Veteran sports operator Reese Smith III has purchased the Daytona Tortugas (High Class A; Florida State League) from Andy Rayburn, in what would appear to be a seamless transition, with baseball staying at historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
Last night the lease for Jackie Robinson Ballpark was transferred from Rayburn’s LLC to Smith’s new LLC, Tortugas Baseball Club. It was unanimous, and in the course of things Smith said he envisioned no changes to the team’s operations. GM Josh Lawther will remain in place, and the team will stay put through December 2022, when the current lease expires. Bob Fregolle is also part of the new ownership group. From the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“It will be seamless. It’s gonna change nothing,” said Smith, a second-generation home builder in Nashville who also owns the Jackson (Tennessee) Generals of the Southern League. “Andy has done a great job. We don’t see any changes except for the better. Anybody who buys a new business, they have their own creative juices they’ve used at other places that have worked.
“This does nothing but enhance the future of minor-league baseball in Daytona,” he added.
It’s a return of sort for Smith: he was an owner of the franchise in the mid-1980s when it was known as the Daytona Beach Admirals. He’s also owned stakes in the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), the Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League) and the Greensboro Hornets (Low Class A; Sally League). Today he’s the owner of the Jackson Generals (Class AA; Southern League).
Daytona has always been an anomaly of sorts in the Florida State League. Most of the teams in that circuit are owned by their MLB parents — Dunedin, Tampa, Clearwater, Lakeland, Bradenton, Charlotte, Jupiter, Palm Beach, St. Lucie — and sometimes it seems like the MiLB side of things is an afterthought once spring training ends. Daytona, Brevard County and Fort Myers need to survive as independently owned entities, so they tend to work a little harder, as Rayburn and his staff have done.