Who is Kim Ng? Here's how Marlins GM broke glass ceiling to be first woman to earn top job at MLB team
Kim Ng, who was appointed as the General Manager (GM) of the Miami Marlins, is more than willing to start her new job. Though she was given the top post in November last year, the 52-year-old’s real work started recently when the full Marlins team assembled in Jupiter, Florida, for the first full workout. Unable to contain her excitement, Ng told the media via video call, “It’s my first as a general manager, but I think it’s also my first spring training in a long time, and that definitely adds to it. And as I’ve sat here the last week or so with these guys, it all comes back to me very naturally and in my head I’ve thought, ‘This is what I’ve done for most of my career,’ and nothing has taken me by surprise, yet, which is a good thing.”
She continued, “Having been here before as an assistant general manager for 13 years and knowing how spring training goes – those are all things of comfort. You just realize you’ve been here before. The only thing really different is, now you get to make the decisions."
Who is Kim Ng?
Ng is not new to baseball as she started her career as a White Sox intern in 1990. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to parents -- Jin Ng and Virginia Fong -- she used to play softball along with other sports. "My dad was a big sports nut, so I grew up playing and watching a lot of different sports. I lived in Queens until I was 12. The Mets were right there, but I was actually a big Yankees fan, because in the late ’70s, the Yankees were such a great team. I grew up with all the greats -- Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson. I think the pace of the game and the nuance of the game were the things that really drew me to it," Ng, (pronounced Ang), said in an interview with the University of Chicago in 2018.
After completing her school education, she admitted herself to the University of Chicago, where she played for the Maroons’ softball team for four years as a scrappy middle infielder and team captain. Kim Vance, who coached the team then, said as reported by The New York Times: “Of course, the coach always loved to have that influence on the team. She was a real natural leader.”
However, only after joining the White Sox, she realized that she wanted to make her career in operations for sports organizations. “I never thought about working in operations for a sports organization. I thought that marketing or sports information would be more likely areas. I just didn’t think there were opportunities in operations for someone like me until I went to the White Sox,” she said in an article published online by the Society for American Baseball Research.
In 1991, she was hired full-time by White Sox with whom she remained until 1996. She also worked with the American League as director of waivers and records, where she used to approve transactions and help with the application of rules. Though Ng recently became the first woman top executive for a major North American professional men’s sports team, the title of “first” is not new for her. In 1995, she became the first woman as well as the youngest person to present a salary arbitration case.
Three years later, in 1998, again she grabbed the title of a first as she joined the Yankees as their assistant general manager (first woman) at the age of 29. She remained with the team through 2001 and under her, it won three World Series in a row and a fourth consecutive A.L. pennant in 2001. The team’s amateur scouting director, Damon Oppenheimer, said, “She had great people skills, and that was the thing that stood out to me. She was probably the smartest person in the room and never had to make everybody feel that way.”
Later, Ng was hired by the Dodgers in 2002 as vice president and assistant general manager. However, her job was not just to handle arbitration cases, she also participated in decision-making conversations on player transactions, including trades and free agency along with overseeing pro scouting, among other departments. Speaking about her, Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, who also worked as the manager of the Dodgers, stated, “There was no aspect of the game she wasn’t familiar with. It was just a very comfortable conversation all the time, because you didn’t have to try to measure your words when you were around her. You could talk to her the same way you’d talk in the clubhouse. She was one of the group. I shy away from saying ‘one of the guys’ — but she fit in really well, let’s put it that way.”
In 2011, Ng was hired by Major League Baseball as senior vice president of baseball operations. She worked at that position until the Marlins offered her the position of general manager in November.
How did Ng get the top job?
Taking the top position was, however, not a cakewalk for Ng as she had to take several interviews for a number of general manager positions over the years, starting with the Dodgers’ job in 2005 when Ned Colletti was chosen over her. In late February, she spoke with Rolling Stone from her Miami office when she described the GM post as a “dream.” “At times I was a little bit confused about why the general managership wasn’t coming to me. I think at the end of the day, you keep the faith, and you just keep plugging away because, really, there’s no choice,” she said. “If you’re in baseball, you’re fairly measured. We play 162 games [a year]. To be emotional on a daily basis is really not good for your health.”
All these years while working with different sports organizations, Ng never gave up on her “dream” that she might become a general manager someday. With each interview, she got used to the process, while the opportunities helped her in honing her skills in putting together three-to-five-year plans for numerous clubs. But everything was not so positive since rejections began to take a toll on her. “Everyone knows that you’re interviewing for the job. Your boss knows that you’re interviewing for the job. The head of your organization knows that you’re interviewing for the job. And then when you [don’t] get it, everyone knows that too. You get to a point where your family doesn’t even know how to talk to you about it because, like, ‘She didn’t get it again,’” she stated.
But when Miami Marlins president and co-owner Derek Jeter gave her what she always wanted, she knew she was meant for it. “I’ve always had to elbow my way in, that’s for sure. But I never had a problem. At times it has been uncomfortable, honestly, but you have to do it because that’s what you want to do. You want to play stickball with the guys, you just have to get through it,” Ng added.