The development of professional baseball in Daytona Beach dates back to 1920, when City Island Ballpark hosted its first professional baseball team, a member of the newly formed Class D Florida State League. In 1936, after an eight year hiatus, the Florida State League returned. And so did baseball to Daytona Beach, as the St. Louis Cardinals placed their farm club here and named them the Daytona Beach Islanders.
The Islanders enjoyed six seasons in Daytona Beach before World War II brought a suspension of play. The team then chose to affiliate with the Brooklyn Dodgers when games resumed in 1947. The relationship lasted just one year, as the Islanders decided to operate independently for the next three seasons. In 1950, the City of Daytona Beach signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians. Under Hall-of-Famer Charles “Red” Ruffing’s managing, the team finished second in the league.
During the following decade, the Islanders switched their affiliation back and forth with the Indians, the Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox, the Kansas City Athletics, and the Detroit Tigers. In 1964, the franchise set a record when seven different men managed the club. Despite the high frequency of transferring parent organizations, the name of the team remained the same for 32 years. It wasn’t changed until the Dodgers, which had moved to L.A, came back in 1968. The Daytona Beach Dodgers stayed until 1973, much longer than the previous time. From 1970 to 1972, the Daytona Beach Dodgers were managed by Stan Wasiak, who went on to win more games than any other manager in minor league history.
After three dark years, the diamond shined again in 1977 when the Kansas City Royals put their Class A farm club in City Island Ballpark. Though the Royals pulled their team out the next year, the Houston Astros replaced them. They had a Florida State League affiliation here through 1984. When the Astros left in 1985, Daytona Beach remained in the Florida State League with a co-operative team made up of players from the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers organizations. On the roster was Kenny Rogers, who pitched a perfect game in the majors.
The co-op team was bought by the Rangers and moved away in 1987. With the birth of a new team, Daytona Beach still stayed in the Florida State League. The Chicago White Sox built a farm club named the Daytona Beach Admirals here. However, the team moved to Sarasota the next year. Pro baseball was deleted from the local recreation list for the following five years. It was during this time that the stadium changed names to honor Jackie Robinson, who played in the first ever integrated baseball game in the State of Florida in 1946 at the ballpark.
There was no minor league team until the Chicago Cubs arrived in 1993. The team established their Advanced Class ‘A’ affiliation with the Daytona Cubs. After the hurricanes of 2004 the ballpark received a new “riverwalk” area for fans to enjoy before and during all games. It also was upgraded with a manual-operated scoreboard and new batting cages. In 2007 the Cubs hosted the Florida State League All-Star Game for the first time since 1983. The Cubs also added a new feature, "The Budweiser Bullpen," to the park in June of 2007.
2015 marked a new era for baseball in Daytona Beach. After serving as the Chicago Cubs Advanced-A farm team for 22 years, the Cubs moved from Daytona Beach to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Cincinnati Reds saw the opening and quickly jumped on the opportunity to move their Class-A Advanced club to play at historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark. So with the new affiliation came a new identity. The Daytona organization acted swiftly and found great success in re-branding to the Daytona Tortugas, being named the Best New Logo/Branding for 2015 by Ballpark Digest.
But that wasn't the only change; the Tortugas also had new ownership. Tortugas Baseball Club, LLC, headed by Reese Smith III, took over the organization at the beginning of the 2015 campaign. Smith III also owns the Jackson Generals, the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. The success leading up to the season translated well to the diamond. Players Alex Blandino, Phillip Ervin, Joe Hudson and Nick Travieso were all voted to the FSL All-Star game, while first-year manager Eli Marrero and his staff was at the helm for the Northern Division squad. The Tortugas earned the Northern Division Title after sweeping their Northern Division foes, the Clearwater Threshers, to earn a trip to the FSL Championship Series. However, Daytona was unable to win the series, losing in a dramatic 13-inning contest to the Charlotte Stone Crabs to close out the series in four games.
The Tortugas are excited for the 2017 season and look forward to building on the past two season's success, while continuing to improve on and off the field.
Daytona Beach, FL 32114