A Woman’s Place is in the Front Office

Today, the Miami Marlins announced that Kim Ng is going to be the first female and first Asian-American General Manager in Major League Baseball. It’s an historic day for baseball, a great day for women, a day that is long overdue.

Ng has been working in MLB for thirty years, beginning her career as an intern in 1990, and climbing her way up a ladder that kept her down for far too long. She’s spent her career working for the White Sox, American League front offices, as the Yankees Assistant GM, Dodgers VP and Assistant GM, and most recently, as Senior VP of Baseball Ops for MLB for the last 9 years. Throughout half of those impressive stops on her resumé, Ng had also been interviewing for GM positions around the league since 2005. Yes, it took her fifteen years to get this job. To put this in perspective, Theo Epstein was only 28 years old when the Red Sox hired him to be the youngest GM in MLB history. Ng has worked in baseball longer than Epstein was alive at the time he was hired for the same job she’s only getting now.

To anyone wondering why we’re making a big deal out of this, or why we’re focusing on her gender or race ‘when it should just be about qualifications’: it’s because representation matters. It matters that people see people like themselves moving into high-ranking positions that formerly were reserved largely or entirely for white men. It’s reminding people that we’re only now, over a century into MLB’s existence, getting a woman and Asian-American GM for a team. This is important, because it shows just how far this league, and sports as a whole, still need to go to be a truly accepting, equal place for all people. And because if it were truly about who was qualified and deserved the job, and not about gender, then Kim Ng would have already been a GM over a decade and countless job interviews ago. No man with her expertise and experience would have had to wait this long.

Overall, it’s been an historic year for women in baseball. Last September, Raquel Ferreira became the highest-ranked woman in baseball operations when she (and three men took) over sharing the GM responsibilities for the Boston Red Sox after the departure of Dave Dombrowski. In January, Alyssa Nakken became the first woman full-time Major League coach, with the San Francisco Giants. Just last month, Olympic gold-medalist Jessica Mendoza became the first woman analyst to work the World Series broadcast on national radio. The Yankees and Cubs each hired a woman coach, Rachel Folden and Rachel Balkovec, for their minor league systems this year. And of course, we cannot overlook the countless women who came before them: Effa Manley, Joan Payson, Marge Schott, Justine Siegel, Suzyn Waldman, Jackie Mitchell, and so many others.

So, how does it feel to be a woman in sports today? Amazing. But also, frustrating. Amazing, because Ng is an inspiration to all of us. Frustrating, because it should not have taken this long, and because there are still many people on social media showing their sexism and ignorance about this important milestone. But I want to focus on the positive, which is what Ng’s hiring means for the future, because it means a lot. She will show girls and Asian-American’s that they can also ascend to the uppermost echelons of sports and be leaders, and she will show boys that it’s normal to see women in positions of power.

When I was growing up, almost everyone I saw working in sports was a man. From the commentators in the booth, to the players on the field, to the general managers and team owners, there was no one who looked like me, so I didn’t ever consider that there could be a place for me professionally in the game that I love. Even in college, when I began writing about the history of baseball for one of my classes and got the highest marks in the course, the professor never suggested sportswriting to me. Slowly but surely, the faces and voices in sports are becoming more diverse, more equal, and more kids will get to grow up in a world that feels like it holds space for them. It’s such a special and important thing, to feel like you belong.

To paraphrase what fellow barrier-breaker Kamala Harris said last weekend, Kim Ng is ‘the first, but she won’t be the last.’ There are many hard-working, qualified women in sports, and our time is coming. Kim Ng just shattered the highest glass ceiling, and we’re about to come flooding in behind her.


Photo: MLB

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