SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Family and friends of a young baseball pitcher are in mourning after the 20-year-old died suddenly in his sleep.
Tommy Watanabe’s death comes as a shock for past teammates and coaches at Bella Vista High School.
His family says they’ve received messages of love and support from around the country.
“This was my only son, my youngest baby. I just want to know what happened? I need to know what happened?” said Cindy Watanabe.
Heartbroken and confused, the Watanabe family says their son was healthy and happy and had spent Friday just hanging out with friends. But after going to bed at his family home in Gold River, Tommy never woke up.
“There was no indication that he was sick, that anything was wrong, it’s just a huge shock,” said Cindy.
Tommy Watanabe grew up playing baseball for Bella Vista High School then was a pitcher for the San Mateo baseball team.
“Such a big strong kid, and great baseball player, it doesn’t feel real, still such a shock, and certainly a big loss for our baseball program,” said assistant coach Alex Weeks with the San Mateo Baseball team.
Tommy’s former teammate Mark Treshchuk was the last to see him Friday night after Tommy picked him up from the airport and says he appeared to be fine.
“Baseball brought us together. We were best buds,” said Treshchuk. “I saw him, he dropped me off at home, we text a few times before I went to bed, everything seemed normal,” he said.
At 6 feet 3 inches and 260 pounds, Tommy has left quite the impact both on and off the diamond.
“For the genuine person he was, how much he cared for people, he truly cared about his friends,” said his father, Steve Watanabe.
“Tommy was my brother, but I’m happy he was a brother to so many other people,” said Tommy’s sister Katie.
On Monday night, there was a special tribute by the Wenatchee Applesox Baseball Team in Washington where Tommy played this summer. His jersey was laid on the mound, and the team held a moment of silence before their game.
It was a game so dear to the young pitcher who dreamed of going to the major leagues. In fact, he had gotten a baseball scholarship to go to the University of Nevada Reno.
“I don’t think I can watch another game for a while, but I’m going to because it’s what he loved. So for him, I’ll get joy again,” said Tommy’s father.
The family is grateful for the outpouring of love and support. A memorial service is being planned for next week.
Meanwhile, results of the autopsy and toxicology reports may not be released for a few months.