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Success is sweet in the desert
Investing in the Diamondbacks was a good move for Jeffrey Royer, Bob Elliott writes
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

Arizona Diamondbacks' Luis Gonzalez celebrates the Diamondbacks' 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series Sunday, Nov. 4, 2001, at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. (AP File Photo/David J. Phillip)

You never know what strange pre-game sights you'll see on the SkyDome field on a Sunday morning.

There was a part-owner of the Major League Baseball team on the field, sporting a diamond-studded World Series ring.

He lives in Toronto and had his son's Little League team, the Sunnybrook Sluggers, on the field for a few pre-game autographs with Robbie Alomar and Luis Gonzalez.

And get this -- he made his money in cable TV.

Had Blue Jays owner Ted Rogers found a new partner?

Not quite. The man with the World Series ring is Jeffrey Royer, who lives in Toronto.

Royer became involved in ownership with the Phoenix Suns of the NBA in 1989 and with the Arizona Diamondbacks when they were granted an expansion franchise and took the field in 1998. He sits on the board of Shaw Communications.

"I was good friends with Mel Shultz (an Arizona deal-maker) and he asked whether I wanted to be involved," Royer said, seated in the Diamondbacks dugout.

Royer wants one thing made clear: He is not looking for any publicity.

"(President) Jerry Colangelo runs the teams and does a good job at it. He is the boss," Royer said.

Royer was there that Sunday night, Nov. 4, 2001, when the Diamondbacks pulled off an improbable upset, beating the New York Yankees in Game 7.

Alfonso Soriano homered to lead off the eighth against Curt Schilling to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. The Diamondbacks could manage only a single off Mariano Rivera in the eighth.

"My seats at Bank One Ballpark are behind home plate, near the wives room, which we have underneath stands," Royer said. "After the Yankees took the lead, a lot of the wives were crying."

And then the ninth began. While we were there, we don't remember what Royer remembered.

"A light rain started and while the stadium has a retractable roof, the team decides whether it will be open or closed before the game starts," Royer said. "We had it open, but once the game begins it is up to the umpires whether to close it. Rain at that time of the year is rare."

Mark Grace led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and Damian Miller, who was bunting, reached on a Rivera error. What if it had not rained and the ball wasn't wet? Would Rivera have thrown a strike to second?

Jay Bell failed to bunt successfully, with the Yanks erasing the lead runner at third. Tony Womack doubled to right and the game was tied.

After a hit batter, Luis Gonzalez lofted a single over short to score the winner and the Diamondbacks dugout, the wives room, all of Bank One, the city of Phoenix and all of the desert state started to party.

Software magnates Ken Kendrick, Dale Jensen and Mike Chipman, all of the Phoenix area, along with Royer, joined Colangelo in a restructured ownership group in March.

Two years ago, the four investors committed $160 million US over the next 10 years in exchange for a larger share of ownership, according to the Associated Press. Under the new structure, approved by the rest of the team's owners, the four will commit to even more financial support, raising $99 million over the next 10 years.

"We're doing well, we're one of the top three or four teams in revenue, in attendance and non-ticket revenue," Royer said.

But back to basics, what position does his son, David, play for the Sunnybrook Sluggers?

"David likes third base the best," Royer said, "but basically he plays everything."