On Friday, the Miami Marlins named Kim Ng as their new general manager (GM). Ng is the first woman to hold the general manager position, both in MLB and across the four major professional sports leagues in North America. Ng is also believed to be the second person of Asian descent to lead a MLB team, alongside San Francisco Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi.
“I got calls and text messages from guys that I’ve known over the years who were just so excited to tell their daughters and wives,” Ng said during her introductory press conference on Monday. “[They were] just so happy that I had broken through, but really more for the sport and more about what it meant for us in society.”
After playing softball at the University of Chicago and graduating with a degree in public policy, Ng was hired by the Chicago White Sox as an intern. She progressed through the ranks of the organization and by 1995, she became the Assistant director of baseball operations. In 1998, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman hired Ng to be his assistant GM, making her the youngest to ever hold the position in MLB, and one of only four women to do so in the league’s history. She then joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001, also as an assistant GM. Ng left the team in 2011 to become MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations, a position which she held until last week’s hiring.
During her 30 years in MLB, Ng had been interviewed for general manager positions with numerous teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. Experiencing so many rejections was disheartening, she told the New York Times, remarking that at moments, it felt as though teams only considered her in order to meet a diversity requirement. Now, Ng feels as if she will serve as a symbol of progress in gender equality in baseball. “You’re bearing a torch for so many,” Ng said.
Women across the nation recognized Ng’s achievement with an outpouring of over 1,000 congratulatory responses within the first 72 hours of landing the position.
Andrea Nuñez, a strength and conditioning coach for the Los Angeles Angels, says the hiring was inspiring for women in baseball. “The most important thing for us is to not be hired to be a check mark,” Nuñez told Sports Illustrated. “For the most qualified candidate for that position to happen to be a woman and a woman who achieved so much, that is amazing. That is exactly the hire we want.”
Out of all the messages, the most meaningful for Ng was from former tennis star, Billie Jean King, one of Ng’s idols growing up in the Tri-State area.
“With 30 years’ experience as a baseball executive, she’s made history as the first woman and first Asian-American to hold the top post in a baseball operations department. Progress!” King tweeted last Friday. King, a tennis Hall of Famer, pushed her sport towards gender equality beginning in the late 1960s.
Despite this extraordinary moment in sports, King noted there is still a long way to go for women in sports. King noted that achievements for men and women in the sports world are characterized differently by the public. When men are successful in sports, their achievements are celebrated for their level of excellence, while women’s achievements are discussed only in the context of progress towards gender equality, King noted. According to King, this attitude will remain until the hiring of a woman sparks debate about whether she was the best candidate for the job, not national celebrations over the demise of a glass ceiling. And that change, King said, is up to men.
Ng also received support from former First Lady Michelle Obama. “So excited to see Kim Ng named the first woman and first Asian-American General Manager in the MLB. I grew up loving the [Chicago] Cubs, but I’ll be cheering you on!” Obama tweeted last Friday.
The Marlins have one of the most diverse front offices in MLB. Derek Jeter became the first Black CEO when he and Bruce Sherman purchased the team in 2017. Caroline O’Connor, the team’s COO, is one of the highest-ranking female executives in professional sports. Ng also was excited about working with the many women in the organization who work in the team’s analytics, scouting and medical departments.
Ng hopes that her hiring will serve as an inspiration for other women with an interest in a career in sports. “There’s an adage, ‘You can’t be it if you can’t see it,’” Ng said. “I suggest to them, ‘Now you can see it.’ And so I look forward to hearing all of their stories and just how inspired they are to now pursue a job in sports, a job in baseball and to reach for the stars.”