Yankees Hall of Famer Derek Jeter just picked up a sledgehammer and smashed the glass ceiling within the male-dominated executive ranks in MLB by hiring Kim Ng as the new General Manager of the Miami Marlins.
Derek Jeter deserves a lot of credit. But he is not the only Yankee who played a major role in laying the groundwork for Kim Ng’s highly successful career and recruitment. A surprising number of other former Yankees also were involved in her mentoring and appointment as the GM of the Marlins.
This past Friday the 13 turned out to be a very lucky day for Ng, as she became the first woman to be named a GM and the highest-ranking female executive in MLB.
She also is the second person of Asian descent to lead an MLB team (Farhan Zaidi, of Pakistanian descent, of the San Francisco Giants was the first).
While this was a trailblazing move on the part of Jeter, everyone agrees that it also was an incredibly astute baseball decision on his part. He saw an opportunity to hire a brilliant baseball mind and he took it, ignoring gender in his decision making.
Ng first joined the MLB ranks as an intern with the Chicago White Sox in the early 1990s. She performed well and became a special projects analyst, then ascended to the role of Assistant Director of Baseball Operations reporting directly to the GM.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman is not only savvy at making great baseball player decisions, but he also recognizes talent at the executive level when he sees it. In March of 1998, he hired Ng as Assistant General Manager, the youngest in the major leagues at 29 and one of only four women to hold this position. She received three World Series rings while with the Yanks.
Joe Torre was the Yankee skipper during her employment by the ball club, and she worked with him on player personnel issues. During her stint with the Bronx Bombers, she also got to know Jeter, along with Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ current Vice President for Player Development and Scouting. Denbo was a coach for the Bombers when she worked there.
In 2005, Ng interviewed for the GM position for the Dodgers — instead, the team hired Ned Colletti as their GM, and he immediately hired Ng as his assistant.
After leaving baseball as a player, Don Mattingly returned to the Yanks as a coach in 2004 for manager Torre. He then followed Torre to the Dodgers in 2008, and succeeded him as the Dodgers’ skipper in 2011. Mattingly successfully steered the small-market Marlins into this year’s baseball playoffs (and was chosen Manager of the Year in the NL). Ng got to know Mattingly during their time with the Dodgers, and she closely worked with Torre as manager once again.
During her career, she also interviewed for GM positions with the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels, and San Francisco Giants, but came up empty each time. In meetings with the media following her appointment by the Marlins, she said that, in some cases, she had the feeling that she was only being interviewed to further public relations, and that some of the teams were not seriously considering her for the position. Yes, it seems the Rooney Rule has come to MLB, in some ways.
In March of 2011, she left the Dodgers to assume the position of Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for Major League Baseball. In her new position, she reported to former Yankees and Dodgers manager…Torre! Naturally. By all accounts, she performed exceptionally well in this position.
Ng’s previous involvement with former Yanks Jeter, Denbo, and Mattingly – likely with strong recommendations from Cashman and Torre – helped open the way for her selection as GM for the Marlins. It was the depth and breadth of her executive experience and the knowledge and skills that she brought to the table that convinced Jeter to offer her the Marlins GM opening.
During her news conference following her hire, she said that she felt very comfortable during the Marlins interview process since she knew those who were interviewing her quite well. Similarly, all the former Yankees knew full well what a terrific GM she would be for the Marlins. Having Caroline O’Connor as the Marlins’ Chief Operations Officer convinced Ng that the Marlins’ men had no problem working with women in an otherwise male-dominated sport.
I was very impressed by how well Ng answered questions by reporters during the virtual national media news conference at Marlins Park following her hire. At one point, she was asked about how her hire might open up opportunities for the recruitment of more women at the executive level in baseball.
After answering this question (she said it will), she added that it is not only important to have demographic diversity, but it is also essential to have a diversity of opinions and perspectives on the game of baseball more generally. This, in turn, is what leads to sustained success at the highest level.
Ng’s appointment as the new GM of the Marlins is likely to not only open more doors for highly qualified women in MLB but also in other male-dominated sports (e.g., the National Football League). As fans, we should celebrate this achievement, and we should be very proud of how former Yankees men (and women supporters more generally) helped break the glass ceiling for women in MLB.