The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

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A Sit-Down With Trailblazing UChicago Alum Kim Ng

Ng, who graduated from the College in 1990, became the first woman general manager of any North American professional sports team and the first East Asian general manager in MLB in November 2020.
Kim+Ng+playing+the+infield+during+her+days+as+captain+of+the+UChicago+Softball+team.
UChicago Athletics
Kim Ng playing the infield during her days as captain of the UChicago Softball team.

Kim Ng became a trailblazer in professional sports in November 2020 when the Miami Marlins hired her as their general manager (GM), making her not only the first woman in North American sports history to be named to the position, but also the first East Asian GM in Major League Baseball (MLB) history.

However, this was far from the beginning of her lengthy career in the baseball world. In a sit-down interview with The Maroon, Ng detailed the steps she took to earn the role of GM, the challenges she faced along the way, and some of the highlights of her historic career. 

Ng began her time at UChicago in 1986, where she majored in public policy and starred on the diamond as a middle infielder for the softball team. After graduating in 1990, she immediately began her pursuit of a career in baseball. “I did a lot of work in the sports arena and decided I was going to apply to all different types of [sports] internships, including sports marketing and sports information,” Ng said.

When the Chicago White Sox were looking to fill positions in their front office, they looked no further than their Hyde Park neighbors for help. They contacted the UChicago athletics department, who passed on the word to Ng about the White Sox’s openings, and by 1991, Ng was a full-time employee with the Sox.

In 1995, Ng received a promotion to assistant director of baseball operations, a vote of confidence in her work that would prove to be a stepping stone to further opportunities. Following her time in the South Side, Ng worked briefly with the offices of the American League before becoming an assistant GM with the New York Yankees. Not only was she the second woman ever to be hired to this position, but she was onboarded by arguably the biggest brand in MLB.

Shortly after, the Los Angeles Dodgers offered Ng the same position, along with the post of vice president of baseball operations. Ng spent the bulk of her front-office career in these roles, working with the Dodgers for nearly a decade and earning an interview for their vacant GM position back in 2005. While she ultimately fell short of the position, she was kept on the front office staff by Ned Colletti, the Dodgers’ eventual hire for the position.

For Ng, however, this was the first of many GM interviews. Over the next few years, she interviewed with the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Seattle Mariners. However, each team chose to go in a different direction. While being interviewed is no small feat, Ng did not shy away from the fact that interviewing for so many GM jobs and being passed on was frustrating. “I had doubts about whether [becoming a GM] was ever going to happen,” Ng said in reference to those interviews, “but it’s just a matter of how you handle the doubt.”

After her work with the Dodgers, she took a job with the offices of Major League Baseball as the senior vice president of baseball operations. After slowly climbing up the ladder, Ng had accomplished practically everything — apart from being named the GM of a team. That was until the Miami Marlins called Ng for an interview in 2020. Ng admitted there was a different feeling around this interview with the Marlins. “I felt the familiarity with [former MLB shortstop Derek Jeter] was a big part of that,” Ng said of her interview process.

At the time, Jeter was a minority owner of the Marlins, as well as the team’s CEO. The familiarity came from Ng’s time working for the Yankees, where Jeter had spent the entirety of his career as a player. In addition to the familiarity with Jeter, Ng also cited the “common experiences” they had had in New York as a reason why the interview process felt different with the Marlins. Sure enough, Ng shattered the glass ceiling when she was named the Marlins’ GM. The hiring received national attention, with prominent figures such as Michelle Obama publicly congratulating Ng.  

Immediately, from the baseball side of things, Ng had a lot on her plate. The Marlins had just come back from their third ever playoff appearance during the 2020 COVID-shortened season, and were looking to retool the roster.

In Ng’s first year as GM, the team struggled due to the underperformance of the team’s stars. The Marlins sputtered to a 65–97 record, ultimately leading the team to make trade deadline moves such as trading away star outfielder Starling Marte for Jesús Luzardo, a struggling pitching prospect.

Moves like this brought out the pessimism in Marlins fans, who had witnessed two World Series victories in the past only to have their team torn down the following season both times. These pessimistic feelings grew stronger when Jeter stepped down as CEO following the disappointing 2021 and 2022 seasons. Fans began to doubt whether the Marlins would ever be relevant with the front office they had in place.

However, in the 2023 season, Ng quickly proved the doubters wrong. With Jeter out of the picture, Ng was in total control of the roster. The struggling Luzardo turned out to be a revelation for the team. In 2023, he experienced a breakout season for the Marlins, pitching to a 3.58 earned run average and setting a career high in innings pitched. He was one of many pieces that helped turn the Marlins’ fortune around. 

Luzardo was far from the only key addition Ng made to the team. Prior to the season beginning, Ng made the difficult decision to trade away fan favorite and locker room leader Pablo López to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for second baseman Luis Arráez. The move was a difficult one to make but was necessary for a Marlins team that was loaded with pitching depth, but plagued by offensive struggles the year before.

On September 30, 2023, the Marlins clinched a playoff berth after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 7–3. The game did not follow a traditional script as the injury-plagued Marlins opted for a bullpen game in which they used eight relief pitchers but no traditional starting pitcher. Six of the eight pitchers used in the game were acquired by Ng during her tenure, and one of Ng’s big trade deadline acquisitions, Josh Bell, contributed three runs batted in. This playoff-clinching moment was a culmination of all that Ng had achieved in her tenure with the Marlins. 

Following the season, Ng and the Marlins unexpectedly agreed to part ways following the expiration of her contract, with reports citing disagreements over the position she would assume during her next contract. Ng does not currently have anything lined up for the 2024 season, but that could change in an instant. In Ng’s words, “we’ll just have to wait and see what’s next.”

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About the Contributor
Marcos Gonzalez, Senior Sports Reporter
Marcos Gonzalez is a fourth-year from South Florida. He has been writing for The Maroon since he was a second-year and has gone from writing game recaps to highlighting the work of people who have made a mark during and after their time at UChicago. In addition to writing for The Maroon, Marcos serves as a play-by-play and color announcer for various UChicago athletics events. In addition to writing about sports, Marcos also likes to play sports as an avid IM participant.
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