With Marlins job, Kim Ng is ‘bearing a torch for so many’
By James Wagner
Since the Miami Marlins named Kim Ng as their new general manager last Friday, making her the first woman to hold that title in any of the major men’s sports leagues in North America, she said she had been flooded with well over 1,000 emails and text messages of congratulations. The senders included current and former managers, scouts, front office executives, players, family and friends.
“I got calls and text messages from guys that I’ve known over the years who were just so excited to tell their daughters and wives,” Ng, 51, said from Marlins Park during her introductory news conference Monday.
“And then I got voicemails from friends and front office executives with tears, just so happy that I had broken through, but really more for the sport and more about what it meant for us in society.”
A few messages stood out to Ng, namely a tweet from Michelle Obama, the former first lady, and another from Billie Jean King, the former tennis star.
“With 30 years’ experience as a baseball executive, she’s made history as the first woman and first Asian American to hold the top post in a baseball operations department,” King wrote. “Progress!”
The words resonated with Ng because King and another former tennis star, Martina Navratilova, were two of her idols growing up in Queens, N.Y., New Jersey and Long Island, N.Y.
Long viewed as the woman who could break this gender barrier in Major League Baseball, Ng said she felt an enormous responsibility to continue serving as an example for girls and young women, particularly those interested in baseball, a sport dominated by white men.
“There’s an adage, ‘You can’t be it if you can’t see it,’” Ng said. “I suggest to them, ‘Now they can see it.’ And so I look forward to hearing all of their stories and just how inspired they are to now pursue a job in sports, a job in baseball and to reach for the stars.”
When Derek Jeter, the chief executive and a part owner of the Marlins, called Ng to tell her she had gotten the job, she said she felt a “10,000-pound” weight lifted off one shoulder. Then nearly 30 minutes later, she felt it had simply switched shoulders.
“I know that I am quite visible,” she said, adding later, “You’re bearing a torch for so many.”
Ng is believed to be the second person of Asian descent to lead an MLB team. Farhan Zaidi, who was born in Canada to parents from Pakistan, was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ general manager from 2014-18 and is now the San Francisco Giants’ president of baseball operations.
Ng, who worked as an assistant general manager for the Dodgers and the New York Yankees, and most recently as MLB’s senior vice president for baseball operations, admitted feeling deflated over the years after interviewing for several general manager openings and not landing the gig.
She said it was difficult to go through those failures publicly and felt that sometimes the interviews were just about checking a diversity box. But she did them anyway because she wanted other team owners to consider minority or female candidates and to show other women in sports that this could be possible.
“I can’t think of anyone more qualified for the position than Kim,” said Bruce Sherman, principal owner of the Marlins, who overcame a coronavirus outbreak to end a 17-year postseason drought during the 2020 season.
Ng said her experience working in Major League Baseball’s central office allowed her to learn the best practices of how teams operated in the amateur draft and the international market. And as she takes over a smaller-revenue club, she acknowledged that player development would be more important than ever.
After Jeter first reached out to Ng, the two talked a few times. He said it became evident to both of them that she was “a perfect fit.” Ng, who worked for the Yankees while Jeter starred for them, called him “fearless” as a player and now as an executive for hiring her.
She said her connection with other key Marlins officials helped her feel comfortable and will make her transition smooth: Marlins manager Don Mattingly held the same position with the Dodgers when she worked there, and Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ vice president for player development and scouting, was a coach for the Yankees when she worked there.
“I just can’t wait to get working,” she said.