Ng, Nakken, Smith, Goodrum have thrown a baseball into the glass ceiling

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Kelly Thomas

In the past years, there has been an increase of female presence on MLB’s coaching staff, including Ng, Nakken, Smith and Goodrum.

Sarah Barber, news correspondent

It is no secret that baseball is a male-dominated sport — there’s a reason Mo’Ne Davis, the first female to pitch in the Little League World Series, made the cover of Sports Illustrated at just 13 years old. 

There are many females in recent years who are shattering the glass ceiling in the sports management and coaching industry, especially in the MLB. For example, Kim Ng, Bianca Smith, Alyssa Nakken and Sara Goodrum have all been hired by major baseball organizations in general management, head coaching and assistant coaching positions.

 

Kim Ng

On Nov. 13, the Miami Marlins announced their hiring of Kim Ng as general manager. 

Ng is no stranger to making history: she was the first woman to ever be interviewed for a GM position in the MLB when she interviewed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005. She has previously worked as assistant GM with both the Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Prior to accepting the Marlins’ offer, Ng was the senior vice president of operations for the MLB, a position she held for nine years.

According to Ken Rosenthal, a senior baseball writer for The Athletic, Ng brings many attributes to the table.

“A wealth of experience, not just in contract negotiations, but also player development and scouting, too. She also is familiar with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, senior VP Gary Denbo and other team employees from their days together with the Yankees,” Rosenthal said. “The hiring of Ng also will elevate the Marlins’ profile. The story transcends baseball, and the immediate reaction to the news around the sport is overwhelmingly positive.”

Ng has 30 years of experience of intimate involvement with both the MLB and the sport of baseball more broadly. She has interviewed for a GM position at least four times prior to her landing the position with the Marlins. The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler praised Ng’s continued dedication and drive.

“Imagine what it takes to put yourself out there for the same job over and over. The public knows when you’re interviewing for a job, and when you’re apparently coming up short,” Adler wrote. “Truthfully, I would have given up long before now if I were Ng. Major League Baseball loves her. She could be happy and cushy there for a long time, I think. Who interviews for the same job they’ve been publicly turned down for repeatedly over the span of 15 years? Who sticks with it? How much do you really have to want it?” 

Not only is Ng’s hiring groundbreaking for women, but she has also become the fourth executive of color in baseball operations with tangible decision-making power and just the second person of Asian descent to run an MLB team. 

Ng has worked tirelessly for three decades to achieve the position of GM. She has never given up, and though she received this recognition and acceptance long after she had met the initial qualifications, she never wavered from her goal. Despite this, she said that she would never view it as a failure if she failed to be hired as a general manager. 

“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve worked extraordinarily hard to get where I am,” Ng told the University of Chicago Magazine. “If I don’t end up becoming a general manager, that’s just the luck of the draw. I’ve had a great career regardless.” 

 

Alyssa Nakken

On Jan. 14, 2020 Alyssa Nakken was hired by the San Francisco Giants as an assistant coach. 

Nakken is the first woman in a coaching position on a major league staff. Though she was not the only female considered for this position within the San Francisco program, the University of San Francisco grad is the first woman to hold the title of assistant coach on a big league team. 

In 2014 Nakken joined the Giants as an intern in the department of baseball operations. Before becoming assistant coach, she oversaw the team’s health and wellness programming. Nakken also has experience working with the amateur Draft, player development and international operations. 

“Alyssa and Mark [Hallberg] are highly respected members of the organization and I’m delighted that they will now focus their talents on helping to build a winning culture in the clubhouse,” Giants general manager Gabe Kapler said in a statement, commenting on the recent hiring of these two assistant coaches.

Nakken attended Sacramento State for her undergraduate years, and during her time in their softball program she was a first baseman, earning all-conference accolades three times and the Academic All-American title four times. Prior to joining the Giants, Nakken worked full-time for Edward Jones as a financial advisor, while also working toward her master’s in sports management at the University of San Francisco. 

“Now that women and girls will see it’s something they can do, hopefully it’s not this specific thing, but, ‘Oh yeah, even if I don’t see that specific career, I can go out and create it or create that network around me to be who I truly want to be,” Nakken said to USA Today Sports.

 

Bianca Smith

On Jan. 4, the Boston Red Sox announced their hiring of Bianca Smith as a minor league coach for the organization. Smith is the first Black woman on the coaching staff of a professional baseball team.

I’d never seen another Black woman coaching, especially in baseball. So it just never crossed my mind that that might be an opportunity,” Smith said to WBUR

Smith played softball and club baseball at Dartmouth University, where she earned a BA in sociology. She then went on to Case Western Reserve University, earning an MBA in sports management, as well as a Juris Doctor degree. At Case Western, she was the director of baseball operations from 2013-2017. 

In 2018, after spending some time assistant coaching at the University of Dallas, Smith took a job with Carroll University in Wisconsin, serving as their hitting coordinator and assistant coach. 

The Red Sox will not be the first team Smith has worked with, but they are the first team with which she has a permanent position. She has interned with both the Texas Rangers and the Cincinnati Reds. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity also to kind of inspire other women who are interested in this game,” Smith said to MLB Network. “This is not really something I thought about when I was younger. I kind of fell into it being an athlete. So I’m excited to get that chance to show what I can do.” 

 

Sara Goodrum

On Jan. 28, Sara Goodrum was named to the Milwaukee Brewers’ coaching staff as a hitting coordinator for their minor league program, making her the first woman to serve in this position. 

Goodrum has been with the Brewers for almost four years now, working at the Sports Science and Integrative Sports Performance Lab run by the team in Phoenix, Arizona. Before her time with the Brewers, Goodrum played division I softball at the University of Oregon, and then received a master’s in exercise and sports science from the University of Utah.

“I think [gender] is really a non-issue, where we’re at today in the game. Specifically, with [Goodrum], there is a familiarity with our hitters,” Brewers farm director Tim Flanagan told MLB Network. “She has been around the batting cage for the last couple of years, so there are relationships there, there’s a kind of knowledge of what we’re trying to do and what she’s trying to do. I think it’s kind of a natural progression for her.” 

Goodrum said that the reality of her hiring didn’t really sink in until she read the news of Ng ascending to the position of GM for the Marlins.

“The most eye-opening thing for me is that especially with the players who are coming up now, they don’t care if you’re a man or a woman,” Goodrum said to MLB Network. “If you can provide them guidance that is going to help them accomplish their dream of making it to the big leagues, they don’t care.”

 

The glass ceiling is cracking

The achievements that Ng, Nakken, Smith and Goodrum have made in the last year will surely inspire many other women and young girls striving for careers in sports. These women are joining the ranks of Rachel Folden, Rachel Balkovec and Eve Rosenbaum, all of whom are recent hires of major league programs. Many are hopeful that the decisions of these organizations will implore other big league teams to hire more female candidates in the future, rather than potentially less qualified men.

Northeastern senior infielder Ian Fair has been following the appointments of these women closely.

“I think that the MLB is heading in a great new direction and I’m looking forward to seeing how things continue to change in front offices and management,” Fair said. “It’s also so important that women are starting to have more representation in the sport allowing them to be role models for younger generations.”

Fair’s fellow senior and infielder Scott Holzwasser echoed this sentiment.

“I’ve seen [the hirings] all over social media, it’s really great to see. For women in general because obviously that representation in Major League Baseball is huge,” Holzwasser said. “So they have that person that they can look up to and if baseball is their area of interest they can look up to these women who are succeeding in baseball.” 

Most major sports organizations are dominated by males. This is an undeniable fact. But over the last 10 years, more and more women are being recognized for their qualifications and passion, and ultimately being hired for positions originally considered unattainable, simply due to their gender.