The business of baseball used to be reserved for guys and guys alone, but that has all changed since a University of Chicago graduate, who wrote her thesis paper on Title IX, began trailblazing MLB careers for women in the early 1990s.
“We all need role models, and because there are so few women in Major League Baseball, I have to be one of them,” said Kim Ng, the highest-ranking female executive in the league. “I was fortunate enough to have strong, independent women in my life when I was growing up — people I looked to, sought advice from, and simply just tried to emulate. The least I can do is to pay that forward.”
Taking a chance
Ng, 50, got her start in professional baseball when she took an internship entering statistical data for the Chicago White Sox at a time when the practice was still new, according to a news story published by her alma mater.
“For (the White Sox) to hire a woman as an intern, it was more unusual at that time. Unfortunately, it still is out of the ordinary,” Ng, now MLB’s senior vice president for baseball operations, told the Chicago Tribune.
Despite being outnumbered throughout her career, Ng said she has been able to forge her own path “through persistence, fortitude, a thick skin, and being able to compartmentalize.”
Those approaches not only helped her land her current role but also those before it, including general manager roles with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Working hard was obviously a big theme in our house,” Ng told ESPN W. “It wasn’t that my parents micro-managed me at all as a kid. They just expected certain levels. You knew if you didn’t get to that level, you were a big disappointment for them. Perseverance was important. From my mom, I learned not to take a backseat from anybody.”
Looking to the past and future
Ng acknowledged she didn’t have many women come before her in MLB, but she said women in other fields inspired her to many of her achievements.
“Unfortunately, there were very few women in terms of my career, but just in terms of seeing women of pure strength, and the fight that they fought for other women, I would say Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Pat Summit, to name a few,” she said, referencing the legendary professional tennis players and women’s college basketball coach.
As a professional baseball executive, Ng is also gaining recognition outside of her sport. Forbes, for example, named her in its annual list of The 25 Most Powerful Women in Sports.
“It certainly is humbling to be considered in the same arena as these women who have accomplished so much in their careers, and driven their sports and the path for women forward,” Ng said.
Despite the milestones Ng has passed and the accolades she has earned, her proudest moment thus far happened even before she nabbed that transformative internship with the White Sox.
“The single-most inspiring event in terms of pursuing a career in sports was my research on Title IX for my senior thesis paper,” Ng said. “Through my research, I learned quite a bit about the evolution of women’s roles in sports and gained an understanding of the root of some of the experiences and opportunities I was afforded as a child.”
Through Title IX, which went into effect in 1972, the federal government prohibited educational institutions from excluding anyone from federally funded organizations, including sports, on the basis of gender.
As for what’s next, Ng said she is still open to the unexpected. For now, she’s simply continuing to enjoy the ride.
“The horizon is unknown,” Ng said. “I have learned to take each day as it comes, and that’s what makes this all fun.”
Melinda Carter, [email protected]