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From the Yankees to the (Marlins) top job

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Let’s ride through Kim Ng’s road to breaking the glass ceiling.

MLB: Baseball Hall of Fame-Induction Ceremony Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Ng is arguably the most successful woman in the history of Major League Baseball. Currently the highest-ranking female executive in the industry, she is the first woman to earn the title of general manager in the American or National Leagues, and the first person of East Asian descent to serve in the same role. Garnering the trust of the likes of George Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Joe Torre, and Derek Jeter, this trailblazer is a perfect role model for young girls and women who want to make their way in the professional baseball setting.

After a college softball career at the University of Chicago, Ng joined the Chicago White Sox organization- first as an intern in 1991, and ultimately wast promoted to Assistant Director of Baseball Operations in 1995. In 1997, she worked in the American League Offices where, as the director of waivers and records, she interacted with team executives. Here, she attracted the attention of the New York Yankees and newly promoted General Manager Brian Cashman.

Taking up Cashman’s recently vacated position as assistant GM at the age of just 29, Kim became just the second woman to hold the position. Despite her youth, however, she quickly made herself an integral aspect of the organization’s higher functioning. During her tenure (1998-2001) the Yankees reached the playoffs all four years and won the World Series three consecutive years. According to Cashman, Ng was “indispensable” as a “tireless and dedicated executive” (Adler, 2020). During this time, she invested herself in building relationships with the likes of Derek Jeter, Gene Michael, who expanded her “on-field knowledge” (Kepner & Wagner, 2020), and amateur scouting director, Damon Oppenheimer, who she questioned about what kinds of statistics were valued by organizations looking to recruit potential players. Oppenheimer had the highest amount of respect for Kim, who he said was “probably the smartest person in the room and never had to make everybody feel that way” (Kepner & Wagner, 2020).

We would be misguided, though, to believe Ng’s career was a linear shot upward from there. Surely, after seeing such great success with the Yankees, the world would be hers for the taking, right? Unfortunately, the game of baseball is still a boy’s club- one which at times would feel like it was doing everything it could to restrain her from achieving her dreams of filling a role as General Manager. From the Yankees, Kim went on to work for the Dodgers, and then for Joe Torre as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, all while interviewing for the top role with the Seattle Mariners, the Los Angeles Angels, the San Diego Padres (twice), the San Francisco Giants, the New York Mets, and the Baltimore Orioles. Over the span of these 15 years, each time after an apparently successful interview, she would get a call back stating something along the lines of “We’re going in a different direction.” In other words, they were choosing to hire a man.

Ng worked in baseball for a total of 30 years before becoming a general manager. Not only is this longer than the average “grind time” as Erica Block put it in her 2020 Pinstripe Alley piece, but it is “slightly more than three standard deviations removed from the average of the 27 other general managers currently employed in MLB” (Block, 2020). Even so, the moment Derek Jeter appointed her to the position with the Marlins in 2020, glass ceilings were shattered and baseball took a giant step into the future.

It is still unavoidably apparent that women are forced to work harder and for a longer amount of time than men before reaching the same heights, but Kim’s remarkable career is a testament to what women are capable of achieving. Hopefully, the next time a motivated woman endeavors to reach for her goals in baseball, it won’t take nearly as long to make it happen.

References

Adler, D. (2020). Cashman: Ng was ‘indispensable’ with Yanks. MLB.com. Retrieved 24 September 2021, from https://www.mlb.com/news/yankees-front-office-congratulates-marlins-gm-kim-ng.

Block, E. (2020). Shame on MLB team owners for not hiring Kim Ng earlier. Pinstripe Alley. Retrieved 24 September 2021, from https://www.pinstripealley.com/2020/11/17/21570974/yankees-shame-on-mlb-team-owners-for-not-hiring-kim-ng-earlier.

Kepner, T., & Wagner, J. (2020). Kim Ng Has Been Ready for Years. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 24 September 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/sports/baseball/kim-ng-miami-marlins.html.