COSTA MESA (CBSLA) – The Orange Coast College baseball team Tuesday afternoon paid its respects to longtime head coach John Altobelli and his wife and daughter, who were among nine people killed along with NBA star Kobe Bryant when a helicopter went down in Calabasas over the weekend.
The 56-year-old Altobelli, his wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa all died when the chopper they were riding in crashed Sunday morning while headed from Santa Ana to Camarillo.
The group was headed to Kobe's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where Kobe was set to coach his own daughter Gianna and her teammate Alyssa in a tournament game.
Tuesday's season home opener against Southwestern College at Wendell Pickens Baseball Field would have marked Alto's 28th year of coaching the OCC Pirates, where he won four state titles and more than 700 games.
"On opening day, he was always so super early, but today, I beat him to the field," said Nate Johnson, the Pirates' associate head coach, fighting back tears. "And it's gonna be the only time I ever do."
His players, who voted to go on with the game, set up a memorial for Altobelli at home plate and wore jerseys with Altobelli's number 14, along with fans. A small ceremony was held to honor Coach Alto, as he was lovingly known, Keri and Alyssa.
His two surviving children, Alexis and JJ, were also in attendance Tuesday.
Tony Altobelli, Coach Altobelli's youngest brother, works at OCC as the sports information director. The voice of Pirates baseball, Altobelli's brother was on hand to announce Tuesday's game.
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