By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a special look at a glass ceiling-breaking hiring, the Masters in the fall, and the first DI coach of Asian descent making history.
Finally…Kim Ng is hired to be an MLB GM
In a 2003 Sports Illustrated article, Kim Ng, then an assistant general manager with the New York Yankees, was tapped as an individual that would one day be hired as a general manager in Major League Baseball.
Seventeen years later, Ng was finally hired by a team. The Miami Marlins, run by former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, made Ng the first Asian American and woman to be a general manager in the major leagues.
Ng, a former softball player in college at the University of Chicago, started her baseball front office career with the White Sox as assistant director of baseball operations. She took a brief job with Major League Baseball before she was hired with the Yankees as an assistant general manager, under the current GM Brian Cashman, at the age of 29. She then moved on to work for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001and then returned to work in the office of Major League Baseball in 2011.
Through the years, Ng received praise as a well-prepared, fierce negotiator when it came to salary arbitrations for players. Yet, the fact that she was Asian and a woman, made her ascension to the front office of a major league team difficult. While working with the Dodgers in 2003, a scout approached Ng at a bar during the annual meeting of baseball general managers and asked her what she was doing with the other executives. The scout, a 59-year-old male employed by the New York Mets, then asked her, “Where are you from?” He then proceeded to mock her Chinese heritage with a fake accent. “Kim handled the entire situation in a professional manner, and we addressed the matter with the New York Mets the next day,” said Dodgers General Manager Dan Evans at the time of the incident. He was promptly fired by the Mets after the incident became public. Notably, he went on to work for two other teams. Ron Darling, a former Mets pitcher, said of Ng’s struggles to find a position, “If you look at her resume, she should be on the fast track [to a general manager job],” he added, “She was on the slow track, quite frankly, because she was an Asian woman.”
To highlight Darling’s statement, Ng was on the short-list of many job openings for GM positions. The 52-year-old Ng interviewed for the openings of the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Anaheim Angels, and San Francisco Giants. Ng was one of the finalists for the Mariners position and despite her experience, the Mariners chose Jack Zduriencik. Notably, Zduriencik hired Don Wakamatsu as the Mariners’ manager—the first Asian American manager in the sport. Ng’s name also came up for job openings with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies. Yet, all of these openings went to others.
Jeter’s hiring of Ng reflects a change of the old guard in sports front offices. Jeter also hired Caroline O’Connor as the Marlins’ Chief Operating Officer and the Marlins are the only team with two women in the Chief Executive positions of a Major League Baseball team.
Ng’s hiring comes after years and years of working in baseball and learning the ins and out of the sport.
Her resume is one of the best in the business and her hiring was not a gift by any means. It also shows that diversity matters in hiring as Ng’s appointment was praised by many women and those in the Asian American community because it shows that someone that looks like them can make it in the industry.
“People are looking for hope,” Ng said at her introductory Zoom press conference to announce the hiring, “People are looking for inspiration, and I’m happy that this is a part of it.”
UW golf alum shines at the Masters
The Masters, the annual April tradition, that many golf fans await as a benchmark for the start of golf each spring was postponed until November due to the pandemic. Like everything in 2020, flexibility in the event was key and without any fans, the tournament went on with appropriate social distancing and testing to ensure that everyone remained safe throughout.
Last year’s tournament champion Tiger Woods returned, but could not repeat the spark of 2019. After a very good first day on the course, Woods faded into the pack of players. Woods took 10 shots to complete hole 12 on the final day of the tournament. The par 3 on the 12th hole saw Woods hit his initial drive into the creek. He then hit his third shot back into the water. His fifth shot went into a sand bunker. The next shot went back into the creek. Woods finally righted himself to complete the hole, but not after one of the more disastrous adventures on the golf course. Woods made up for it by making birdie on six of the last seven holes. He finished 39th despite having the worst hole in his pro career.
Notably, former University of Washington golf standout C.T. Pan made his debut at the Masters this year and hung with the leaders. Pan finished -10 for the tournament, which was good for a 7th place tie on the leaderboard. The finish ensures that Pan will be back this April for the Masters. His neighbors were happy for him as they hung a banner on his garage door with the scores of each of the four rounds he posted. On Instagram, Pan thanked his neighbors, “What a surprise when I get home. Thank you to my neighbors; you are the best!!!!” Pan was happy with the finish and is looking forward to his return.
Also, PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa tied for 44th overall in his first tournament at the famed Augusta National Course in Georgia.
South Korea’s Sungjae Im tied for 2nd with -15, but was far off the pace of the winner, Dustin Johnson, who shot -20 overall.
The Washington Huskies Men’s Basketball team started their season in Las Vegas with two losses. The second loss was to University of California at Riverside and their first-year head coach Mike Magpayo.
Named the coach for the team in July, Magpayo became the first NCAA Division I head coach of full Asian heritage. The 41-year-old Filipino American took over after the previous coach left to take on a coaching position at the University of Arkansas.
Magpayo’s parents were born and raised in the Philippines. Magpayo was born in Los Angeles and attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Prior to the head coaching job, he served as assistant coach for UC Riverside. Prior to that, he had assistant coaching positions at Columbia University and Campbell University. His coaching career started at the high school level, while he still ran a real estate company in Southern California after college. The passion for coaching continued and what was a hobby turned into a full-time job. According to Magpayo, dropping his career for coaching was hard because of the small salary. Magpayo said that he was making $15,000 a year as an assistant. Yet, betting on himself and enjoying coaching has paid off.
In addition to coaching, he is founder and president of the Asian Coaches Association, an organization that serves to unify, support, and elevate all Asian coaches beyond just the basketball community.
Not only did Magpayo defeat the Huskies for his first win as a head coach, his first child was born right before the season started.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.