The presence of Tim Tebow was of tremendous benefit to Minor League Baseball. His name alone drew hundreds of thousands of fans to parks up and down the East Coast, and drove millions of dollars into box offices.
The Florida State League in particular was grateful for the Summer of Tebow. The league saw a nearly 10 percent increase in attendance from 2016 to 2017, and four clubs (Charlotte, Fort Myers, Florida and Tampa) set single season-highs in attendance on days St. Lucie and Tebow came to their park.
But not every club was fortunate enough to have the former NFL quarterback and Heisman winner come to their park. The Daytona Tortugas were among that group, yet you wouldn't know it by looking at their attendance.
The Tortugas drew 21.7 percent more fans in 2017 than they did in 2016 (136,224 fans compared to 112,053) without the Tebow show making its way to Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
So what was behind their uptick at the turnstiles?
One of the biggest reasons was Ryan Keur, the superstar team president they added in the offseason. The three-time Appalachian League executive of the year award winner with the Burlington Royals brought fresh ideas and an aggressive attitude to the Tortugas' front office, and set the minor leagues ablaze with some of the most viral promotions of the summer.
For that, Keur is Baseball America's Minor League Executive of the Year.
Lee Landers, the president of the Appalachian League, knew Keur throughout the entirety of his tenure with Burlington, and could tell very quickly that he had the potential to become one of the industry's rising stars.
"I saw a man who was very dedicated. He was a fast learner who got along with people," Landers said. "The biggest quality he had was that he was a people person. At first, like everybody, he might have been overwhelmed but it didn't take him long to catch on and you could see that he was really going to go places in our industry."
One of the hallmarks of the season for the Tortugas was their tribute to painter Bob Ross, whose instructional television show has gained somewhat of a cult following in recent years.
To honor the late Ross, the Tortugas held a painting class before a game and handed out bobbleheads in his honor. The night was a hit, of course, and it was just a sampling of the tremendous performance Keur put on in his first year with Daytona.
"From the moment I got down here, it was really about engraving ourself within the community. I think we had some really innovative promotions that gained attention and steam throughout the year," Keur said. "We looked at the calendar and said 'We've got to give people a reason to come to the ballpark all 70 nights. It's not just a Saturday fireworks night, but 70 nights of the year. We've got to give people a reason to come to the ballpark.
"And I think that was one of our biggest successes this year, just how consistent we were. From a Sunday to a Tuesday to a Saturday, we were really consistent in the way that we were attracting fans. We didn't throw up a ton of duds where it was a just a really sparse crowd. The energy and atmosphere was there every single night, which was really exciting and a testament to our staff and how we approached it this year."
The team had a few more hits in 2017 too, including an evening honoring iconic NBA broadcaster Craig Sager, who died earlier this year. The night featured an appearance from Vince Carter—a former all-star and one of Sager's closest friends in the game—as well as jerseys styled around Sager's uniquely wild fashion sense.
It was just Keur's first year in Daytona, and he's already helped raise their stock. With Keur at the helm, things could be looking rosy there for a long time.