SAN DIEGO -- Early December is one of the busiest times on an MLB general manager’s calendar, if not the busiest. Yet Marlins general manager Kim Ng had good reason to clear an hour or two from her schedule ahead of the Winter Meetings.
After all, having the opportunity to encourage women who might follow her path in the sport was well worth the time.
“You have to give back,” Ng said on Saturday after giving the keynote address at MLB’s Take the Field event. “I didn’t do this for nothing. My career shouldn’t be just about me; it should be about everybody who comes after. That’s how I view it.”
The Take the Field program is designed for women interested in front office and on-field careers in baseball. Participants have the opportunity to meet club representatives, participate in career workshops and hone their résumés as they prepare to launch their careers.
The annual event lasts two days as the Winter Meetings get underway. The 2022 gathering was the first in person since 2019 after two years online due to COVID-19 precautions.
When Take the Field was first held in 2018, there had never been a woman to lead a team’s baseball operations department, there had never been a woman on an AL/NL coaching staff and there had never been a woman to manage an MLB-affiliated Minor League team.
In recent years, those barriers and others have come down with regularity. Ng, the first woman GM, stood before a room of nearly 100 job hopefuls as an example the loftiest goals in the industry can be achieved. She opened her 10-minute address by celebrating women who have helped take down other barriers, including:
• Rachel Balkovec, manager of the Yankees’ Tampa farm club and the first to hold such a job
• Genevieve Beacom, who in January became the first woman to pitch in the Australian Baseball League
• Sara Goodrum, named the Astros’ director of player development this year after previously working as the Brewers’ Minor League hitting coordinator
• Katie Krall, whose hiring at Double-A Portland this year made the Red Sox the only organization with two women coaches
• Alyssa Nakken, a Giants coach who on April 12 became the first woman to coach on the field during an MLB regular-season game
• Eve Rosenbaum, named assistant GM of the Orioles in 2022
• Bianca Smith, a Red Sox Minor League coach and the first Black woman to coach an MLB-affiliated farm team
“Huge, massive accomplishments for those women -- as well as for our industry,” Ng said. “There’s change; there’s progress.”
To be sure, Ng is not alone in effecting change in the game. But she is highly visible as the only woman at the apex of a team’s baseball operations department and for her decades-long journey to earn the job.
It was a no-brainer to ask Ng to participate as Take the Field returned to in-person panels, said Julia Hernandez, MLB’s coordinator of on-field operations.
“We were thrilled she said yes,” Hernandez said. “She’s someone who’s always been important to women in baseball. She’s always been someone you can point to and say, ‘She’s doing it.’
“You can tell from the people who work with her that she’s well-liked, she gets her work done and she’s so intelligent. I think everybody who’s come in contact with her is blown away by who she is, what she’s done and how she handles herself.”
Hernandez is a Take the Field alumni, having participated in the 2018 and ’19 events before finding full-time employment in the industry. Now one of the event organizers, she has seen the number of applications to attend more than double, even with the past two being held virtually.
Some 37 former Take the Field participants have landed jobs in baseball.
“As Kim was talking about -- the different women who have made leaps and bounds,” Hernandez said. “We have an on-field manager. We have a farm director here. We have so many women who have reached the next position. It’s not always ‘next man up’ anymore.”