The Pirates are staying in-house for Trevor Gooby’s replacement as the organization’s senior director of Florida and Dominican Republic operations.
Pittsburgh named Jeff Podobnik, who has been with the organization for 27 years, to the role Friday, two days after the major league season concluded with the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series championship in 108 years.
Podobnik most recently served as the senior director of security and contract services at PNC Park, but he will is familiar with his new role in Bradenton. Podobnik served as the Pirates’ director of Florida operations from 1991-1999.
“We have experienced exceptional growth in Bradenton and the Dominican Republic, with magnificent facilities and passionate fan support for Pirates spring training and the Bradenton Marauders,” Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a press release Friday. “Jeff Podobnik is an experienced leader in our organization who will work with our tremendous staff in Bradenton to continue to improve our industry-leading operations in Bradenton.”
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Plenty has changed for Pittsburgh’s connection to Manatee County since Podobnik last held the role. The Pirates renegotiated a 30-year lease with the City of Bradenton in 2007, overhauled Pirate City in 2008, brought the Marauders to Bradenton in 2010 and renovated McKechnie Field in 2013.
The rash of changes in Bradenton were guided by Gooby, who left the organization last month to take a job as the Mariners’ vice president of ballpark operations. Gooby had been Pittsburgh’s director of Florida operations since 2005 and was previously a general manager in the Florida State League with the now-defunct Vero Beach Dodgers.
Podobnik will oversee the Pirates’ 49th season of spring training, which has been held at McKechnie since 1969. Bradenton will play its eighth season of Class A Advanced baseball as the defending FSL champion.
Podobnik’s first official game as Pittsburgh’s director of Florida operations will come Feb. 25 when the Pirates open Grapefruit League play with a pair of games against the Orioles and Rays. Pittsburgh will welcome Baltimore to McKechnie for its home-opener. The Marauders’ season begins April 6 against the Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte and the home slate begins two days later also against Charlotte.
The Gulf Coast League Pirates, a Rookie League affiliate which play at Pirate City in the Gulf Coast League, begin their season in June.
The role now also includes oversight of the Dominican Summer League Pirates, a Foreign Rookie League team in Boca Chica, and rehab facilities in both Florida and the Dominican Republic.