The Obit For Terry Watkins

Terry Watkins, 51, food executive who never lost his love for baseball

The Sacramento Bee

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Terry O. Watkins, a Sacramento native who played minor league baseball before becoming an executive in the food-service industry, died Friday at age 51.

He saw a doctor for indigestion-like symptoms last week and was scheduled for a cardiac checkup when he died of a heart attack in his Elk Grove home, said his wife, Tamara.

Mr. Watkins was vice president for sales and marketing at Nulaid Foods Inc. He joined the Ripon-based manufacturer and distributor of egg products in 2003.

"Everyone thought highly of Terry and greatly appreciated him," said Evelyn Oneto, Nulaid human resources vice president. "He was full of life and always had a joke."

Mr. Watkins learned important values in business and life from playing baseball, his family said. He was a right-handed pitcher for Sacramento City College when the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him in 1975.

At his mother's insistence, he deferred a professional career to finish his bachelor's degree at St. Mary's College. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1978 and spent two seasons pitching on farm teams in Utica, N.Y., and Medicine Hat, Alberta.

"He learned to be very disciplined," said his sister, Vivian Ham. "He focused on education and family as well as sports. He knew the importance of having balance in your life."

Terry Orlando Watkins was born in 1956 to Margaret and Jesse Watkins and grew up near Sacramento Executive Airport. His father died in 1965, leaving his mother to rear six children while she worked as a licensed vocational nurse at UC Davis Medical Center.

A neighbor, Errol Moore, mentored and taught him to play baseball. He played in Airport Little League, graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1974 and won a baseball scholarship to St. Mary's College.

He returned to Sacramento after playing minor league ball, worked in restaurants and sales and spent 20 years in the food-service industry. He married Tamara DeVan in 1986 and had two children.

Mr. Watkins remained competitive in sports, playing baseball in over-40 leagues in Sacramento and most recently pitching for the Dawgs Over 50 team. He coached his son in Little League and supported his daughter's soccer team.

He was a warm and generous man who often stopped to help stranded motorists. He enjoyed working in the yard and hosting barbecues and birthday parties for many relatives and friends.

"He was very family-oriented," his wife said. "He appreciated what he had in life and taking care of things, and he kept everything he had nice and clean."