Friday, Nov. 13, was quite possibly one of the most important days in MLB history since the league was desegregated. On this day, Kim Ng was officially hired as the next General Manager for the Miami Marlins. This event simultaneously made her the first female GM in any of North America’s professional sports leagues, as well as the second person of Asian descent, and the first of East Asian descent, to hold that position. While she is not a household name for baseball fans (a la Terry Francona or Tony La Russa) Ng has made her career out of baseball for decades. In spite of the many barriers and antagonists that make it next to impossible for minorities to acquire positions of power like this, her work and persistence have led her to become an overnight historical figure and a role model for minorities and the oppressed.
Ng became a superstar in the behind-the-scenes, business side of baseball from an extremely young age. After interning for the Chicago White Sox for less than six months, she was already offered a full-time job as an assistant with the team. By the end of the ‘90s, she had already impressed executives throughout the MLB and had risen to Assistant GM for the New York Yankees, representing her hometown and favorite team and becoming a major part of their three World Series championships around the turn of the century. Just to remind you: she whizzed through the White Sox and joined the Yankees all before she turned 30. She was the fastest-rising, and one of the most talented, new executives. Many were anticipating what she would do next.
After working for the Yankees with a prime Derek Jeter and crew, also assisting in their World Series-winning streak, Ng opted to become Assistant GM and Vice President for our hometown L.A. Dodgers! As the 2000s started, their GM, as well as many experts around the league, were encouraging and expecting Ng to start applying for full GM positions. This is something that she admitted to already anticipating for years, due to her being one of the most qualified assistants of the era. However, the following decade put on full display how sexism and racism were still extremely prevalent within the ‘boy’s club’ at the top of the MLB. From 2005 – 2014, Ng was rejected for a full General Manager position by the Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, the L.A. Angels, and then the Padres for a second time. As MLB Network analyst Ron Darling pointed out, “if you look at her resume, she should’ve been on the fast track, [but] she was on the slow track, quite frankly, because she was an Asian woman.” Simultaneously, the New York Mets, who were extremely interested in hiring her as an Assistant GM, hired former pitcher Bill Singer instead. Singer proceeded to drunkenly insult and harass her because of her heritage during an MLB conference for league executives. He was fired shortly thereafter.
For the past decade now, Ng has been the Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for the MLB’s internal business office. This did not dissuade her from her goal of becoming a team’s General Manager, despite some of her interviews and rejections coming at this time. While I cannot and could never truly understand any of what she experienced or felt during this time, reading up on her story gave me the impression that this was the low point of her career. No longer working hands-on with any team, subject to numerous direct attacks on her for being an Asian woman, as well as subtle and systemic prejudice in her job prospects. Her ability to be promoted in spite of her talent and experience was further questioned and must have felt horrible, especially in terms of what she was dreaming of. Raised by immigrant, middle-class bankers, and living in a single-parent household from a young age, she had already achieved so much more than what society dictates to people like that. Nevertheless, this clearly was not where her aspirations laid.
Now, finally, she has her dream job and made history. Whether you find it ironic or not, it only seems fitting that this came from new Marlins owner, Derek Jeter. 20 years after she helped lead his team to a championship three-peat, Jeter, knowing first hand her immense talent, knew she obviously was the right person to lead his team. While Jeter has almost constantly been under fire for bad decision-making and hemorrhaging their talent, this might be the best decision he has made so far. With Kim Ng finally given her the opportunity to control the front office, her untapped talent and knowledge of the game are sure to help out her new team, as well as herself, in becoming not just a part of history for breaking barriers, but for her talent as a GM. At the same time, this representation of Ng’s background and talent has already made an impact on showing young women and minorities that glass ceilings are not forever, showing that a person putting in the work can still shatter them. To end with a quote from her: “When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would [ever] lead a Major League team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals.” Clearly, she proved everyone who thought a woman would never make it as far as she has, including herself, wrong.
Featured Image: Courtesy of NewJersey Monthly