First, the Dodgers' assistant general manager was confused for pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii's interpreter. Then it was for a fan trying to sneak onto the field during batting practice. \nA scout eventually got it right Tuesday at Turner Field, when he walked up and said: "Hello beautiful!" \nLarry Monroe, director of scouting for the Chicago White Sox, practically lifted 157cm Kim Ng off her feet to hug her and kiss her on the cheek. \nNg (pronounced "ang") happens to be a woman. She happens to be of Asian descent. She also happens to be second in command for day-to-day player personnel decisions for the team with the second-highest payroll in the National League. \nShe negotiated Ishii's US$12.2 million contract. She has three World Series rings from her old job as the assistant general manager of the Yankees. She was about to watch the fruits of her winter conversations with Braves assistant general manager Frank Wren in the early stages of the Gary Sheffield trade discussions. \nThat's the part she's most proud of. The other is just genetics. \n"I don't wake up in the morning and say `I'm a woman; it's going to be a real problem today,'" Ng said. "It's not hard. It's not easy. It's just different than what guys experience." \nSo George Steinbrenner has kissed her forehead. So some members of the old boys network try not to curse around her. So she makes an effort to stay out of the Dodgers' clubhouse unless it's necessary. \nBut when it comes to the business, she's impressed for all the right reasons. \n"You can tell when people know what they're talking about and when they don't," Wren said. "And she does." \nNg is one of three women assistant general managers in the majors, including the Red Sox's Elaine Steward and Ng's replacement with the Yankees, Jean Afterman. Ng is the one most think is on track to become baseball's first female general manager, if and when there is one. \nBut like any good baseball person, Ng doesn't like to jinx herself. When asked about her chances, she brought up Don Mattingly, who played 14 seasons for the Yankees without ever making the World Series. \n"This game is so humbling," Ng said. "I make no pretenses about who I am or what I'm going to be ... I don't know if I'll ever get there. But people know they can get to where I am." \nAs a 21-year-old graduate of the University of Chicago, Ng was just looking to find a job that interested her when a former softball coach told her about an internship with the White Sox. \nA month into that internship, she sat in a meeting with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Up for discussion was a fringe player who was eligible for salary arbitration. Reinsdorf shocked her by asking each intern for an opinion. \nShe shocked him back. She suggested they were wasting their time, that they should concentrate on more key players. \nWhen she left the room, Reinsdorf said to his director of baseball operations Dan Evans, whos is now the Dodgers general manager: "Now I can see why you like her." \nNg was right. Three months later, she was a full-time employee. \nAt 26, she became the youngest person and the first woman to present a salary arbitration case. In the process, she defeated agent Scott Boras and saved the White Sox US$650,000 in Alex Fernandez's US$3.25 million case. \n"It was a wonderful step, not just for baseball, but for her," Evans said. "It was her coming of age." \nNg has smoked celebratory cigars with Joe Torre. She's played golf with Dodger executives from the men's tees. But she rarely tries to get into matches of wit, unless she's out with her husband Tony and has some friend of a friend try to test her. \nBut those nights are rare. She's more likely to be at a ballpark, on a cellphone, on her 80-hour-a-week job. \n"If I don't do it well, all of this means nothing," Ng said. \nWhen a Turner Field security guard stopped her walking from the stands onto the field Tuesday, she didn't roll her eyes or make snide remarks. She went into the visitors dugout, reached into her bag and produced a badge. \n"No matter who you are or what you do, it's a natural reaction for people to look at you and have preconceived notions," Ng said. "I think you have to figure out the best way to deal with it." \nHer way? \n"To be understanding," she said. "And if you get them into a conversation, make them think about you a little different than when they first came up to you." \nWhen her Yankees contract expired, Ng considered leaving MLB before Dan Evans, who hired her as an intern in Chicago, became general manager of the Dodgers. He called her 10 times. "I didn't hire her because she's the best woman," Evans said. "She was the best candidate. She brings a lot of skills when she comes in a room. Once people get past the point that she's a woman, they see she's got exceptional talent." \nNortheastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society gave Major League Baseball a D+ in its 2001 report comparing the number of women hired for front office positions with the number of women in the population. But Kevin Matthews, co-director of the study, thinks Ng will make a significant impact. "I'm an optimist," Matthews said. "Whenever people break through stereotypes, it will open people's minds on hiring ... I know she changed some people's minds. Hopefully it'll lead to more change."
PHOTO: NY TIMES
* Age: 32.
* Hometown: Ridgewood, New Jersey.
* College: BA in public policy from University of Chicago, where she was an MVP infielder on the fast-pitch softball team.
* Front office experience: Chicago White Sox arbitration intern, 1990; White Sox special projects analyst, 1991; White Sox assistant director of baseball operations, 1995; American League director of waivers and player records, 1997; Yankees assistant general manager, 1998-2001.
* Quotable: "I don't have a crystal ball, but she may well be a GM one day. She's there. She's poised. She's positioned for consideration. Ten or 15 years ago some people would have scoffed at the idea of a women being in the job she has now." -- Braves GM John Schuerholz
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