Breaking Baseball's Glass Ceiling
On Friday, November 13, 2020, Kim Ng made history.
The Miami Marlins named her their next general manager (GM), becoming the first woman and first Asian American to hold the highest role in a Major League Baseball front office. In fact, she is the first woman to hold the title in any major American men’s sport.
After thirty years in the MLB, she is more than qualified. Her career began through an internship with the Chicago White Sox upon her graduation from the University of Chicago, where she had played softball. She was hired to a full-time position in 1991. Afterwards, she took a position in the American League offices from 1997-98. Then she was hired by the New York Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman as the assistant at the age of 29. The Yankees won three World Series titles during her time there. In 2001, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ GM Dan Evans, who originally hired her with the White Sox, hired her to be an assistant GM with the Dodgers. After ten great seasons, she went on to serve as the Senior Vice President of Major League Baseball at the Commissioner’s Office.
Ng is no stranger to shattering the glass ceiling. In 1995 she presented a salary arbitration case with the White Sox, becoming the youngest person and first woman to do so. She went up against Scott Boras, one of the most powerful agents in the game, who was representing Alex Fernandez, and she won. When Cashman hired her as his assistant GM at the age of 29, she became the youngest person to hold that position. As the Senior Vice President of baseball operations, she was the highest-ranking woman in MLB. But the position of general manager proved elusive.
She has been interviewed and considered for several GM openings since 2005, when the Dodgers interviewed her for the GM position in their organization. But baseball wasn’t ready to have a woman pulling the strings. It’s unfortunate that it took this long and a reflection of the boys’ club that baseball can be. Ng has been in the sport for decades and after two assistant GM jobs was more than qualified back in 2005, but it took fifteen more years for the Marlins to give her this long-deserved opportunity. She is now even more qualified than in 2005 with additional experience as an assistant GM plus her experience in the commissioner’s office. Saying she is overqualified is an understatement. The men who have run MLB for over a century have failed to allow women who know the game just as well as them (and better than some of them) into their bubble. All aspects of the game have struggled to fill positions with women, but this has been especially true on the baseball operations side. There seems to be a fundamental belief that a woman couldn’t possibly make the baseball decisions that men make. In her previous jobs, Ng has made those decisions and her hard work has finally paid off.
The Marlins are a young and exciting team. They put together an unexpected playoff season this year with Don Mattingly, National League Manager of the Year, at the helm. Now, Ng will have the opportunity to lead this team into its next phase of rebuilding. The possibilities are endless and although it will be a challenge, especially since Miami is a small market team, Derek Jeter and his ownership group clearly feel that she is ready for this and is the best one for the job.
The most important thing to remember about Ng is that she has put in the work. She knows the game, and is a proven winner. Now she gets to show the world that she can get the job done -- that a woman can get the job done. It took almost a century, but ninety-three years after Billy Evans was the first man to hold the title, Kim Ng is the first woman to be named GM. She had to do more than a man would to get this job, but she did it and she stuck with it. She’s a trailblazer and will serve as a symbol of women moving up in the power structure of professional sports. In the past few years, women have made leaps and bounds in MLB as coaches, athletic trainers, assistant GMs, and in other management positions. Now, in Miami, the buck stops with Ng. Little girls who love baseball can look at the sport and see that there is a spot for them in the upper echelon of the game. They can make it.