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SportsColumnistsBarbara Barker

Kim Ng's hiring as Marlins GM shatters glass ceiling in pro sports

Kim Ng, seen here in 2018, is the

Kim Ng, seen here in 2018, is the first woman to be named the general manager of a Major League Baseball team. Credit: TNS/Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune

Thanks but no thanks.

We’ve decided to go in another direction.

We think (insert male candidate here) is a better fit.

Kim Ng has been hearing some version of the above for decades. At least seven times over the past 15 years, she was brought in by a major league club to interview for their general manager position. And at least seven times before this week, she was rejected in favor of a male candidate, despite having one of the more impressive resumes in the game.

Friday, that all changed. After years of watching her breath condense on what seemed like an impenetrable glass ceiling, Ng finally shattered it by being named the general manager of the Miami Marlins.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of the Marlins’ hire. Not only does Ng become the first woman to ascend to the top post in a baseball operations department, she also becomes the second general manager of any North American major male professional sports franchise. (Susan Spencer was general manger of the Philadelphia Eagles team that was owned by her father, Leonard Tose, in the 1980s, though her duties did not include team operations.)

Ng’s is a role model of persistence for young girls and women who dream of having a career in sports management. Like all pioneers, Ng has moved the bar on what is possible. It shows that women can now aspire to positions of power in what has been forever an all-boys club.

This is something that Ng, 51, clearly knows judging from her comments on Friday.

"When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a major league team," Ng (pronounced Ang) said in a statement, "but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals."

Dogged indeed.

Ng, who spent her youth in Queens before moving to New Jersey and graduating from Ridgewood High School, grew up a Yankees fan. She was a standout softball player at the University of Chicago who dreamed of a career in baseball but really had no road map.

After she sent her resume to every major league team, the Chicago White Sox hired her in 1990 as an intern whose main job was to manually enter statistical information into computers. She worked her way up in the organization, ascending to assistant director of baseball operations before leaving to work in the American League office in 1997.

At age 29, she became the youngest assistant general manager in the league when the Yankees hired her in 1998. During her tenure, the Yankees won three World Series titles and she successfully negotiated the contracts of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Paul O’Neill.

After leaving the Yankees after the 2001 season, she was an assistant GM with the Dodgers from 2002-11, then joined MLB as a senior vice president. Her first interview for a GM job was 2005 with the Dodgers and she would go on to interview with a number of teams, including the Mariners, Padres, Angels, Giants, Phillies and Mets.

All of them would find some reason to hire someone else.

I can’t imagine the courage it took for Ng to keep putting herself out there, the courage it took to keep her dream alive after getting passed over again and again, sometimes by those who didn’t have a fraction of her qualifications.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who hired Ng for her stint with the Yankees, released a statement indicating he was thrilled to see her finally get her shot.

"It is wonderful seeing people accomplish their stated goals, and this has been a dream of hers for as long as I’ve known her," Cashman said.

In an interview last March with Sportsnet, Ng said that it would take a "courageous, bold, gender blind owner" to hire a woman as GM.

Perhaps it just took someone like Jeter, someone who had sat across the negotiating table from her, to finally give her the chance. It’s hard to say if Jeter knows that women are the last untapped fountain of talent in sport or if he simply respected Ng from their years of working together.

Either way, the bar has been moved.

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