Throughout the 2017 season, the Daytona Tortugas (High A; Florida State League) have received solid fan support. While the franchise has traditionally welcomed fans in steady numbers, it has had an exceptional 2017, thanks in part to an emphasis on community outreach and a unique mix of promotions.
Following the 2014 season, the Daytona Cubs—traditionally a team that received solid support from its fans—needed a new identity after the Cincinnati Reds took over as their parent club. The end result was the Tortugas, a branding that was praised upon its arrival—it won Ballpark Digest’s Best New Logo/Branding award for 2015—but that still had room to grow locally.
Last fall, Ryan Keur was named the Tortugas president, joining the club from the Burlington Royals (Rookie; Appalachian League). One of the main objectives for him and the front office was to make the Tortugas a more visible presence in the community on a year-round basis.
“It was just getting involved with the community,” Keur said. “Seeing that the Tortugas are the only team in Volusia County, we focused on engaging ourselves in the school system. We needed to have a strong affinity with the youth here, and build a stronger fan base from the ground up.”
That, combined with an emphasis on promotional materials that included the Tortugas’ logos and colors, helped build awareness heading into 2017. “That’s something I’ve been really proud of this year,” said Keur. “We’ve really pushed the Tortugas, and have boosted the Tortugas as a community stalwart here in Volusia County.”
During the season, the Tortugas have announced one attention-worthy promotion after another. The Tortugas play at Radiology Associates Field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, named as such because Daytona became the first Florida city to allow Jackie Robinson to participate in an integrated spring training game on March 17, 1946. The Tortugas honored that moment this year by having every player wear the number nine—the number Robinson wore in that spring training game—for their contest on April 15, Jackie Robinson Day.
“That Jackie Robinson night was one of the most memorable nights here at the ballpark,” Keur said. “It marked all of the things that make baseball history in Daytona unique.”
On July 15, the Tortugas featured a tribute to Bob Ross—the late host of The Joy of Painting who was born in Daytona Beach and lived in Volusia County for much of his life—that included a bobblehead giveaway, Happy Little Fun Run, and other offerings. The Tortugas later paid tribute to the late sportscaster Craig Sager by hosting SagerStrong Night on July 21, with Sager’s family on hand for a night that included specialty jerseys that were auctioned off to benefit the SagerStrong Foundation.
Those promotions helped the Tortugas not just locally, but in receiving national attention as well. “We started Bob Ross night, which was amazing in terms of national recognition and helped put the Tortugas on the map,” Keur said “and continued with the Craig Sager night. In a span of about two weeks, we were getting national coverage from places like ESPN.”
Thus far, the Tortugas have had two games in which their attendance was over capacity and have had roughly 10-near sell outs. They have also ranked among the Florida State League’s top teams in terms of attendance, and are currently averaging over 2,000 fans per-game going into their final homestand.
Leading up to next season, Keur expects the club to pursue some different opportunities on the ticket sales side. “As we head into 2018, we’re starting to finalize our ticket package, and I think we’ll be adapting to the trend of some different membership opportunities that have been seen around major league and minor league baseball,” he said. “But this was a great year for us to build upon, and I think 2018 will be a great year for us to go out and execute from a sales side.”
He also believes that the emphasis on community outreach will benefit the club going forward. “This was a really exciting foundation year for the Tortugas, in terms of taking a big step in reaching out in the community. I think the Tortugas are in a position to really elevate ourselves next year, and continue that success for years to come.”
This article first appeared in the weekly Ballpark Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? It’s free, and you’ll see features like this before they appear on the Web. Go here to subscribe to the Ballpark Digest newsletter.