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Brown making career strides through sports
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Photo: Gary Krambeck
Stefanie Brown, general manager of the Quad Cities River Bandits (shown here at Modern Woodmen Park), is the first female G.M. in the franchise's history.

DAVENPORT -- Reflecting upon four years of assisting in the leadership of the Quad Cities River Bandits front office team, Stefanie Brown can think of nothing to identify as a regret in her career so far -- nothing notable that she would do differently.

"I'm actually pretty happy," Ms. Brown said, after a pause to consider the question. "Every decision I've made in my career, I've thought out, and it was to better my career."

Ms. Brown, 28, joined the Bandits as director of community and client relations in November 2007 when she was 24 years old. In her first season with the Single-A, Minor League Baseball team, Ms. Brown was named the Midwest League Co-Woman Executive of the Year. One season later, the Bandits promoted her to assistant general manager, and she took the league's Woman Executive of the Year honor outright.

At the end of the 2011 season, Ms. Brown was promoted to be the River Bandits' general manager, the first female GM in QC's franchise history.

"To come in and make a name for myself right away – because everyone in the league has to vote on it – that was kind of cool," Ms. Brown said of the awards. "It meant a lot. At the time, I guess I felt I appreciated that the hard work we were doing went recognized in the league."

Beyond the accolades and league recognition, Ms. Brown found herself serving as a key contributor on a staff that was rebuilding a franchise struggling to draw spectators. Under the ownership of Mainstreet Baseball's Dave Heller and Bob Herrfeldt, and under the leadership of Ms. Brown and then-general manager Kirk Goodman, the Bandits increased overall attendance by 59 percent in their first two seasons.

This was the nascence of the professional life Ms. Brown dreamed of when she graduated from high school in Conneaut, Ohio. There, she played prep softball and basketball and whet her sports management appetite with mentorships and job shadows with the Erie (Pa.) SeaWolves Minor League Baseball club a half hour from home.

That sports thirst has led her across the country. With her dream of becoming a professional baseball general manager in mind, she left home for St. Augustine, Fla., to become a sports management major at Flagler College. After graduation, she landed in State College, Pa., with the Spikes baseball team, and then joined the Suns baseball staff in Jacksonville, Fla., where she directed community relations.

That's when the Bandits found her.

"She has an incredible sense of our business and understands how the pieces fit together," Mr. Goodman said. "She's a great leader, and she's one of the best, top females in our entire industry, and we are lucky to have her as part of the team."

Ms. Brown said being a female executive in a men's sports world has come with some challenges over seven years. In dealing with the sometimes bravado nature of future Major League ballplayers, Ms. Brown has relied on a strong personality and admittedly sarcastic wit to solidify her stance.

"As I've gone on in the field, there are definitely more women, but – I might be rude in saying – there are good women working in sports, but there are also the catty women working in sports. You have to prove that you're here to work hard and grow up in the ranks. There's definitely a challenge. … You definitely have to have a strong personality to be able to take the 'locker-room talk.'"

In the 16-team Midwest League, Ms. Brown is one of six high-ranking, female executives (assistant GM or higher).

She never has lost sight of the Bandits' business model. Until her promotion, she had been mainly in charge of forging and maintaining relationships with corporate suite holders and overseeing a staff of interns, as well as being involved in idea sharing and merchandising. Like the rest of upper management, pulling rank doesn't fit the model, even when it falls into Minor League Baseball's unglamorous stereotype.

"When people see us taking out trash or cleaning bathrooms, people sometimes say, 'Don't you have someone to do that?'" Ms. Brown said. "It's hard to hear those questions. No job is not your job. That's something Kirk and I have tried to instill. You'll never see us tell an intern to pick up trash if we're not doing it with them."

Mr. Goodman said he has enjoyed watching Ms. Brown grow into her position, managing to juggle the many tasks of an executive, while also taking on other endeavors such as organizing special events and overseeing the 2011 All-Star Game.

"It's been fun having her with us from the beginning," Mr. Goodman said. "I've gotten to see her grow and take on more responsibility and watch her run with it. She excels at whatever she touches."

Chasing the dream

Who: Stefanie Brown, general manager of the Quad Cities River Bandits

Quote: "There are good women working in sports, but there are also the catty women working in sports. You have to prove that you're here to work hard and grow up in the ranks."

Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Oct. 20, the 293rd day of 2014. There are 72 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The store of Devoe and Crampton was entered and robbed of about $500 worth of gold pens and pocket cutlery last night.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Michael Malloy was named president of the Tri-City Stone Cutters Union.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dewitte C. Poole, former Moline newspaperman serving as vice consul general for the United States government in Paris, declared in a letter to friends that the once gay Paris is a city of sadness and desolation.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans for the construction of an $80,000 wholesale bakery at 2011 4th Ave. were announced by Harry and Nick Coin, of Rock Island. It is to be known as the Banquet Bakery.
1964 -- 50 years ago: An application has been filed for a state permit to organize a savings and loan association in Moline, it was announced. The applicants are Ben Butterworth, A.B. Lundahl, C. Richard Evans, John Harris, George Crampton and William Getz, all of Moline, Charles Roberts, Rock Island, and Charles Johnson, of Hampton.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Indian summer is quickly disappearing as temperatures slide into the 40s and 50s this week. Last week, highs were in the 80s.

(More History)