College baseball coach John Altobelli among those killed in helicopter crash with Kobe Bryant
A community college baseball coach, his wife and one of his daughters also died in the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter outside Los Angeles on Sunday.
John Altobelli, the 56-year-old head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, was among those killed in the crash, the school confirmed in a news release Sunday evening.
School spokesperson Juan Gutierrez later confirmed to USA TODAY Sports in an email that Altobelli's wife, Keri, and one of their two daughters, Alyssa, were also aboard the helicopter. The couple also had a second daughter named Alexis. Their son, JJ, is a scout for the Boston Red Sox.
Orange Coast's players gathered at the team's baseball field Sunday afternoon to mourn the death of their coach.
"John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball," Orange Coast College athletic director Jason Kehler said in a statement. "He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none. He treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy."
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Authorities are still investigating the cause of the crash, which killed Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, among others when it crashed in Calabasas, California on Sunday. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department confirmed that all nine passengers were killed.
Altobelli was in his 28th season as the head baseball coach at Orange Coast, a community college in Costa Mesa, California. He had won more than 700 career games and most recently helped guide the Pirates to a 39-9-1 record and a third consecutive Orange Empire Conference title.
A former outfielder and team captain at the University of Houston, Altobelli was also named the Diamond National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in August.
Mets all-star Jeff McNeil, who played for Altobelli in the Cape Cod League in 2012, told ESPN that his former coach is "one of the main reasons I’m still playing professional baseball."
"He took a chance on me, kept me the whole summer," McNeil told the network. "Him taking that chance on me, having me on his team, got me drafted."
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