Billie Jean King inspired Kim Ng as a child. Now King’s thrilled Ng is Marlins new GM
Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton shared her excitement with the world. Jackie Robinson’s daughter said she and her mother would cheer for the Miami Marlins. As Kim Ng worked her way through more than a thousand congratulatory messages, it dawned upon her that becoming the first female general manager was about more than baseball, much more.
Women hold up half the sky. If a woman can run a men’s team, maybe the sky really is the limit.
“It really was a glimmer of hope and inspiration for so many,” Ng said in a videoconference from Miami on Monday.
As a child, Ng said, she was inspired by Billie Jean King, the tennis Hall of Famer who pushed her sport toward equality.
King, now a minority owner of the Dodgers, is delighted for Ng. She used the word “progress” in a congratulatory tweet.
Reached by telephone Monday, King used the same adage Ng had during her videoconference: If you can see it, you can be it.
A kid named Chase can see himself as a general manager. Today, so can a kid named Megan.
That is progress, King said, but not enough.
“What happens with girls and women, when we get something, people think it only affects girls and women,” King said.
“When a guy does something, they don’t say, ‘Oh, he’s a great role model for a boy.’ They just say, ‘Oh, he’s a great role model.’ ”
That attitude will not change until the hiring of a woman prompts talk-show debates about whether she was the best candidate for the job, not national celebrations over the demise of a glass ceiling. And that change, King said, is up to men.
King grew up in Long Beach, rooting on Steve Bilko and the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League at the old Wrigley Field. Her brother, Randy Moffitt, grew up to play in the major leagues. King said she was about 9 when she realized girls did not have that opportunity.
“My heart dropped,” she said. “That feeling has never left me.”
Gina Satriano gets it. She pitched for the short-lived Colorado Silver Bullets women’s baseball team in the 1990s. She works as a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, but she comes home, turns on SportsNet LA and analyzes the Dodgers.
“I start saying stuff and Orel Hershiser, being a pitcher, says the same thing right after me,” she said with a laugh.
Within the past five years, Ng worked within MLB to expand the league’s support of women’s baseball, in partnership with USA Baseball and with independent sponsorship of girls’ baseball leagues in the United States and Canada.
“I don’t know that you’ll ever see 15 women and 15 men on the same professional baseball team,” Satriano said. “But there are female athletes who can compete in Major League Baseball, I’m convinced.”
When she went to law school, she said, she did not really want to be a lawyer. Her enthusiasm and knowledge could have made her a good fit in a front office — if, that is, she had seen a model in someone like Ng all those years ago, a woman in a high-profile position.
Kim Ng is the Miami Marlins’ general manager, making the longtime baseball executive the first woman and first Asian American to hold the position in MLB.
“Every chance a woman gets, at every level — whether it’s playing, coaching, managing, GM — is thrilling,” Satriano said. “The talent and the skill set and the desire, we know, are there. It’s just that the opportunity wasn’t.
“That the doors are opening — slowly, but consistently — is very exciting. I’m so thrilled.”
Whether a woman can play in the majors is not as important, King said, as whether large numbers of women can work in the majors. Why, she wonders, would a sport want to turn down close to half its fan base as a source of smarts and creativity?
“It’s a huge talent pool that people need to pay attention to,” King said. “Any time we can get one more example, that’s great.”
King is an owner of the Dodgers, she said, because team chairman Mark Walter invited her. Ng has interviewed to be a general manager for 15 years.
“Here’s the difference,” King said. “Why did she get this job? Derek Jeter called her.”
Jeter was elected to the Hall of Fame for his excellence as shortstop of the New York Yankees. He hired Ng in his capacity as chief executive officer of the Marlins.
“He’s basically challenging everybody else by doing it,” King said. “I take my hat off to Jeter.
“Whoever is in power can change things. Men in power can make such a difference. I just hope, when a woman does something, people don’t think it’s just for women. It’s for everybody.”
If the Marlins win, Jeter could be remembered as a visionary executive. If the Marlins lose, the second female general manager could find it that much more challenging to get hired.
“When Derek told me I got the job, there was a 10,000-pound weight lifted off of this shoulder,” Ng said. “And then, after about half an hour later, I realized that it had just been transferred to this shoulder. I do feel quite a lot of responsibility. I have my entire career. I know that I am quite visible.
“You’re bearing the torch for so many. That is a big responsibility, but I take it on.”
Ng spoke for close to an hour, brimming with passion and intelligence and confidence, and with the lessons of her lifetime in baseball. At the end, a reporter named Alfre Alvarez said he had a 2-week-old daughter and asked for a message on her behalf.
“Anything is possible,” Ng said. Indeed, at least on Monday, anything was Kim Possible.
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