First GM in MLB history, Kim Ng, got her start with the White Sox
Her phone must have been blowing up.
When Kim Ng was named the general manager of the Miami Marlins last week, becoming the first female general manger in Major League Baseball history, friends and family and colleagues were anxious to reach out and share their excitement.
Grace Guerrero Zwit was one of them.
"As soon as I heard the announcement, I texted Kim ... and she replied," Guerrero Zwit said with a happy surprise in her voice. "Out of all the thousands of texts she probably got that day, I did not expect a reply, and she texted back. The same day.
"That was so Kim."
"The idea that (being named GM) has affected this many people is just extraordinary," Ng said Monday when introduced by the Marlins. "I thought it would be a big deal, but this is beyond my expectations."
Guerrero Zwit goes way back with Ng.
She has been working with the White Sox since the early 1980s and is now the senior director of minor league operations for the team.
She remembers when Ng was hired by the Sox as an intern in 1990, straight out of the University of Chicago, where she was a top student in public policy and a varsity softball player.
Guerrero Zwit says that Ng, now 52, impressed immediately with her easy way and engaging personality.
"She came in and was very comfortable, very relaxed and chill. Kim was so easy to get along with, very genuine and honest," Guerrero Zwit said.
"She came in to learn, and she was so bright, so smart. She picked up things quickly. You could tell she was up for any challenge. Nothing was beneath her. She would help with anything and everything.
"But the thing about Kim was she was also so personable. She knows how to talk to everyone. No one is beneath her. She speaks to everyone the same. She treats everyone the same."
Guerrero Zwit, who has worked with many general managers, says knowing the game and the numbers is essential for a successful general manager. But relationship building may be more essential, and Ng is a pro at that.
"I remember she used to stay for all the games and she would go up into the suite with all the guys. She was the first female in baseball operations to do that," Guerrero Zwit said. "She did not let that intimidate her. In fact, she was really comfortable talking with those guys.
"The White Sox had a softball team and did golf outings and she did all of that, too. She wasn't even a golfer, but she picked that up and was the first female to participate. She just fit right in."
Ng was eventually hired full-time by the White Sox and was the assistant director of baseball operations until she left in 1996. She then moved to the American League offices to become director of waivers and records, where she approved all transactions.
By 1998, Ng was the assistant general manager of the New York Yankees, her hometown team. She grew up playing stick ball in the streets of Queens, where her father, Jin Ng, taught her how to play sports.
At that point, Ng seemed on the fast track to become the first female general manager in MLB history. But, as it turns out, she was still more than 20 years away.
She moved across the country in 2002 to take over as assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers. She was there until 2011 when she was named senior vice president of baseball operations for MLB. She was in that position until she was hired by the Marlins.
"You always knew that Kim had the ability for this, she just needed the right opportunity," said Dan Fabian, senior director of baseball operations for the White Sox.
Fabian sat in the cubicle next to Ng for years at the beginning of her career when she did a lot of special projects and statistical research for trades. She also handled arbitration and contracts.
"The first thing that jumped at me when I met Kim was she knew her stuff. She was really passionate about being in sports and in baseball," Fabian said. "I learned a ton from working with Kim. She had energy for it. And she had the personality for it. She knew how to work with people."
Ng also knows how to pioneer, even when having to take the scenic route. Guerrero Zwit can't wait to see what comes next for Ng, and other women in baseball.
"This is huge. Kim definitely broke the ceiling, especially in baseball ops," Guerrero Zwit said. "Little girls can see that anything is possible.
"I'm pulling for her. I think all females in sports are pulling for her."
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