This is last week's news, but it's not often that someone gets written up in the New York Times after getting passed over for a job. It's even less often when the person being written about was a classmate and casual acquaintance of mine from college. But this is the case for Kim Ng, who recently came in a "close second" for the job of general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Had she been hired, she would have been the first-ever female, and first ever Asian-American, general manager of a major league baseball team. But, given how highly regarded she appears to be in the baseball world, I suspect she will achieve both of these firsts before much longer.
From the November 17 Times article:
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 16 - As the Los Angeles Dodgers introduced their new general manager Tuesday, the most intriguing candidate sat in the audience.
Kim Ng pulled up a chair in the front row. She wore a tailored black suit. She clapped at all the right moments. This was the rare occasion in which the person who did not get the job received nearly as much attention as the person who did.
"Of course I'm disappointed," Ng said. "But I think it is groundbreaking that a woman even interviewed. The game is progressing. Next time, it may turn out different."
Although Ng's gender and ethnicity can make her seem like an untraditional candidate, her baseball roots are old-fashioned. Ng grew up in Queens playing stickball in her driveway. She rooted for the Yankees and once said that she made a scrapbook of Thurman Munson obituaries the day after he died.
A star softball player in high school and college, Ng was all set to become a consultant or an investment banker after college. But when one of her coaches at the University of Chicago told her about an internship with the Chicago White Sox, Ng saw a way to combine her passions. The White Sox, then as now, fashioned themselves a progressive organization and gave Ng her first job.
"I've never been around somebody who would ask so many intelligent questions," said Dan Evans, then an assistant general manager for the White Sox. "Kim always wanted to know why things were done a certain way."
While many of baseball's new-age general managers are portrayed as coddled Ivy Leaguers inextricably linked to their laptops, Ng nearly quit baseball after four years with the Yankees. She might have thought about leaving again in 2003, when Bill Singer, then a Mets scout, taunted her with an exaggerated Chinese accent at the general managers meetings.
The way Ng handled the incident, and the way she came back from it, only enhanced her profile.
Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff has also written about Kim Ng recently, here and here. And here is an interview with her (undated, but obviously fairly recent, since she is with the Dodgers) from Women's Sport Foundation.
I did not know Kim well. In college, she was, literally, the friend of a friend. But it is still a trip to find someone you knew once-upon-a-time but had pretty much completely forgotten over the years, "suddenly" in the news (for positive reasons). I wish her the best of luck in blazing new paths for women in this particular male-dominated workplace.