On Nov. 13, Derek Jeter, CEO of the Miami Marlins, announced the team had hired Kim Ng to lead their club as general manager (GM). Ng became the first female and Asian American GM in baseball, and the first woman at the helm in any of the four major North American men’s sports leagues: Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL).
Ng began her storied baseball career over thirty years ago. She started in the league as an intern for the Chicago White Sox at 21 after graduating from the University of Chicago, where she was a standout softball player, with a degree in public policy. The White Sox hired her full time in 1991 as a special projects analyst before she rose to assistant director of baseball operation. At the White Sox, Ng became the youngest person and first woman to present and win an MLB salary arbitration case against none other than superstar agent Scott Boras. She then worked for two years in American League administration. After that, Ng became the youngest assistant GM ever at age 29 for the New York Yankees, where she won World Series rings in 1998, 1999 and 2000. She joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as an assistant GM from 2002 to 2011 before working for the MLB commissioner's office as senior vice president of baseball operations. As assistant GM for the Yankees and Dodgers, she handled player contracts, arbitration hearings and valuations relying on a combination of statistics and unmeasurable qualities, a daunting task for all in baseball leadership in the age of Sabermetrics.
Ng has been passed over for a GM job at least four times since 2005. She told the Game Changers radio show in March that being a woman in baseball has been difficult: “It's been a hard situation … It's gotten better, but we still have a long way to go.”
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida gave MLB a C grade for gender hiring in their latest report. Ninety five of the approximately 500 vice president jobs amongst the teams were held by women and, of those, only 19 were women of color. Not only does MLB have a gender equity problem in hiring, but there have been many reports of female employees lacking proper support and ending up leaving their jobs in baseball.
For Ng and the 49 women who participate in a group chat, called Women and Baseball, each step of their professional careers have come with varied challenges as they navigate the boys club of MLB known for its conservatism. The women in the chat were overjoyed by Ng’s hiring; however one message from the group’s founder Jen Wolf who works in the Cleveland farm system rang clear: “It’s about time. Anyone with her résumé should have been hired years ago, so I’m very excited. I feel like males with a similar résumé would have been hired ages ago.”
Ng joins a Marlins team that has emphasized the importance of diversity since Derek Jeter’s group bought the club and he became the first Black CEO in baseball. Jeter has started to transform the club who ended their 17th season post season drought this season. He trusts Ng to continue this transformation and pointed to her “wealth of knowledge and championship-level experience.” She will also work alongside Marlins Chief Operating Officer Caroline O'Connor, another one of the highest-ranking women in professional sports.
After the historic news broke, Ng commented, “I entered Major League Baseball as an intern and, after decades of determination, it is the honor of my career to lead the Miami Marlins as their next general manager … This challenge is one I don’t take lightly. When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely that a woman would lead a Major League team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals. My goal is now to bring championship baseball to Miami.”
People around the world applauded Ng for breaking race and gender ceilings in professional sports including First Lady Michelle Obama, basketball star Jermey Lin, tennis and equal rights icon Billie Jean King, actor Daniel Dae Kim and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, tweeted “Congrats to @Marlins not only for trailblazing but more importantly for getting the best general manager in baseball.”