Q&A: Miami Marlins GM Kim Ng
From her office window overlooking the west plaza, Kim Ng could see the fans last Sunday pouring into one of the gates at LoanDepot Park for the final game of the Miami Marlins’ four-game homestand against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In all, a crowd of almost 22,000—nearly double the team’s average home attendance in 2022—would watch Miami blank the Pirates 2-0.
It marked the 25th win of the season at LoanDepot Park—tied for second-most home wins in Major League Baseball heading into Tuesday’s action—for a Marlins team off to the second-best start in franchise history (45-34 overall, including 16 victories in their last 22 games).
For Ng, who became the first woman to hold the general manager title for a team in one of the four major North American sports when the Marlins hired her in November 2020, it was a different kind of victory to savor.
“I took a picture from my office [of the throng of fans entering the gate Sunday] and sent it to my husband,” Ng says about an organization that averaged only 68 wins during her first two seasons as general manager. “It’s amazing to me to know where we’ve been and where we are now. It’s been a long time coming. It’s fulfilling to see tangible results of the hard work of the baseball operations staff. The past two months have been pretty fun.”
Part of that fun has been the pursuit of baseball history by Luis Arraez, the second baseman acquired by the Marlins in an offseason trade with the Minnesota Twins that’s become the signature early deal in Ng’s tenure. Entering Tuesday night’s game, Arraez, who led the American League in batting average last season, was hitting .399. No player has finished an entire major-league season with an average of .400 or higher since Ted Williams hit .406 for the Red Sox in 1941.
While the Marlins traveled to Boston for a series against the Red Sox, Ng spent Tuesday at the White House in Washington, D.C., for the inaugural meeting of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition. Ng was nominated to serve on President Biden’s federal advisory committee that seeks to “empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” with an emphasis on physical activity, good nutrition and mental health. The council includes a mix accomplished CEOs, physicians, former Olympians, current athletes and other professionals—including Golden State Warrior star Stephen Curry, James Beard Award-winner Jose Garces, and Melissa Stockwell (the first female American soldier to lose a limb in Operation Iraqi Freedom).
Lifestyle Media Group spoke to Ng about the President’s Council honor and the offseason changes.
It’s quite a journey to go from a young girl playing stick ball in Queens to being general manager of a major-league team and, now, serving on the president’s council. Is there a part of you that’s able to let that soak in?
Honestly, there’s not a whole lot of time to let it soak in. It’s going from one firestorm to another [in her job], so I didn’t even have time to prep for the council meeting until getting on the plane. … But it is an incredible honor to be recognized in this way. The platform that the Marlins have given me has been so meaningful not only to myself but to many others who see the accomplishments of a woman in this industry—which, obviously, is not easy to do.
The meeting [of the president’s council] actually got moved to the White House, which is pretty cool. So, yes, it’s times like this where you do need to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment.
After the 2022 season, there were significant organizational changes—you hired a new director of player development, new director of scouting, new manager, etc. Was part of that house cleaning meant to send a message about the expectations you have for the organization and where you want the bar to be?
Really, what a lot of that boiled down to was wanting everybody to be on the same page. Whatever goals you set forth, it’s important to me that everybody work as a team toward those goals.
Change is hard. But at the end of the day, we all have to be pulling on the same end of the rope. We all have to feel like we’re going in the same direction. If you don’t, there probably needs to be some change.
During the offseason, the Marlins traded starting pitcher Pablo Lopez and two solid prospects to the Minnesota Twins for Luis Arraez. It’s one of those moments as a general manager that can define your time with the team. When it comes time to make that deal, do you rely more on the homework you’ve done and your baseball knowledge—or do you trust your gut?
It’s a combination of all of it, really. It was relying more on my gut for the type of hitter that we wanted to go after. Right now, baseball is more enamored with home run hitters. And Luis Arraez is not of that cloth. But he’s a very, very productive offensive player. We had been in the market for a young hitter for well over a year. We’d just never found the right deal. Either the other club was asking too much or we were asking too much.
We actually talked about Luis the previous year as well, but we couldn’t make it happen at that point. This time, it came together fairly quickly, all things considered. We used all the resources we had [in making the decision]—whether it was analytics, our scouts’ evaluation, our vetting of his personality and how we felt he’d fit in our clubhouse. All of that was covered.
Back in January, Sports Illustrated wrote that the Marlins got fleeced by the Twins for making that deal. Can you gloat just a little bit, knowing this has panned out for the Marlins, at least through the first half of the season?
Yes, I can. I usually do it in private though. [Kim laughs]
I try not to get too high or too low one way or another. These things obviously can back up on you as well. But, look, as I mentioned before, you have an idea of what you’re trying to achieve. You have conviction in why and how you’re going to go about it. And then you believe in your process and believe in your people—and you let the results play out.