Retiring League President Jon Clifford leaves Southeast Valley Baseball better than he found it
Jon Clifford stands before a large crowd at closing ceremonies. (Sarah Nelson/Southeast Valley Baseball)
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Jon Clifford, who has been league president of Southeast Valley Baseball for the past four years, a member of their board for five and a baseball fan all his life, will be stepping down after this season wraps up, early in the summer.
The league, which has seen a lot of growth, both in youth involvement and in terms of community outreach under Clifford’s leadership, has become the third largest in the state of Utah. According to Clifford, growth is a legacy he hopes will last a long time.
“I just love getting kids to play baseball — the more that we can get out here the better,” Clifford said.
In a time when baseball’s popularity is dwindling, Clifford has convinced many kids that baseball is a great sport to play just by getting them out to the field for a couple of hours.
“I tell them to give us two hours, two hours is all. It gives us a chance to influence the kids and show them just how fun baseball is,” Clifford said.
Clifford started in the league many years ago as a volunteer coach while his oldest son was in the minor division of the league. Eventually his leadership abilities and love for baseball led to him joining the board of directors with Bo Jensen, who ended up as treasurer alongside Clifford as president. Together, along with the necessary administrative tasks and organization, they have focused on some of the more fun aspects of the game to keep youngsters excited and playing. During their time as officers for the league, they have added home run derby double elimination tournaments and celebrity guests for opening ceremonies. They have also held coaching clinics and team mom meetings to get everyone on the same page and to keep the league’s quality and the level of fun high.
Clifford himself said he will miss the relationships he has developed over the years the most. He has watched his kids as well as countless others grow up through the league. And, many of those who had interactions with Clifford will also miss the compassionate guy who used baseball as a tool to teach people about life.
“Those boys owe some of their personal success to playing in a first-class youth league,” Clifford’s friend and former assistant coach Brett Pearce said.
Southeast Valley Baseball is in its 17th season. And its current trajectory is a positive one. There have been more kids in the league every year since Clifford took over as the league’s president. According to Jensen, the league was losing popularity and lacking in enthusiasm a few years back, but the dedication Clifford has shown and instilled in others not only kept the league afloat, but has it swelling with eager young ball players as well as their younger sibling waiting their turn.
“With Jon’s leadership, we have had positive growth for four straight years,” Jensen said.
Clifford has stayed busy while heading the league. In addition to all of the improvements, both major and minor, Clifford will likely not get credit for every small effort he made to ensure that people were getting a top-notch experience, like answering every email personally and taking league-related phone calls while coaching third base during a game. According to Clifford’s longtime friend and league compatriot, Brad Dalrymple, Clifford was very dedicated to giving kids a great time — anything to keep them coming back and having a good time.
“Jon was committed to providing a positive experience for every player in the league,” Dalrymple said.
Pearce added, “She or he who succeeds Jon will have big shoes to fill.”