For the Love of the Game 1

Jon Clifford retires as volunteer president of SVBA

Baseball is Jon Clifford’s passion. In June, he hung up his Southeast Valley Baseball Association (SVBA) President’s cap after four years volunteering to lead the league. But he’s only retiring from the job of president, not getting away from the game completely, because that little white ball with red stitching and the game that goes with it are his favorite pastime.

Clifford was raised in Downey, CA, near Los Angeles. “I was a Dodger fan when I was super young and they went to the World Series,” he said. Though neither of his parents were interested in sports, Clifford was “attracted to anything with a ball” at an early age. He began watching baseball on TV, collecting the cards, and playing little league. “It has always been my favorite sport,” he said. Because of young Clifford’s interest in baseball, his dad learned the sport. “He wanted to be a part of my life, so he watched, learned and became a coach,” Clifford said.

Clifford played little league and rec-league his elementary through high school years. He met his wife, Cielo, playing softball in college at Cal State University Fullerton. Their boys, Jake and Preston, both play and that led Clifford to finding SVBA.

Clifford came to Utah 11 years ago for a job with the Salt Lake Tribune after having worked for the Palm Beach Post, the Los Angeles Daily News and the New York Daily News. Always in newspaper sports departments, Clifford has been a part of journalism teams recognized with awards from the Associated Press.

He left the Tribune because the work hours made it impossible for him to share his favorite sport with his own sons. “I left a job partly because I wanted to be a dad who could coach his kids in sports. I changed careers because that is so important to me. So many of my best memories were of being coached by my dad. I wanted to do that for my kids,” he said. Clifford does some freelance writing, but his primary focus is his growing sports photography business.

Clifford has visited nearly every Major League Baseball stadium, having been to 37 with three in existence now that he hopes to get to. In 2015, he helped coach a local team that played in California against the team that eventually won the little league world series that year in the 13U bracket.

On a whirlwind trip, he attended last year’s Chicago Cubs World Series victory parade along with his family and local friends who are avid Cubs fans. “They said it was the seventh largest gathering in human history with something like five million people there,” Clifford said.

Come spring, you’ll likely see Jon coaching his sons’ teams, taking team photos for his All-Star Photography Utah business, or subbing for a player on a local softball team. “Part of what I’ll miss the most is being out there, meeting people, seeing friends and watching kids play baseball. By no means will I sever ties. I love the sport,” Clifford said.