Tony Altobelli honored by professional organization

Tony Altobelli speaks to a crowd on Jan. 28 following the death of his brother John Altobelli.

Orange Coast College Sports Information Director Tony Altobelli received the Bud Nangle Award earlier this month for his professionalism following the death of his brother, OCC baseball coach John Altobelli.

The award is given by the College Sports Information Directors of America organization and goes to those in the sports community who show exceptional integrity and bravery while carrying out their jobs under unusual circumstances.

The Bud Nagel Award has been given to only three other sports information professionals since its inception in 2010.

“If I look at it from a positive angle it’s a nice honor,” Altobelli said. “It’s nice being recognized for what I’m trained to do.”

In his 14th year in the job, Altobelli deals with 24 sports teams and is the longest tenured sports information director in OCC’s 72-year history.

Altobelli is receiving the award for his immense courage through the tragic death of three of his family members and six others, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant, earlier this year.

“I compartmentalized everything and thought, ‘This has happened, what needs to be taken care of?’” Altobelli said.

Altobelli coordinated a remembrance for his brother, veteran head baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, just two days after the accident. The event hosted over 2,000 people as well as national and local media outlets.

The former Oregon Ducks head baseball coach and newly hired member of Coast’s baseball coaching team, George Horton, was a long-time friend of John Altobelli and watched Tony Altobelli going through the tragedy.

“As a spectator through the whole process and not really knowing Tony, he handled everything with class and composure,” Horton said.

OCC Athletic Director Jason Kehler said he wanted to take over Altobelli’s duties and have him be with his family following the tragedy, but Altobelli declined.

“Do you think I’m going to miss this?” Altobelli said. “This is the one story I felt like I was trained my whole life for, so let me do it.”

Altobelli said the situation was similar to an incident in 2009, when OCC baseball player Jordan Watanabe died.

“I just fell back on that experience and tried to not lead, but share what I had gone through with everyone,” Altobelli said.

People took notice of Altobelli’s bravery, including baseball coach Nate Johnson, who ended up John Altobelli’s successor.

“Not only was he able to continue to do his job at such a high level, but he was able to handle the media and everything else that was getting thrown at him,” Johnson said.

The head baseball coach wasn’t short on words when it came to Altobelli and said that he handled everything in stride and that it was amazing to watch him.

“An award doesn’t come close to helping him heal, but it’s definitely something to take his mind off of it for a minute,” Johnson said.

When Altobelli reflects on the whole incident he said he still doesn’t know how he got through it.

“It was kind of like standing at the edge of a diving board and someone is about to push you in. You either drown or start to swim,” Altobelli said.

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