Professional sport in the US has existed since not long after the Civil War, with baseball’s National League – one half of the Major Leagues – the oldest existing professional league in the world, dating from 1876.
But there was something that baseball, and nor its compatriots in America’s “Big Four” – the National Hockey League (founded in 1917), the National Football League (1920), or the National Basketball Association (1946) – had ever done.
That changed on Saturday, when the Miami Marlins announced that they’d tabbed Kim Ng (pronounced “Ang”) as their new General Manager, becoming the first woman to run a team in any of the Big Four leagues.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) November 13, 2020
Heck, there’s even a New Zealander – Sean Marks at the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets – running a Big Four team before a woman got the chance,
Ng is no latecomer to this though. She started her career as a 21-year old intern with the Chicago White Sox before holding a position with the American League office, and then stints as Assistant GM with two with two of the game’s storied teams – the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers – and has spent the past decade as Senior Vice-President of Baseball Operations in the Commissioner’s Office in New York.
While with the Dodgers she interviewed for vacant GM positions with five different MLB teams, including LA, but was passed over each time.
Instead it was Yankees great Derek Jeter – who’s own Hall of Fame career overlapped with Ng’s time with the team and now the Marlins Team President under its current ownership – who made the decision to hire Ng and break that glass ceiling.
The job that Ng faces in Miami is formidable. The Marlins have won two World Series titles since starting play in 1993 and have a reputation for developing elite MLB talent, but also for being cheap and frugal. Their first title in 1997 was immediately followed by a fire sale ordered by initial owner Wayne Huizenga that saw them plummet from first to worst, and their second in 2003 saw similar moves under the despised then-owner Jeffrey Loria. More recently the purchase of the team by a group fronted by Jeter and bankrolled by investment firm owner Bruce Sherman saw further cost-cutting including the trading away of star outfielders Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton, and a 2019 campaign that was second only to 1998 as the worst in team history.
But there is light, with the Marlins finishing the Covid-shortened 2020 season with a 31-29 record – posting their first winning record since 2009 – and making the (admittedly expanded) playoffs for the first time since that second championship.
There’s also off-field, and engaging with South Florida’s large, diverse, and baseball-mad Latin American community.
But there is no doubt, in my mind, that Ng is more than qualified, capable, and experienced to lead the Marlins back to the top of baseball’s tree. The other hope is that she’s joined at the top table by another brilliant and deserving woman soon.
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