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The Miami Marlins' Kim Ng is the first female GM to lead an MLB team to the playoffs

The Miami Marlins' Kim Ng is the first female general manager in MLB history to lead her team to the playoffs.
Michael Reaves
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Getty Images
The Miami Marlins' Kim Ng is the first female general manager in MLB history to lead her team to the playoffs.

In many ways, the Miami Marlins locker room Saturday night after the team clinched a playoff spot was a familiar scene: the usual sprays of beer and champagne, the usual smiles and hugs and cheers.

But the locker room playoff party had one thing Major League Baseball has never seen before: The general manager graciously receiving those pours of booze from ecstatic players was a woman.

Kim Ng, 54, became the first woman to get the top executive job at an MLB team when longtime Yankee great Derek Jeter helped hire her to the Marlins in 2020.

Now, after only her third season, she has steered the Marlins back to the postseason for the first time in a full-length season since 2003 — a champagne-worthy feat by any measures. (It took "about three showers to get that smell out," Ng joked in an interview with the Marlins broadcast crew Sunday.)

Before Ng, in the history of the MLB — and of all four major North American sports leagues, in fact — no woman had ever served as a team's general manager, the top executive who oversees the entire operation, answering only to ownership.

Ng's hiring in November 2020 was celebrated by Michelle Obama and tennis stars Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, both of whom had inspired Ng as a child with their outspoken advocacy for women in sports.

"I do feel quite a lot of responsibility. I have my entire career," Ng said in a press conference shortly after she was hired. "You're bearing the torch for so many. And that is a big responsibility, but I take it on."

Starting with her days as an unpaid intern with the Chicago White Sox, Ng had often been one of the only women to achieve this or that: the first to present — then win — a major league salary arbitration case; the second to be hired as an assistant general manager; the highest-ranking woman in the MLB in the years she served as senior vice president of baseball operations.

Before she was hired by Miami, Ng had interviewed for at least five other GM positions. "After so many times, you feel deflated, you feel like, maybe it's not going to happen," she said in 2020.

Ng came to the Marlins after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when the team was fresh off a playoff appearance. That 2020 postseason run was something of an aberration for Miami; in every other season since 2018, the team has lost at least 93 games.

Once at the helm, Ng embarked on an aggressive campaign to reshape the team's roster through numerous trades, free agency pickups and savvy drafts. Ahead of this season, she brought on a first-time manager in Skip Schumaker.

Her efforts have paid off. At 84-77, the Marlins have posted their best winning percentage since 2009. On Tuesday, their playoff run begins with Game 1 of their wild-card series against the Philadelphia Phillies, with players and coaches in vocal support of Ng's leadership.

"That's Mama Kim right there," star center fielder Jazz Chisholm, Jr., told the Miami Herald in the locker room after Saturday's game. "She's been doing the right things, making the right moves every year. This year just shows what she can do. I hope she stays with us and hope we get more in the future."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan
Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.