Bradenton Marauders

Bradenton Marauders' top prospect is new GM Rachelle Madrigal

BRADENTON -- On the one-month anniversary of her start as the Bradenton Marauders' general manager, Rachelle Madrigal is searching for a moment of free time.

She thought she'd get a break before the game, but Bradenton plays in the Florida State League, which means there are storm clouds overhead at McKechnie Field. As she monitored the situation and prepared to help with the inevitable unrolling of the tarp, she fired off an email.

"I am stuck weather-watching again," it said.

When she began her new role with the Pirates' Single-A Advanced affiliate on May 11, she learned one of the most important hats an FSL general manager has to wear is amateur meteorologist. It helps that her husband leads the grounds crew.

There are other new parts she has to play, too -- like organizing Bradenton's travel, dealing with coaches and helming the marketing efforts aiming to bring people to McKechnie -- but she already has one little, improbable victory: The Marauders haven't had to postpone a game yet this year.

"There's a lot of things you have to factor," said Trevor Gooby, Pittsburgh's senior director of Florida operations. "She has to deal with the umpires and the managers, the players, the field conditions, everything. That's a challenge of the job."

Of course, this is nothing in the larger picture of what Madrigal hopes her tenure in Bradenton will become. Her background is in marketing and sales, not meteorology, and after almost a decade working for the Pirates in Bradenton, her new job comes at a critical point in Marauders history. This is the sixth year for the club and with one of the youngest GMs in the FSL -- at 29, Madrigal isn't sure if she's actually the youngest -- Bradenton wants to become a staple in the community and the league.

Madrigal graduated from Massachusetts in 2007 with a degree in sports management and even before she finished school she began an internship with the Pirates. UMass sent out emails to students with internship opportunities, and an opening with Pittsburgh piqued her interest. She interviewed with Gooby about an opening down in Florida that would let her focus on sales for spring training and the Gulf Coast League Pirates.

Seven years later, she became the manager of sales and marketing for an FSL team and organized the league's All-Star game.

"Sometimes I forget she's only a few years older than me," play-by-play announcer Nate March said.

Bradenton hosted the FSL All-Star game for the first time in 2014, and Gooby decided to give the project to Madrigal, trusting one of his most promising young employees to orchestrate the biggest event of the season at McKechnie Field.

With 5,882 fans in the stands, the 2014 game had the third-highest attendance for an all-star game in league history.

"It surpassed all our expectations," Gooby said. "She's always been a great worker for us, but when we were able to make promotions for her, that was one of the things that definitely stood out. She did such a tremendous job."

At the end of the year, Madrigal was rewarded with the FSL Female Executive of the Year award and in May she was promoted to become the only female GM in the league. She's quick to note she's not a trail blazer -- at one point both occupants of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals, had female general managers -- and no one around the team or league seems to think of her unique distinction as a big deal.

"There's some history there," Madrigal said.

This year, Gooby put it upon Madrigal to boost spring training attendance for the Pirates. She focused on group sales, pushing for businesses, non-profits and youth sports leagues.

She doesn't know yet what the end goal is. She loves the idea of doing sales and marketing for a Major League Baseball team, being around the energy of 40,000 fans on a daily basis, and Gooby expects this career trajectory for her. But she also loves the versatility of being a minor-league general manager, where she can do a little bit of everything to help the club run.

She also noticed one of her employees is running around in a gorilla suit with a banana partner.

"It's minor-league baseball," Madrigal said. "You've just got to roll with it."