New GM Ng an unflappable, 'really sharp' star

November 14th, 2020

Kim Ng is the general manager of the Miami Marlins, and the sports world has changed forever.

For the first time, girls and women look at the general manager of a major U.S. men’s professional sports franchise and see someone who reminds them of themselves. The same is true for Asian Americans, who on Friday celebrated Ng as the first Major League Baseball general manager of East Asian descent.

Now, let’s mention something that is the same now as before Friday’s long-awaited and electrifying news.

Kim Ng is a star.

Ng’s résumé as a first-time GM may be the most impressive ever: more than 30 years in the game, three World Series rings, tenures as an assistant general manager with the Yankees and Dodgers, a decade working on key initiatives in the MLB Commissioner’s Office.

Listen to the words of Brian Cashman, Dan Evans and Ned Colletti, who hired and promoted her. Absorb the optimism of Kim’s colleagues around the Majors, who pinged one another with excited text messages well into Friday afternoon.

We journalists are conditioned to be clear-eyed when big news breaks. Well, I can objectively report that I was thrilled by the Marlins’ announcement -- because I’ve known and admired Kim since 2004, because I always hoped she’d get the opportunity after past interviews and most of all because she deserved it.

I remember meeting Kim for the first time in 2004. She was assistant GM of the Dodgers and had traveled to observe their Triple-A affiliate in a series against the Portland Beavers, whom I was covering as an intern for The Oregonian.

I was standing behind the batting cage when one of the Las Vegas coaches noted Kim’s presence. The players, he said, would be aware that a very influential executive was in attendance. Even then, Kim was described as a future GM candidate. With my notebook closed, I asked the coach if he thought those predictions would come true.

He nodded in the affirmative. “She is really sharp,” he said.

Variations of that assessment followed Kim’s work in the years since, whether the subject was player moves with the Dodgers or MLB’s international efforts. She’s traveled extensively in Latin America and understands the nuances of baseball, on and off the field, in any setting of the modern game.

At a time of profound disruption in the sport and our world, I’ve never seen Kim Ng caught off guard. She is unflappable. I suspect her softball teammates at the University of Chicago witnessed that attribute on the field. She was, after all, named the team’s most valuable infielder.

Ng has interviewed for GM openings at regular intervals for the last 15 years. Each time, the result was the same. Until Friday. The job will not change her, because the disappointments never did.

A few minutes past noon on Friday, I stepped out of my home office after discussing Kim’s hiring on MLB Network’s Hot Stove. I walked into the kitchen, where two of my three daughters ate lunch during another day of virtual learning. I told Gabriella and Elena about Kim, explaining how hard she has worked in her career, and how many times she tried to become a general manager prior to this groundbreaking day.

In that way, Friday’s lunch hour will be one of my favorite memories in this year of working and learning from home. The fact that Kim Ng is a Major League general manager is an important lesson for boys and girls -- and men and women -- across the country. Her journey to get here matters just as much.

The Morosi girls will hear a lot about Kim Ng in the years to come.