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As summertime afternoon thunderstorms roll in, expect Rachelle Madrigal to have her eyes on the skies.
“The most challenging part of my job is definitely the unpredictable weather we have here,” she says. “I'm constantly monitoring the weather.”

That's because she makes the call whether it's safe for the Bradenton Marauders to play ball for home games at McKechnie Field. It's one of the many responsibilities she fields as the new general manager of the minor-league team, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Named to her role in May, Madrigal deals with everything involved with putting on a game, from safety issues to making sure every element of the stadium is ready for players and fans. She also coordinates team travel and works to help boost interest in the Marauders.

“My primary focus is on business operations, anything it takes to actually operate the team and all the employees involved with making a game or season happen,” says Madrigal. “It's about making it as easy as possible for the team so they don't have to worry about the logistics off the field and can focus on baseball.”

A native of the Boston area, Madrigal grew up a diehard Red Sox fan and set her sights on a career in baseball while in high school. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a degree in sports management and first joined the Pirates' Bradenton operations as an intern in 2006, becoming a full-time employee in 2007.

Madrigal is currently the only female general manager in the Florida State League (there have been other women before her), but it's not something she dwells on. “I don't see it as female versus male at all,” she says. “I'm just happy to be in the position period. I'm happy that, as a person who's worked for the Pirates for nine years, our executives had enough faith in me to put me in this type of leadership role.”

They have so much faith in her that she's also director of sales for both the Marauders and the Pirates' spring training games, an area she's been involved in since 2010.

The Pirates have held spring training in Bradenton since 1969. A $10 million renovation of the stadium at McKechnie Field before the 2013 spring training season helped solidify that relationship, adding amenities such as a new outfield boardwalk and increasing capacity from 6,500 to 8,500. The Pirates achieved their highest single-game spring training attendance ever March 18, with an above-capacity crowd of 9,018, and welcomed some 106,000 fans for the 2015 spring training season.

Madrigal describes attendance at Marauders games this season and the previous two as “steady,” now that the team has had time to grow and develop a fan base since it first came to Bradenton in 2010. Last year the team averaged a little more than 1,600 people per game, which put it sixth among the Florida State League's 12 teams.

One way Madrigal plans to increase attendance is through the team's employees. She encourages enthusiastic participation in theme nights and other endeavors among management and game-day staff, with the hopes that it will trickle down to fans. Says Madrigal: “I want to create a positive environment that people want to be involved with, and it starts with our staff.”

She'll also continue developing successful promotions to help draw people in, like the new Sunday Splash Days with an inflatable waterslide for kids and “splash zone” seating and the team's annual ketchup vs. mustard night.

“I like being responsible for something that makes people happy,” says Madrigal. “So many people spend so many hours at work on the serious responsibilities of their lives. Baseball can be a nice way for them to take a break from reality and just enjoy some fun.”


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