Fred Owen, a former Elk Grove sports coach known for his kindness to others, was celebrated last weekend at a gathering that drew more than 100 people. This gathering was held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on June 22.

Fred, who died at the age of 81 on June 14, is well remembered by his many friends and family members. His name is also well known by many youth and adults who never knew him. The former “Brown Diamond” baseball field at Elk Grove Regional Park was renamed Fred Owen Field on June 23, 1985.

On that day, Fred – who worked on three baseball fields at that park – was presented that honor by then-Sacramento County Supervisor Toby Johnson.

A storied career as a sports team coach

Fred’s storied coaching career dates back to about 1960, when he began coaching youth baseball in the Sacramento area. He added football to his coaching résumé during the 1970s, when he began coaching the Sacramento Bears youth football team.

In the late 1970s, Fred became a coach of the Elk Grove Knights Pop Warner football team and the Elk Grove Rebels girls’ softball team.

Fred was very active as a coach in the 1980s and 1990s, when he coached Babe Ruth League baseball players, and boys’ football and baseball teams at Elk Grove High School. He additionally coached the school’s girls’ varsity softball team.

A few of Fred’s former players became professional athletes.

One such player was Jason McDonald, who remembered being coached by Fred during his youth at Elk Grove Regional Park.

“Fred was one of my coaches when I was a little bit younger, along with my dad, when I was first beginning to play baseball right here in Elk Grove,” he said. “I went on to play professional baseball for quite a few different teams towards the end, but mainly the Oakland A’s and the Texas Rangers.

“Fred’s voice was so distinctive; it will always be engrained in my brain. He definitely made an impression, not only on myself, but everybody who he coached, because Fred was so passionate and it came through.”

A man of kindness

Fred’s impact on the lives of his family and others extended well beyond sports fields.

Alan Fettig, a close friend of the Owen family, developed a strong relationship with Fred, who was one of his woodworking and antiquing partners.

Fettig recalled Fred’s kindhearted nature.

“We would go to the coffee house, and the first thing Fred would say to the girl would be, ‘How many kids are working behind that counter today?’” he said. “She would say, ‘Four.’ Even though he probably couldn’t afford to keep doing this, he would put $4 in that tip jar.”

Ty Lim spoke highly about his grandfather, Fred, who adopted children of different races.

“Growing up as a young man, I can remember the things that he taught me and the morals that he taught me,” he said. “That’s one thing I can remember that he taught me, especially being a young black man today in America. He didn’t see color.”

Fred’s son, James, said that his father truly fit the description as one who would “give the shirt off his back.”

Kristin Barry recalled when her grandfather, Fred, would dress as Santa Claus.

“(Fred) dressed up (in) a mall Santa outfit and went to Cassidy’s (Family Restaurant) and handed out candy to kids and asked them what they wanted Santa to bring them,” she said.

“He was a special man who just loved to see other people happy.”

Fred’s earlier years

Born in San Jose on Jan. 13, 1938, Fred grew up in downtown Sacramento and attended Sacramento High School and Sacramento Junior College.

He was interested in sports at an early age, and enjoyed playing football and baseball, and was also an automobile enthusiast.

Fred joined the Navy in 1955 and served in the Korean War in 1959.

It was during that era when he became a fan of early rock ‘n’ roll. Some of his favorite artists were Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Chubby Checker.

Also one of Fred’s earlier passions in life was fishing.

Among Fred’s earlier jobs was working as a construction worker and ironworker. He would later build a longtime career as a pressman for Herald Printing and The Sacramento Bee.

Fred and his wife, Deanna, were married on Nov. 20, 1971. Together, they raised 11 children, four of whom were adopted.

The Owen family moved to Elk Grove in 1975, and Fred and Deanna would eventually have 29 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.