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Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, wife and daughter die in helicopter crash with Kobe Bryant

Orange Coast College John Altobelli (Register file photo)

Orange Coast College Baseball Coach, John Altobelli was one of the victims of the helicopter crash that also killed Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant, OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa confirmed

Altobelli’s brother, Tony, Orange Coast College’s sports information director, told CNN that Altobelli’s wife and daughter, Keri and Alyssa, also were among the crash victims. Alyssa was a club basketball teammate of Bryant’s 13-year-old daugther , Gianna Bryant, who also was killed in the crash. The other victims have not yet been identified.

Tony Altobelli was walking around Balboa Peninsula when he got a text message that Bryant died in a helicopter crash. So he texted OCC’s Women’s Basketball Coach Sammy Doucette who had been with Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy before going to OCC.

“She said it might be true,” Altobelli said. “Then her next question was, ‘Have you heard from your brother?’ and I was confused. She explained he goes on chopper rides with Kobe.”

Altobelli was unsuccessful trying to contact Pirates baseball coaches until he reached assistant coach Tim Matz.

“He could barely get a word in,” Altobelli said. “He just said, ‘They’re gone.’”

Word spread quickly among OCC’s players, past and present, and coaches Sunday. Many came together at the school’s baseball field where the Pirates are scheduled to open the 2020 season with a home game against Southwestern College on Tuesday.

A Costa Mesa Fire Department truck passed through an Orange Coast College parking lot entrance that aligns the south side of the school’s baseball field. On the truck’s loudspeaker a firefighter said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Coach Alto was a friend of ours, too.’”

 

 

 

 

Orange Coast College Athletic Director, Jason Kehler, said it would be up to Pirates players if they will play on Tuesday.

John Altobelli, better known as “Coach Alto” or “Alto,” was entering his 28th season as Orange Coast College’s coach. In 2019, Altobelli was selected as the American Baseball Coaches Association’s national coach of the year following a season in which he led the Pirates to a state championship, their fifth during his tenure. Altobelli got his 700th career coaching win during the California community college playoffs.

A successor had not been named Sunday. Assistant Coach Nate Jackson also has the title associate head coach and he was the coach who addressed the players gathered at the Pirates baseball field Sunday. They had their intrasquad game at Orange Coast College on Saturday.

“When our day was over yesterday,” La Ruffa said Sunday, “Alto mentioned that he would be flying up with Kobe tomorrow for a basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks, something they had done routinely throughout the year. We were all so happy the fall league was over and we were all bored with everything and excited about the season after Alto won another state championship last year.”

“We were looking forward to Tuesday with another great group of kids. We all couldn’t wait for Tuesday to be here.”

Orange Coast College Sophomore and First Baseman, Justin Brodt said Altobelli could be tough on players but showed genuine affection toward them too.

“He cared,” said Brodt, who was at the Orange Coast College field Sunday. “He cared about every single player in the program. Everyone in his program was family.

“He treated every player like his own son. He wanted the best for everybody involved. That’s what made him such a successful coach and such a great guy.”

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