Daytona Beach, FL – The last time there were questions about which Major League Baseball franchise would affiliate with Daytona Beach’s Single-A baseball club, it led to a whole new identity for the team which plays at Historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
That won’t be the case this time around.
The Daytona Tortugas and Cincinnati Reds agree to a two-year player development contract extension, keeping the National League team as the parent club for the Florida State League squad until 2020.
Tortugas President Ryan Keur expects the next such contract to be a four-year deal with the Reds, which was the case with the contract expiring at the end of this season.
“Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball are actually currently working on a collective bargaining agreement because the current one expires in 2020,” Keur added. “You’re seeing in this go-around a lot of teams signing the two-year agreements through 2020.”
That’s in large part because player salaries after 2020 will be determined through that collective bargaining process.
The Tortugas’ affiliation with the Reds started after the 2014 season when the Chicago Cubs – an NL Central division rival of the Reds – opted to move its Single-A players to South Carolina, becoming the parent club of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
That temporarily left Daytona’s baseball club with no MLB sponsor and no nickname. The gap for the former was filled quickly enough by the Reds, but the latter was a trickier issue since the Cubs could no longer be used.
By the time 2015 came around, ownership had settled on the Tortugas, and Reds Vice President/General Manager Nick Krall says it’s been a good fit for both sides ever since.
“Playing in Historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona is a wonderful backdrop in which to develop players, made special by the passionate and knowledgeable fans who support the team,” Krall stated.
Tortugas co-owner Bob Fregolle – who is from Cincinnati – says the Reds have a “family and community-oriented organization” which complements what he and co-owners Reese Smith and Rick French want to do long-term in the community.
“They have a strong farm system, have proven they take winning seriously and are committed to putting a quality product on the field that compliments what we’re doing to further engage and excite our fan base,” Fregolle noted.
Game attendance averaged over 2,000 for the second straight year. Daytona’s 2,046 was second in 2018 only to the 2,672 posted by the Clearwater Threshers despite having 10 home games rained out.
Keur thinks that’s a strong indicator that the community has embraced the Tortugas name after some initial concerns that it might not.
“Heading into 2018, all I continue to hear about is how much great stuff the Tortugas are doing in the community,” Keur said. “[We] continue to see a lot of Tortugas gear in the stands and I think that’s what is really exciting for us. It seems like this community has responded really, really well to the Tortugas.”
The Tortugas have reached the Florida State League playoffs twice under the Reds, losing in the 2015 finals – their inaugural season – to the Charlotte Stone Crabs in four games and this year to the Fort Myers Miracle, also in four games.