The sign on the Marlins Park scoreboard announced the ushering of a new era, a historic era.
“Welcome Kim Ng,” it reads in all caps on a blue background.
The Miami Marlins formally introduced Ng as their general manager Monday in a historic, if not long overdue, moment in Major League Baseball history. Ng is the highest-ranking woman in baseball operations among MLB’s 30 teams, the first to be given the chance to run a team.
She sat at a behind home plate alongside Marlins majority owner Bruce Sherman and CEO Derek Jeter (socially distanced, of course), took in the moment and spent an hour answering questions via Zoom. She thanked Jeter, whom she has known for more than 20 years, for his fearlessness in hiring her. She felt pride in knowing the impact she could have on young girls and women striving to make it in a male-dominated sport with few role models to look up to that looked like them.
But Ng knows assuming this role is also merely just the first step. She’s at the helm of the baseball operations department for a Marlins organization that made an unexpected run to the playoffs in MLB’s pandemic-shortened 2020 season. A franchise that has budding talent at the big-league levels and in its minor-league system but still has needs to address this offseason.
Now, it’s time to get to work.
“When Derek told me I got the job, there was a 10,000-pound weight lifted off of this shoulder,” Ng said, gesturing to her left shoulder, “and then after about half an hour later, I realized that it had just been transferred to this (right) shoulder. I just feel quite a lot of responsibility. I have my entire career. I know that I am quite visible, and I think that’s that’s always been a big thing for me is to just make my reputation as good as I can make it and let that carry me through. That’s even more important now, now that I have this position. You’re bearing the torch for so many. That is a big responsibility but I take it on.”
It’s no different than what she has done her entire career, all three-plus decades of it.
Breaking in as an intern with the Chicago White Sox in 1990 after graduating from the University of Chicago and staying with the White Sox for six more years, rising to the role of Assistant Director of Baseball Operations and in 1995 becoming the first woman to present a salary arbitration case at the MLB level.
A year working in the American League office in 1997, overseeing all of the transactions that transpired in the league.
Becoming the youngest assistant general manager in baseball history when she got the role at 29 years old with the New York Yankees, where she stayed for four years and formed several of the relationships she’ll rekindle with the Marlins.
A decade with the Los Angeles Dodgers and nine more years as MLB’s senior vice president for baseball operations.
“I can’t think of anyone more qualified for this position than Kim,” Sherman said.
Yet it took until now for Ng — or any woman, for that matter — to get this opportunity, even though Ng has been interviewed for general manager positions going as far back as 2005.
Why is that?
“I don’t know,” Ng said, “but I can tell you that I’m here now.”
And she’s ready to leave her mark.
To do that, Kim Ng is simply going to have to be Kim Ng: Fearless, not afraid to create her own path, not thinking about limitations because they haven’t been done before.
She’s going to be the same person as she was when she played stickball growing up in Queens while attending P.S. 173 Fresh Meadows before finally being able to start organized softball at age 12. The same person as she was at Ridgewood High in New Jersey when she realized it was OK to break away from the pack to realize her own aspirations. The same person as she has been since she first stepped foot in an MLB front office three decades ago, who learned the importance of having to “put your nose to the grindstone and just keep going.”
“I was not the kid that was always going to follow with the rest of the group,” said Ng, who turns 52 on Tuesday. “That was not me. I was going to do my own thing and I didn’t care what people said. I was just going to do it. And that followed me through my professional career.”
It culminates, at least for now, in Friday’s hiring and Monday’s formal introduction. Ng said she has received messages from hundreds of people over the past few days in person and on social media. Tennis legend Billie Jean King, one of Ng’s idols growing up, called Ng a trailblazer.
“It made me realize,” Ng said, “that it really was a glimmer of hope and inspiration for so many that if you work hard and you persevere and you’re driven and you just keep going that eventually your dream will come true.”
©2020 Miami Herald