Daytona Tortugas owner Rick French is a film producer, rock & roll lover
You would be hard pressed to find an owner who wears more hats than Rick French.
The longtime Daytona Tortugas co-owner grew up in Detroit, is passionate about storytelling, and even serves on the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
French, who bought the team, along with co-owners Bob Fregolle and Reese Smith in 2015, lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
He spoke to the News-Journal this week about how he got into minor league baseball, his passion for production, and his favorite memory of Tortugas.
Owner of Tortugas and … film producer?
NEW JERSEY: So, let’s start with the obvious … other than owning the Tortugas, what else do you do?
FR : I could answer this in four different ways … it depends on the day you ask me. I am the president and CEO of a public relations and advertising agency, which is my daily job. But I am also a film producer. I have a film production company (PRIX Productions) that has an office here (Raleigh) and in Hollywood.
NEW JERSEY: Wait, are you producing movies? Something coming out that we should be looking for?
FR : The one that is probably the most relevant to the Daytona market is a story you probably know. Do you remember the boat crash in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009 with two NFL players who were lost at sea and a former University of South Florida football player by the name of Will Bleakly? ?
Well there was a survivor plucked from the sea, Nick schuyler, and I’ve worked with Nick since the accident and I’m doing two different films around this tragedy.
NEW JERSEY: How the hell did you get into the world of film production?
FR : When you’re in public relations and advertising, it’s a form of shorthand storytelling. I just thought of cinema and television as long movies, so I started developing and working on projects several years ago. We also have another major film, The True Don Quixote, hitting theaters this fall.
Do you remember the waves in Wilmington?
NEW JERSEY: So how does a producer in Raleigh co-own a minor league team in Daytona?
FR : In fact, I once co-owned another minor league team 20 years ago here in North Carolina – the Wilmington Waves, a subsidiary of the Dodgers. So I had experienced it before and then a consultant offered me the opportunity in Daytona Beach and I loved the community, the history of baseball in Daytona, and I thought if I would implied, I might add value to it.
It really started with Reese … the same consultant introduced Reese, Bob and me. Reese started the process with Bob and I joined him a month or two later.
NEW JERSEY: Why, however? In 2015, it had been almost two decades since you played in minor league baseball.
FR : I just felt like if I was going to get involved in minor league baseball again, I had to check out all the criteria – a city I wanted to hang out in, a community I had the feeling of. felt like I really understood baseball and had a passion for it, and I wanted something with history – and that’s Daytona Beach.
NEW JERSEY: Had you been in the area before owning the team?
RF: Yep, spring break … I fondly remember those trips.
NEW JERSEY: You know, people usually don’t remember those trips …
RF: That is a very fair point! But no, I remember it!
Bob Ross night, Jackie Robinson opening day and minor league contraction
NEW JERSEY: Finally, the team has had a lot of good times over the years …
FR : Man. It’s difficult. I could highlight some of the playoff moments, but I would also say that some of our promotional stuff, Bob Ross Night or Big Lebowski Night, those things really jump out at me.
But if I put it all aside, I think the most emotional moment was on opening day this year. Just because of the fight we had to take to save baseball, and you realize you can’t take it for granted. Being able to reopen the stadium this year … it all felt really, really special to me.