THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
It was a momentous and historic occurrence. Never before in the 93 years since Billy Evans was first given the title by the Cleveland Indians in 1927 has a general manager of a Major League Baseball team been a woman. Until now.
The announcement comes just weeks after Kamala Harris became the first woman to be chosen as Vice President (elect) of the United States of America. And while there is no shortage of other walls waiting to fall and Rubicons to be crossed by women, GM of one of the four major North American men’s sports leagues is no longer one of them.
"All of us at Major League Baseball are thrilled for Kim and the opportunity she has earned with the Marlins," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "Kim's appointment makes history in all of professional sports and sets a significant example for the millions of women and girls who love baseball and softball. The hard work, leadership, and record of achievement throughout her long career in the National Pastime led to this outcome, and we wish Kim all the best as she begins her career with the Marlins."
Make no mistake, talent and qualification are what finally got Ng (pronounced Ang) to her dream job. It is a story 15 years in the making, since Ng first interviewed back in 2005 for a GM position with the Los Angeles Dodgers. She has interviewed for half a dozen GM jobs since, including with the Phillies, Mets, Giants, Mariners and Padres.
The 52-year-old Ng’s story in baseball goes even farther back, to 1991, when she landed an intern gig for the Chicago White Sox as a fresh-faced graduate from Chicago University. She did typical grunt work such as operating the radar gun and tracking pitches. By 1995, though, she had moved up the food chain to assistant director of baseball operations, earning a reputation as a fierce and meticulous negotiator.
In 1996, she became the first woman to present - and then win - an arbitration case, facing off with super-agent Scott Boras over pitcher Alex Fernandez.
“Oh, I was a wreck,” said Ng in an interview on ESPN’s E60. “The first five minutes you could probably tell I was a little bit nervous. But then, I saw the looks from across the table, and that kind of got my juices going. There’s a competitiveness to it, and I think that sort of fed me.”
From Chicago, Ng moved on to MLB headquarters for a two-year stint as the American League director of waivers and operations, approving transactions and helping with the application of rules.
In 1998, Ng broke more new ground when the New York Yankees hired her, at 29 years old, as the youngest assistant general manager in baseball. She worked for the Yanks through 2001, as they won three World Series titles and four American League pennants, cementing her reputation as an integral part of the organization.
“As assistant general manager with the Yankees, she was indispensable to me when I first began my tenure as the GM,” said Brian Cashman who hired Ng in New York. “Kim was a tireless and dedicated executive back then, and in the ensuing years, she has ceaselessly added to her skill set to maximize her talent.”
After the 2001 season, Ng jumped across the country to become vice president and assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. She worked for the team through the 2010 season, adding another four postseason appearances to her resume.
In her nine years with the Dodgers, Ng had input in all player transactions, trades and free-agent signings, while also overseeing the club's arbitration efforts, pro scouting, and medical and video departments.
The last 10 years have been spent as senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, biding her time and waiting for the right opportunity to open up for the one job she has always coveted most, general manager.
Finally, and far overdue, that time has come.
“I think baseball has sometimes been in the dark ages as far as making change, because it’s time. It’s time,” said Joe Torre when asked if Ng would be the first female GM in baseball. And that was ten years ago when he was managing the Dodgers during Ng’s tenure there.
Let that sink in for minute.
More recently Torre commented, “At some point, somebody just has to ignore the fact that she's a woman and just make a baseball decision. And if they do that, then I think she will get an opportunity. Somewhere.”
Finally, that time and that somewhere have come. Better late than never is how the saying goes, I guess. With over 30 years of experience and the respect of virtually everyone in the game, Ng’s resume may well be the most impressive of any first-time GM ever. It shouldn’t have taken this long.
Credit certainly has to go to Ng for never giving up, never losing sight of the goal, or the belief that the call would one day come.
“This challenge is one I don't take lightly,” Ng said after the announcement. “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. My goal is now to bring Championship baseball to Miami. I am both humbled and eager to continue building the winning culture our fans expect and deserve.”
ESPN’s Mike Greenburg put it well when he pointed out that “general managers today, particularly in baseball, this is just math. It’s just doing analytics. And obviously whether you’ve played or not has nothing to do with that, and your gender has nothing to do with that. So, I would imagine that this will be the first of many such days, but none of them will ever be quite like today.”
Personally, the world that I want to live in, and the one I want my daughter, and all of our childeren to grow up in, is a place where the answer to “I want to be (fill in the blank)” is not “You can’t do that because you are (fill in a label).” A place where talent, drive, determination, experience and qualification are the only things determining what anyone walking this planet can do and dream and achieve and become.
While there is still so very far to go, we just got two giant steps closer in the month of November with VP and GM.
Congratulations, Kim Ng. It’s about time.