Vegas, Bautista Style

Reaching José Bautista in his new home away from home in Las Vegas before the Super Bowl, the right fielding former slugger for the Toronto Blue Jays—the Bat Flip King that Got the Jays Back into the World Series in 2015—is feeling the love. Las Vegas’s newest sports owner, Bautista purchased the United Soccer League’s Light FC at the start of the year, and knows both soccer and Vegas are hot. 

“It’s definitely an exciting time in an exciting place to be relaunching a soccer team,” Bautista told KIND just before watching the Chiefs wrest victory from the 49ers before Taylor Swift and the largest audience in television history. Before the game, José told me his phone hadn’t stopped ringing with friends asking for seats. “I’ll take care of my people, but I’ve only been an owner for four weeks,” Bautista told me. “My superpower was limited to the field.” Jose said he has a lot of work to do in Las Vegas, and though he enjoys the supper clubs and lounges, he’s in Las Vegas to work. “I just want to roll up my sleeves and build something awesome,” he said. “I want to capitalise on all the attention and build something lasting for fans.”  

The Super Bowl was just the tip of the spear of sports mania shaping Las Vegas. Now that sports betting is mainstream and the Las Vegas Knights won the Cup; now that the Raiders, who moved to Vegas in 20TK, are decent and the As are heading to town from Oakland, Sin City feels like the sports capital of the world. José Bautista told us what he plans to add to the mix.   

KIND: Seems like both Vegas and soccer are having a moment. 

José Bautista: Huge growth, absolutely, with both things. 

KIND: Are you a big soccer guy? 

JB: I never played organised but as a sports fan, like everyone, I got excited by the World Cup and then there’s certain athletes—like Messi, if you don’t know him you’ve been living under a rock. 

KIND: Did you talk to Messi or Beckham before getting into the market? 

JB: They’re not on my speed dial, but they’re my colleagues. Obviously they’ve been successful and are great competitors. They’ve been great for the game and, you know, I want to do the same thing. 

KIND: What’s the feeling currently in Las Vegas? 

JB: Crazy, absolutely crazy. Everyone’s calling me for Super Bowl tickets but I let them know what I can and can’t do. 

KIND: Can you get a ticket? 

JB: I’m going, sure. 

KIND: If I flew out right now, could you get me in? 

JB: Just because you own a team here doesn’t mean they give you a stack of tickets. The truth is I’m rolling up my sleeves working. Owning a team is a lot of work.

KIND: Is it easier hitting home runs? 

JB:  We’ll see. I’ve only been an owner for four weeks. 

KIND: You’re now the Chairman of the club, and the team’s primary investor. What did you like about this deal? 

JB: Sports are a passion of mine and I’ve been getting a feel for the marketplace, looking at what’s happening with the other clubs and other owners, and Vegas, you know, clearly is becoming one of the world’s best destinations for sports. It’s still really early days, but so far I like what I see.  

KIND: What started as a trickle with the Knights now feels like a full-on sports tidal wave. The Super Bowl is one thing, but so are those ubiquitous Jamie Foxx and Wayne gretzky ads for the gambling app for MGM. 

JB: Las Vegas has always been a great sports town. From the classic boxing fights to what you’re seeing today with the Super Bowl and all the excitement around the Las Vegas Knights. They’re a great club and it’s no mystery. It’s fun in Las Vegas and there’s so much tourism. People come from all over to Las Vegas and I just want to give them something else on their list to see. 

KIND: This is our travel issue and now you’re Mr. Las Vegas. Where would you send KIND readers to go? 

JB: I’m not a big partier. Going out now for me is about socialising or meeting people. For me going out is an opportunity to learn. 

KIND: Going out is an opportunity to learn? I’ve never heard that sentence before. 

JB: I used to party more but I’m a team owner. I have to get up in the morning and work. 

KIND: You’re hosting a reunion of Kevin Pillar, Marcus Stroman and Edwin Encarnación. Where do you take the guys out on the town? 

JB: ​​Barry Downtown Prime is a great place to eat. I’ve had a lot of good times there, great food. I like Encore Las Vegas, lots of athletes stay there, it’s comfortable and I used to like the Rao’s pop up in Caesars Palace, before that closed. 

KIND: I thought you didn’t party. 

JB: It’s Vegas. We’re never going to be Disney World.

KIND: Give me a few more recommendations. Where should the super fanatics go who got your bat flip tattooed? 

JB: T-Mobile Arena. It’s a great environment to watch the Las Vegas Knights and there’s really all kinds of stuff. I like the Delilah Lounge at the Wynn, and just the iconicness of the skyline and the MGM Grand. 

KIND: Makes me want to catch a flight. 

JB: I just want to field a winning team. At this point, I’m not spending money on any of those things. I want to invest in the team and put a winning team on the field. 

KIND: And if your guys win the Cup? Are you going to let them flip their shirt? 

JB: If it’s a game winner—they can flip anything that they want. 

Tickets to the Las Vegas Lights, who began their season in March, are currently onsale at