Originally Published: August 24, 2018 7:21 p.m.
PRESCOTT — Don Fishel, former Prescott Parks and Recreation Department rec supervisor, Arizona Amateur Softball Association (ASA) commissioner and high school official, died of cancer on Aug. 17. He was 64.
Despite retiring from the City of Prescott two years ago, Fishel remained active in scheduling summer softball tournaments at the city’s fields here, including those for girls’ and men’s fast-pitch as well as men’s and women’s slow-pitch.
Current Prescott Parks and Recreation rec supervisor Rick Hormann, who replaced Fishel in that position, said Fishel worked for the City of Prescott from 2001 to 2016 and served as ASA state commissioner for a decade. Most recently, Fishel labored for the National Softball Association (NSA) as umpire in chief.
“He did a lot for softball,” said Cal Cordes, a fixture in Prescott’s athletics community who officiated, coached and taught for decades in the Prescott Unified School District, of Fishel. “He was just a good friend and fun to be around; good to sit around and talk with. We used to meet at the restaurant once and a while and talk for hours and hours.”
Fishel was responsible for bringing more than 25 national amateur softball championship tournaments and “countless other tournaments to the City of Prescott,” Hormann said. In addition, Fishel was instrumental in getting the 2008 USA Olympic Women’s Softball Team and its famed pitcher, Jennie Finch, to visit town during their Bound 4 Beijing tour.
“He was a pretty good organizer with those events,” Cordes said.
One of Fishel’s most notable accomplishments during his time with Prescott Parks & Rec was his contribution to Arizona’s softball community, Hormann said, as he played a role in the ASA Hall of Fame relocating to Grace Sparkes Activity Center in Prescott.
“Don did probably more than anybody to carry on the legacy that [former longtime Parks and Rec director] A.C. Williams started with softball tournaments being hosted in Prescott,” Prescott Parks and Rec Recreation Services Director Joe Baynes said. “He was always very positive and upbeat; a fun person to be around. He’ll be missed.”
Fishel’s health had declined in recent years, however. Hormann said Fishel’s fatal cancer “attacked his liver in less than three weeks.”
“He got this darn cancer in his chest, and then it went to his liver,” Cordes added. “And he didn’t want to do any medicine. He just didn’t want to fight it off.”
Fishel was born on Christmas Eve of 1953 in Duncan, Arizona, and he lived in the Grand Canyon State his whole life. Fishel graduated from Payson High School and earned a degree from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff before embarking on a career in parks and recreation. He began his career as a recreation director in Payson and later in Yuma, before transitioning to Prescott.
Cordes said Fishel handled some horseshoe tournaments in which the former pitched, too. Fishel bowled for Cordes’ Wednesday night league at Plaza Bowl in Prescott and became a decent bowler, ending with close to a 180 average this past year, Cordes added.
“He did exceptionally well,” Cordes said.
Fishel will also be remembered for his kindness as an umpire for the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) and as an Arizona ASA tournament director.
“He did a lot of refreshing things while he was umpiring – helping kids if they looked like they might have got hurt or they needed some assistance or something,” Cordes said. “And, of course, that went along with compassion. That’s one of the highlights of how well he did in life.”
A graveside memorial service will be held for Fishel at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Heritage Memorial Park, 12000 Heritage Memorial Lane, off of Fain Road in Dewey. Cordes said he canceled today’s Mile Hi Horseshoe Club tournament at Watson Lake so that he could honor his friend.
“There’s going to be a memorial to the rec department, in regard to the softball fund that the rec department has, in Don’s memory,” Cordes added.
Don is survived by his parents George and Barbara; daughters Justine (Heath) Sudlow, Jolene (Matt) Brooks; and Jamie (Mike) De La Cruz; grandchildren Payson, Caden and Aubree Sudlow, Emily and Olivia Brooks, Valen and Mia De La Cruz; and siblings Dan (Ellen) Fishel, Gary Fishel and Karla (Bob) Lockwood. He was preceded in death by his wife Clara Suzanne Fishel.
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.