Along her way to becoming the Miami Marlins’ general manager — the first woman to ascend to that role in MLB history — Kim Ng grew up learning stickball in Queens and playing in her first real youth league in Glen Cove, experiences that shaped a softball-playing, baseball-loving life.
"Those were really formative years and great memories," Ng said Monday during her introductory news conference.
Ng (pronounced "Ang") was born in Indianapolis in 1968 and the family moved to Fresh Meadows, just a few miles from Shea Stadium, where she attended P.S. 173. With no formal leagues to sign up for, she took to the streets with other neighborhood kids, using cars for first and third bases and manhole covers for second and home.
"This was street play," Ng said. "This was kids enjoying the game. That’s what we had. If there weren’t enough of us to play a full-on team game, we’d just have a catch in the street. Those times were just so much fun for me."
When she was about 12, the Ngs moved to Glen Cove, which had a more structured softball scene.
"When you think about it, going on to play college softball [at the University of Chicago] when you hadn’t played in a league until you were 12 years old, that’s unheard of these days," she said. "But back then, you were just outside every day playing."
Ng graduated from Ridgewood High in New Jersey, but baseball brought her back to New York in 1998, when Yankees general manager Brian Cashman hired her as an assistant GM.
She didn’t realize until later the value of that experience. The Yankees won the World Series three times in her four seasons there.
"I got to see what winning — winning at a high, high level for an extended period of time — looked like and what that took," Ng said. "And between Mr. [George] Steinbrenner, the staff there, obviously Brian, I got to see many different facets of the operation and what it took from their perspective — the drafts, the development, all the coaches in the player-development system, the excellence that they demanded."
It took more than two decades for Ng to take the next step up, from assistant GM to GM. Her first shot at a GM job came in 2005, when the Dodgers — with whom she was an assistant GM from 2002-11 — considered her. Then came the Padres, Angels, Giants, Orioles and Mets.
Each time, those teams decided on someone different. Sometimes Ng felt she was not a genuine candidate, instead used for PR purposes by her would-be employers.
She said there were "absolutely" points when she thought her chance would never come. Among the valued voices she leaned on during the down times: Joe Torre, with whom she worked in New York and Los Angeles and at MLB’s central office.
But then she got the call from the Marlins, led by chief executive officer Derek Jeter, whom she first met when he was the Yankees’ shortstop in 1998.
"It’s a tribute to the idea that you just have to keep plowing through," Ng said. "It’s like what we tell the players. You can go down and you can mope and sulk for a few days, but that’s it. Then you have to come back. That’s what I’ve been able to do. I’ve been defeated and deflated numerous times, but you at least still keep hoping."
The Marlins announced her hiring Friday. In the 72 hours between that reveal and her Monday news conference, she received well over 1,000 congratulatory messages, she said. She also enjoyed tweets from Billie Jean King — one of Ng’s childhood idols — and Michelle Obama and learned she has "a small little fan club in China."
"You’re bearing the torch for so many," Ng said. "That’s a big responsibility, but I take it on."