New Marlins GM Kim Ng is a deeply qualified beacon of progress for women in sports

Fifteen years after she first interviewed with a team for their general manager opening, Kim Ng made history on Friday when the Miami Marlins named her their new GM.

She is the first woman in professional American sports — men’s sports, that is — to hold the title, ushering in a day that has long seemed as though it would never come.

A fixture in front offices and the league office for decades, Ng is overqualified for her new job, but as any woman who’s tried to become “the first” in any gig can tell you, that’s basically a requirement. She began her career as an intern with the Chicago White Sox in 1990, and eight years later, at 29 years old, she was named assistant GM of the New York Yankees under Brian Cashman.

After three years and three World Series titles with the Yankees, Ng went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002, interviewing for their GM job in 2005. Passed over for Ned Colletti, she stayed with that franchise until 2011. That’s when she moved into the league office as senior vice president of baseball operations.

Over the years, Ng has interviewed with four other teams to become GM, but none pulled the trigger.

Kim Ng, Major League Baseball senior vice-president for baseball operations, and right, Maybelle Blair, who played in 1948 for the Peoria Redwings, during a celebration of the Rockford Peaches' 75th Anniversary. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Kim Ng, then a Major League Baseball executive, met Maybelle Blair, who played in 1948 for the Peoria Redwings, during a celebration of the Rockford Peaches' 75th Anniversary. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Earlier this year, Ng sat down with Canada’s Sportsnet and was asked if baseball is ready for a female GM.

“They should be,” Ng said. “We see female world leaders, CEOs, secretaries of state. There’s no reason that there shouldn’t be a woman general manager. I think it’s going to take a bold, courageous, gender-blind owner [for the glass ceiling to be broken].”

Marlins CEO and part-owner Derek Jeter, whom Ng worked with during her time with the Yankees, along with controlling owner Bruce Sherman, are those people. The chief operating officer of the Marlins is also a woman, Caroline O’Connor.

The team isn’t shying away from its decision: After a tweet trumpeting her hire and highlighting just some of her achievements, the avatar for the Marlins’ Twitter feed was changed to a picture of Ng, announcing “OUR gm.”

Despite her breadth of experience and deep respect throughout the game, there were still reports the day before her hiring that the Marlins would be naming an “outside the box” pick for the role.

If that box is the one that contains only men, then Ng does come from outside of it. But this isn’t the White Sox pulling a manager out of moth balls, this should have happened years ago.

Thankfully, fan reaction has been positive (personal favorite? “You can’t spell ‘rings’ without Ng”), an encouraging sign for those of us who have become accustomed to every headline about a woman blazing new trails in men’s American sports leading to trolls grousing about how having women in any roles is just an abomination.

For women doing the work within teams as coaches or scouts, in baseball and beyond, and those of us who have been in sports media for years, the reaction has been jubilation. So many of us have stories of being told that we have no business trying to coach men or evaluate men or write or talk about men’s sports, pushed — not usually gently — to either leave entirely or coach/cover women’s sports, or flat out disrespected for pursuing a dream job.

Oddly, you’re hard-pressed to find men told they shouldn’t coach women or that it’s offensive they’re the GM for a WNBA team or spend their professional life chronicling the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

Funny, no?

Just as young women around the country sat in front of their televisions on Saturday night to watch a woman, for the first time in American history, accept a seat in the White House — to see that their dreams to lead and occupy some of the most powerful seats in the world weren’t just dreams, that it could be real — so too will they look at Ng.

They don’t have to be relegated to a position in media relations or marketing with a professional sports franchise. They can call the shots, craft the roster, hire the coach.

To paraphrase Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Ng might be the first woman in the GM job, but she won’t be the last.

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