Weddington Steward became the first woman named assistant general manager of a major league team. At that time, the game seemed to be changing.
“Someday I hope to be a GM,” Ng said in 1998. “I didn’t realize it was quite possible until recently. But I think the possibility is out there.”
The years passed, though, and so did the fruitless interviews for general manager positions. The Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005. The Seattle Mariners in 2008. The San Diego Padres in 2009. The Los Angeles Angels in 2011. And the Padres, again, in 2014. Each time, Ng didn’t get the job.
She built a reputation as one of the most qualified candidates, overcoming sexism and racism along the way. But the top rungs of baseball — like the top rungs of other pro leagues — remained a boys’ club. In 2011, after nine years as an assistant GM with the Dodgers, Ng left for a job in the major league office. And even though she kept interviewing, it seemed Ng’s narrative would end up similar to so many other women who cracked the glass ceiling but couldn’t bust through it.
“It was kind of like: ‘Dang! She should’ve been the first [female] GM in Major League Baseball!’ ” said Rosalie Resch, the University of Chicago’s interim director of athletics who was an adviser during Ng’s college days, in an interview last week. “It was like: ‘Okay, is she going in a path that’s not going to let that happen? … Has this passed her by?’ ”
Now that fear has been overtaken by a wave of elation. Ng, 52, was introduced as the Marlins’ general manager on Monday. Ng described it as extraordinary. Others called it long overdue.
“We all just knew that’s what she was driven to, to go to the top in the baseball department,” said Grace Guerrero Zwit, the senior director of minor league operations for the White Sox. “I thought it would happen sooner rather than this late.”
Ng (pronounced Ang) has long shown a passion for the game — and for winning, her former coaches and colleagues say. After growing up playing stickball in Queens, sleeping under a poster of the 1978 World Series champion Yankees, Ng led her overachieving Ridgewood High softball team to the New Jersey state finals.
“She was the only one who cried and was upset that we should have won,” former Ridgewood coach Debbie Paul said. “She loved baseball.”
At the University of Chicago, Ng captained her softball team as a sure-handed shortstop, but she was bent on leading the charge for women in other ways. During her senior year, she served as president of the university’s women’s athletic association and wrote a research paper on Title IX, highlighting the low numbers in which women held leadership roles in sports.
In 1990, after graduation, she beat out roughly 30 candidates to get her first job with the White Sox. Dan Evans, then the team’s assistant general manager, hired her for an internship that should have been four or five months of learning the art of salary arbitration and working on offseason projects. When spring training arrived, the gig should have been over. By then, however, Evans already had promoted Ng to a full-time position.
“I just always thought she was going to be that glass-ceiling breaker,” Evans said.
Ng became a kind of utility player for the team’s front office. She attended arbitration hearings with the club’s resident baseball lifer, a man named Jack Gould who kept an unlit cigar in his mouth and possessed no filter when it came to speaking his mind.
“I would be a little intimidated by that,” White Sox senior executive vice president Howard Pizer said. “But I don’t think she was.”
During games, she charted pitches and worked the radar gun. When the draft approached, Zwit had to do the menial but necessary job of alphabetizing stacks of 500 draft cards. Ng raised her hand to help.
“There was some garbage work that needed to be done, just like bottom-of-the-totem pole type stuff, and she [would say]: ‘Give it to me. I’ll do it,’ ” Zwit said. “Nothing was ever beneath her. Nothing.”
Any meeting Evans had — with executives, agents, players — Ng followed. So did the doubt and disdain from White baseball men. “Honey, can you get me coffee?” they asked her. They pulled Evans aside and asked him, “What is she doing here?”
In 2003, when Ng was an assistant general manager with the Dodgers and attending the annual GM meetings, she was having a drink with colleagues when New York Mets special assistant Bill Singer questioned where she was from (she was born in Indianapolis) and mocked her Chinese heritage.
“I just love that the shallow people who just decided that they were going to inject racism and inject gender-centric comments, I just know that they’re retching a little bit today,” Evans said of Ng’s hire. “I knew the challenges that she had throughout her career: the harassment, the stigma, the glass ceiling. It’s all gone now. She is the general manager of the Miami Marlins, and she just happens to be a woman and she just happens to be Asian American. And that’s a great day for our game.”
Yet it’s a day some could not envision — not because of Ng’s abilities but because of the glacial pace at which the male-dominated sports leagues embrace change.
“Baseball is so traditional and change doesn’t come quickly, although it is changing,” said Steward, now a vice president and senior club counsel for the Boston Red Sox. “This is major. It really is.”
After leaving the Dodgers in 2011, Ng went to MLB headquarters as senior vice president of baseball operations, a role in which she worked with all 30 teams and oversaw the international branch. Though she was the highest-ranking woman in baseball, Ng never stopped chasing a GM job. Her name continued to pop up on shortlists. In 2018, the Mets, San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles had openings, and Joe Torre, her boss at the MLB office, called several teams to vouch for her. Still, Ng couldn’t land a GM position — a process that left her feeling “defeated and deflated.” Then, this month, the Marlins called.
Ahead of her introduction, with more than 100 media members on the Zoom call, Ng posed for portraits inside empty Marlins Park. While standing on home plate, Ng crossed her hands and wore the faintest of grins. She looked very much like the organization’s top decision-maker — and exactly how her most ardent allies have always envisioned her.
“I have chills about this,” Steward said. “I always thought this could happen. I have to say, though, it’s been a while, and when it finally did happen, I just felt all kinds of emotions.”