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The City Journals

Longtime SSL parks and rec employee goes above, beyond call of duty

Apr 03, 2017 09:24AM ● By Brian Shaw

South Salt Lake Parks and Recreation employee Tony Fabela. (Myrna Clark/South Salt Lake

By Brian Shaw  | [email protected]

Effective. Precise. Positive. Those are words that fellow South Salt Lake Parks and Recreation employees use to describe Tony Fabela, the department's longtime sport specialist.

“Tony Fabela is an employee that goes above and beyond his daily responsibilities, coordinating all of our youth and adult sport leagues are jobs that he takes pride in,” said Aaron Wiet, South Salt Lake recreation director. “He is always very prepared and detail oriented before and after each of the leagues.”

In this his 10th year at the department, Fabela has done just about everything you could do at the department. He's coached basketball and flag football numerous times. And, of course, his favorite pastime of all—or that which he played during his time in the military—baseball. 

For Fabela, who started playing sports at age 7, his love for sports all started in his youth. And for over 50 years, he's cultivated his love for sport into something benefiting more than just his own needs. Beginning with the care and maintenance of the fields on which South Salt Lake residents play. 

“Many of the ball fields that we use are prepped by Tony before each game or practice,” said Myrna Clark, recreation deputy director. “Working the fields is sometimes hard work especially in the hot sun.”

Fabela has spent many hours and many years making sure area soccer fields are properly lined—even using his own invention with a simple piece of string and compass to ensure that the center kickoff circle at the old Paul Workman Park was perfect in its circumference.

Being that Fabela is now 72, it makes the work he's still doing for the department to this day even more impressive—because he works as if he's 30 years younger, Clark added. As a matter of fact, Fabela still plays senior softball.

Fabela has been working with the city rec department for just over 10 years. In that time he's done some amazing things, according to Wiet. But in Fabela's 40 years of being a basketball, baseball and softball coach and administrator, there's something more he wishes to impart on people.

“When you play or coach sports you are not only helping the kids develop sport skills but also sportsmanship and life skills that will stick with you for a lifetime,”  said Fabela.

Wiet said quality programs and Tony go hand in hand.

“Teaching youth the basic fundamentals in sports and having a positive experience is what Tony is all about. He has 50 plus years of experience in sports and we use every bit of his knowledge,” said Wiet, who has worked alongside Fabela for a decade. “All of our youth, parents and staff look up to him with great respect and trust.”

Fabela will never go out of his way to receive or accept praise, added Clark, because it just isn't his way. But probably his greatest quality of all is in his ability to give praise whenever and wherever it's due.

“He comes to work every day with a smile and a positive attitude,” said Wiet. “Tony has been with the city for just over 10 years. To have such a positive person among our staff and residents is a huge asset to the community and our department. He is a tremendous example to all.”

For all of Fabela's efforts, he's being recognized in a character initiative by the city, according to Clark. In a nomination which came as no surprise to those who know him, Fabela was voted as having the most “Optimistic Character,” and so had a poster of his likeness appear on a calendar, alongside other city employees who were also nominated for the award.

“We are so lucky to have an employee that represents the City of South Salt Lake with complete professionalism. It has been an honor to work alongside Tony for the past 10 years,” said Wiet. “The wealth of knowledge that he brings to our department is invaluable. His dedication to the recreation department and the city is amazing and does not go unrecognized.”