Horton marks his return

George Horton instructs the Oregon Ducks' baseball team during a practice while he was head coach.

Former Oregon Ducks head baseball coach George Horton has joined the Orange Coast College baseball coaching staff after the death of his long-time friend John Altobelli.

And even though the two ultimately became close friends, Horton said his first time coming in contact with Altobelli was on opposite sides of the field.

“I remember him when he played at Golden West and I was coaching at Cerritos College,” Horton said. “We didn’t officially meet until I was the associate head coach at Cal State Fullerton.”

Altobelli let Horton use the OCC baseball field for Oregon satellite camps, which gave Horton the opportunity to scout and recruit players.

“The relationship started to grow significantly when I started to recruit his son J.J.,” Horton said. “But what really drew the families closer was the fact that Alto’s daughters, Alyssa and Lexi, would come to games and wear cheer uniforms with my granddaughters.”

After 11 years at Oregon, Horton was fully committed to taking this year off after 42 seasons coaching baseball.

But it was Tim Matz, the pitching coach at OCC who Horton considers his best friend outside of his wife, who first introduced him to the idea of coaching at OCC.

Horton was reluctant at the thought of just joining the team in the middle of the season.

“I said no at first,” Horton explained. “I felt like it wouldn’t be right, since I haven’t been with the team the whole year.”

After declining twice, the persistent Matz came to Horton a third time.

“He told me he talked to head coach Nate Johnson and the rest of the coaching staff,” Horton said. “He got the point across that he’s not the only one who thought it’d be a good idea for me to come help coach.”

After getting the approval of the coaching staff, Horton said he still didn’t feel like he could just walk on the field and start coaching again.

Horton wanted to make sure everyone was ok with the plan of him coming on board. That’s when he went to Altobelli’s surviving children, J.J. and Lexi, to get their thoughts on the proposed plan.

“They were all in,” Horton said. “They thought it was a great idea and they knew their dad would welcome the opportunity for a guy like me to help the team as much as I could.”

Horton does not have an official title on the team, but he does bring Division 1 experience that could be vital to an OCC baseball program with its sights set on defending its championship.

“All of us were devastated with the event that happened. It’s just a significant blessing that I got to know John, Keri and Alyssa,” Horton said.

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