Altobelli family

John Altobelli's family (from left) Alyssa, 13, John, Alexis, 16, Keri, J.J. and his fiance Carly Konigsfeld. John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli were killed in the helicopter accident that also claimed the life of Kobe Bryant last month.

In his 27 years at Orange Coast College, baseball coach John Altobelli impacted more lives than the average person could even imagine.

Coming into the 2020 baseball season the OCC Pirates are without their leader following the of death of him, his daughter and wife in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and others.

This loss likely weighs heavy on the program with students coming out of high school and stepping into the baseball program. They used to know that Altobelli could help them get to the destination they desire as he did for countless players in the past.

To some, Altobelli wasn’t just a baseball coach, he was a mentor and a role model.

“Alto was a great coach, leader and  father. He taught me baseball and life lessons that I’ll hold for the rest of my life,” former baseball player Walker Keller said.  “He meant more to me and my teammates than we can put into words.”

Perhaps not all community college coaches care like Altobelli did but, according to his players, it was his passion to see young men succeed in whatever they did.

“He’s the one who pushed the Cal State Fullerton coaches to take a chance on me,” JT McLellan, a former Pirate baseball player said.

Altobelli didn’t just care about the current players he coached. According to veterans of his program, he made sure that his former athletes were achieving greatness far beyond

“On my graduation day he sent me a congratulations text. That text meant so much to me, not only is he the one who got me there, but even three years later he cares enough about me and his old players to where he congratulated us on our big day,” McLellan said.

Jake Gentry, another former Altobelli player, said he was devastated when he heard the news. Gentry played two full seasons with Altobelli, leading the team.

“He gave all of us second chances,” Gentry said.  

According to his players, the difference between Altobelli and other programs was that he believed in the players on and off the field. He instilled a love for the game, the ability to compete, and most of all the ability to be comfortable as themselves and players.

With a coach like Altobelli, many players said they were able to take the love of the game and further their careers.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without him,” Gentry said.

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