Bock’s Score: Breaking Baseball’s Glass Ceiling

Ten days after America elected its first female vice president, the Miami Marlins turned over the keys to their baseball operation to the game’s first female general manager.

As Bob Dylan once told us, “The times they are a-changin’ ‘’

Kamela Harris will be sworn in as vice-president on Jan. 20. Kim Ng is the Marlins’ general manager right now.

Ng’s appointment is another step in dragging the fuddy-duddy world of baseball into the 21st century. She is an accomplished baseball lifer with 30 years in the game, owner of three World Series rings from her previous jobs and now calling the shots for the Marlins.

Her appointment cracked the glass ceiling that for so long protected baseball’s executive suites for white men. Ng is the first woman GM in any of the four major men’s sports leagues in North America. She is also Asian-American, which cracks another barrier.

Baseball was a closed community for many years. Often it was operated as an old-boys club, a fraternity that was very hard to join. Managers tend to hire old teammates for coaching jobs. Newcomers need not apply.

That began to change within the last three years. In 2017, there were just three women occupying on-field or player development roles in the game. Today, there are 21.

Last July, the San Francisco Giants added Alyssa Nakken to their coaching staff. She was on the field in the first base coach’s box for an exhibition game against Oakland, a first for a woman.  On the same day in 2019 that the Yankees hired Rachel Balkovec as a fulltime hitting coach., the Chicago Cubs hired Rachel Folden as a minor league hitting coach. Jen Wolf is a life skills coordinator for the Cleveland Indians farm system. Jean Afterman is an assistant general manager with the Yankees, a job Kim Ng once held.

Anybody notice a trend here?

Front offices are embracing a new brand of baseball, an analytics and data driven approach to the game that will change how it is played and who decides how it is played.

There are female umpires in the pipeline, too. Many of them work in college leagues and low minors. But that could change one day in the not-too distant future.

We have come a long way from baseball’s dark ages when the game was rather restricted to an old-boys population. Baseball is no longer a league of their own.

Kim Ng proved that.

Photo: Iconn Sportswire

 

 

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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