Ex-Toronto star José Bautista new owner of USL's Las Vegas Lights

Former Toronto Blue Jays third baseman José Bautista is the new principal owner of the USL Championship franchise Las Vegas Lights FC, the club announced on Tuesday.

"Las Vegas is the place to be and has emerged as a big professional sports town, and I will do everything I can to push this club forward," Bautista said in a statement.

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"As a soccer fan and former professional athlete, I am excited to be involved with the world's game. Since my retirement from professional baseball, I have witnessed the incredible growth of soccer in the United States, and I look forward to sharing my love of sports with the Las Vegas soccer community."

Bautista was a six-time All-Star and with a .247 career batting average with 344 home runs, 975 RBIs and 1,022 runs. He played 15 seasons and donned the jersey of eight franchises along the way, but it was his 2015 playoff go-ahead home run -- and the bat flip that followed -- that cemented him in Blue Jays history.

The tiebreaking three-run home run in the seventh inning of a deciding Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers was capped by a memorable flip of the bat before he started rounding the bases in front of a raucous Toronto crowd.

"I kind of blacked out after the swing, hearing the roar of the crowd and the emotion of the moment," Bautista told ESPN in 2021. "I don't really recall anything in particular until I was catching my breath back at the bench."

Las Vegas Lights FC have played in USL Championship since 2018. The team plays its home games at Cashman Field and the 2024 season begins in March.

According to the club's news release, Bautista was an early equity partner for Marucci Sports, a baseball equipment startup that was sold to Compass Diversified Holdings in 2020.

Bautista represented the Dominican Republic at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. His leadership helped the D.R. team earn a bronze medal, punctuated by a walk-off hit and his signature bat flip that sealed the win over Israel to secure the team's place in the semifinals.