John Altobelli was an American college baseball coach who worked for 27 seasons at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. He was named national coach of the year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019. On January 26, 2020, Altobelli and eight other people, including his wife and daughter and former NBA star Kobe Bryant, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.
Early life and education
Altobelli was born in 1963, the sixth of eight children. His father was a professional baseball player.
Altobelli attended Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California. He attended Golden West College, and played college baseball for the Golden West Rustlers as an outfielder. He transferred to the University of Houston, and finished his college baseball career with the Houston Cougars from 1984 to 1985. In his junior season of 1984 at Houston, Altobelli led the team in runs batted in (34), runs scored (47), and triples (3). He shared leads in doubles (14) and stolen bases (8). As a senior in 1985, Altobelli had a single-season record 57 walks and led the team in runs scored (68) and stolen bases (13).
After playing for the 1985 season in Minor League Baseball for the Miami Marlins of the Florida State League, Altobelli graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in physical education in 1987. In 1988, he earned his master's degree in education from Azusa Pacific University.
Altobelli became an assistant coach at Houston in 1987. In July 1992, he was hired to coach for Orange Coast College. Altobelli led the Orange Coast Pirates to state championships in 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2019. He won his 700th career game in 2019. He was named national coach of the year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.
For three summer seasons between 2012 and 2014, Altobelli served as head coach for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Among his players were Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets, and Ryon Healy of the Milwaukee Brewers. In 27 seasons as Orange Coast head coach, Altobelli had a cumulative 705–478–4 record.
Altobelli and Kobe Bryant became friends through their daughters. Altobelli invited Bryant to be a guest speaker in 2018 and rode with Bryant in his helicopter on multiple occasions. Orange Coast College associate baseball coach Nate Johnson said, "He kind of gets overshadowed by Kobe a little bit, but he was his own Kobe of the junior college baseball world."
Altobelli was married to Keri Altobelli, with whom he had a son, Boston Red Sox scout J. J. (born 1990) who briefly played for the Johnson City Cardinals, and two daughters, Alexis and Alyssa (2006/2007 – 2020).
Altobelli underwent open heart surgery in December 2012.
On January 26, 2020, Altobelli died when a helicopter he was travelling in crashed in Calabasas. The pilot and the other seven passengers on board, among whom were Altobelli's wife Keri, their daughter Alyssa, Kobe Bryant, and the latter's 13-year-old daughter Gianna, were also killed. Alyssa Altobelli and Gianna Bryant were both members of the Mamba Sports Academy basketball team, and the group was reportedly on their way to a basketball game at the academy in Thousand Oaks when the helicopter crashed.
The day after the deaths of John, Keri and Alyssa, the Rochester Red Wings issued a statement to clear up confusion that despite similar last names, that John was not related to Joe Altobelli. The Red Wings closed their statement by offering their condolences to the families that lost loved ones in the crash.
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