She has spent three decades in Major League Baseball front offices and as one of the sport's rising executives in baseball operations. She spent the past 15 of those years on the cusp of history only to be rejected time and time again.
Kim Ng's time has finally come. On Friday, she broke one of MLB's biggest glass ceilings.
The Miami Marlins hired Ng as the fifth general manager in the franchise' 28-year history.
She is the highest-ranking woman in baseball operations among MLB's 30 teams and the second person of Asian-American descent to run a baseball team, joining the San Francisco Giants' president of baseball operations Farhad Zaidi with that distinction.
She is also believed to be the first woman hired to a general manager position by any professional men's sports team in North America's major leagues, although the Portland Mavericks, who were part of the Class A short-season Northwest League in the 1970s but did not have an MLB affiliation, hired Lanny Moss to be their general manager in 1974. That team dissolved in 1977.
Ng's hire also comes a year after three female coaches — Alyssa Nakken with the Giants, Rachel Balkovec with the New York Yankees, Rachel Folden with the Chicago Cubs — were hired to join major-league staffs.
"This challenge is one I don't take lightly," Ng, who turns 52 on Tuesday and will be formally introduced in a Zoom press conference on Monday, said in a Friday press release announcing her hire. "When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a Major League team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals. My goal is now to bring Championship baseball to Miami. I am both humbled and eager to continue building the winning culture our fans expect and deserve."
She's also the newest addition to a Marlins front office that values diversity. Three of the Marlins' top four executive positions are held by a biracial man (CEO Derek Jeter) and two women (Ng as general manager and Caroline O'Connor as chief operating officer). Adam Jones, the Marlins' chief revenue officer, is the fourth.
Ng (pronounced ANG) replaces Michael Hill, who had been with the Marlins organization since 2002 and was the franchise's president of baseball operations since 2013. Hill, who is Black and Cuban, also previously served as general manager for six seasons.
"All of us at Major League Baseball are thrilled for Kim and the opportunity she has earned with the Marlins," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "Kim's appointment makes history in all of professional sports and sets a significant example for the millions of women and girls who love baseball and softball. The hard work, leadership and record of achievement throughout her long career in the National Pastime led to this outcome, and we wish Kim all the best as she begins her career with the Marlins."
Her hire comes at the franchise's latest critical juncture.
The Marlins are three years into their rebuild under the ownership group led by majority owner Bruce Sherman and CEO Derek Jeter. They are fresh off the team's first playoff appearance since 2003 and first winning season since 2009. The team's core — led by Sandy Alcantara, Brian Anderson, Miguel Rojas and Pablo Lopez — made significant strides during the shortened 2020 season. Seven of the club's top-10 prospects, including the organization's No. 1 overall prospect in starting pitcher Sixto Sanchez, made their debuts and played key roles as the season progressed.
"There was excitement for us to be one of the final four National League teams," Jeter said in October, "and it was a great step for us as an organization to see some of the progress that we've made."
In her role with the Marlins, Ng will oversee the Marlins' baseball operations but work in unison with Jeter, vice president of baseball operations and scouting Gary Denbo, assistant general managers Brian Chattin and Dan Greenlee, and the team's scouting departments among others to make roster decisions.
"I like to get the opinions of the people that we put in place," Jeter said in September. "I've always valued the opinions of the people that we brought in. ... Our group works collaboratively. And there's a lot of conversations."
Ng, born in Indianapolis and raised in New York City as the first of five daughters to Jin Ng and Virginia Fong, has always gravitated toward sports. It started with tennis, which she played with her parents and sisters on weekends growing up in Queens. She idolized tennis stars Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.
"Billie Jean for equality, and Martina for being true to yourself," Ng said in 2015.
Baseball was there, too, watching games with her dad and living less than five miles from the Mets' Shea Stadium.
One of the players she used to like watching? None other than current Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who was breaking into MLB as one of the league's top first basemen with the Yankees in the 1980s when Ng was starting her softball career at Ridgewood High in New Jersey and then eventually at the University of Chicago. The two eventually overlapped during the end of Ng's stint as vice president and assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers and will overlap again now with the Marlins.
And Ng's resume stacks up among the top candidates for the job.
— She has 31 years of experience in baseball operations, including 14 as an assistant general manager. An internship with the Chicago White Sox in 1990 after graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in public policy led to a full-time position as a special projects analyst and eventually the club's assistant director of baseball operations.
— At 29 years old, Ng became the youngest person ever to be hired as an assistant general manager when she took on that role for the Yankees in 1998. Ng played a key role for the front office in Jeter's contract negotiations following the 2000 season, which ended with Jeter signing for 10 years and $189 million. That was the second-largest contract in baseball at the time, behind Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $252 million deal earlier that offseason.
— Ng held that position with the Yankees for four years before joining the Dodgers' front office from 2002-2011 as vice president and assistant general manager. While with Los Angeles, she did a little of everything — working on major league acquisitions, which included handling trades and contract negotiations; overseeing the minor-league system, including a one-year stint as interim farm director in 2004 during which she oversaw player development; and leading the club's arbitration cases. The latter could be a pivotal role for her with this offseason with the Marlins, who have nine players up for arbitration this winter.
Her final four years with the Dodgers overlapped with the start of Mattingly's tenure there, including his three years as hitting coach and first year as manager in 2011.
— She spent the past nine years as the MLB's senior vice president of baseball operations, a role that made her the highest ranking Asian-American female baseball executive. Working under National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Joe Torre, who served as MLB's chief baseball officer from 2011 through February 2020 (and with whom she had worked with previously while with the both Yankees and Dodgers), Ng was primarily responsible for international baseball operations in this role. She worked with the front offices of all 30 MLB teams as well as other baseball leagues around the world. Among many accomplishments in this role, she led a team that set policy for and enforced international signing rules, established MLB's first system for registering international players for signing and managed the protocols for signing international players, raised standards for international baseball academies and negotiated agreements with international winter leagues.
"You're very comfortable talking baseball matters with Kim Ng," Torre said in 2018, according to Newsday. "Plus she's bright beyond baseball. And really engages in conversation that makes it very understandable."
Ng is one of four women to ever be an assistant general manager, along with Elaine Weddington Steward and Raquel Ferreira of the Boston Red Sox and Jean Afterman of the New York Yankees, who succeeded Ng in that role after she left for the Dodgers.
But it took until Friday for her to finally earn the general manager title, and it wasn't for lack of trying. In 2005, seven years after beginning her first stint as an assistant GM and, she interviewed for the Dodgers' open general manager position, the first female to do so. Ned Colletti got the job instead and kept Ng as assistant GM. In the ensuing decade-and-a-half, she applied for at least eight other general manager or president of baseball operation positions around MLB, all to no avail.
"When I started, as a candidate you were much more recognized if you had played professionally," Ng told The Athletic in 2018. "I think that image has been shattered; that profile is not a necessity anymore."
Ng and the Marlins made that a reality on Friday.
"Her leadership of our baseball operations team will play a major role on our path toward sustained success," Jeter said in a press release. "Additionally, her extensive work in expanding youth baseball and softball initiatives will enhance our efforts to grow the game among our local youth as we continue to make a positive impact on the South Florida community."
Ng has experience working with a couple of her new colleagues already.
In addition to Jeter, Denbo was the Yankees' assistant minor-league director in 2000 before becoming the team's hitting coach in 2001.
Greenlee, director of amateur scouting D.J. Svihlik and director of professional scouting Hadi Raad all have ties with the Yankees organization as well, although their tenures started well after Ng left New York.
They'll all convene in Miami, with Ng leading baseball operations.
"I entered Major League Baseball as an intern and, after decades of determination, it is the honor of my career to lead the Miami Marlins as their next General Manager," Ng said. " We are building for the long term in South Florida, developing a forward-thinking, collaborative, creative baseball operation made up of incredibly talented and dedicated staff who have, over the last few years, laid a great foundation for success."