Remembering John Altobelli

John Altobelli was Orange Coast Countys manager for 27 years.


John Altobelli was Orange Coast County’s manager for 27 years.

John Bell, Courier Staff

Legacy, noun, defined as “an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.” In the world of sports, legacy is defined as what someone leaves behind in memory of what they accomplished throughout their time in this world.

The news broke in the early afternoon hours of Sunday, Jan. 26 that Kobe Bryant had passed away in a fatal helicopter crash. He was traveling with his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people to a travel basketball game when the helicopter crashed near Costa Mesa, Calif. Bryant was 41 years old. Everyone will forever remember Kobe Bryant as one of the most successful National Basketball Association players to every step foot on a court. His legacy, what he stood for, what he worked for, the impact he had on players from professional athletes to kids playing in rec leagues, will live on forever. He will be remembered for his Mamba Mentality, which is used by athletes worldwide. Words can not describe the sadness and emotions that are surrounding the professional sports world after the tragedy.

In the early hours on Monday morning following the accident, the National Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Kobe Bryant will be “posthumously inducted” into the Hall of Fame later this year. In a class that is supposed to be “(T)he most epic class ever with Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett,” Jerry Calangelo, chairman of the Naismith Hall of Fame, told reporters Monday. Seven others perished in the crash, along with John Altobelli, his wife Keri and 13-year old daughter Alyssa. They were among the nine people who passed early Sunday in California. Altobelli was entering his 28th season as head coach at Orange Coast College. During his 27 seasons at OCC, he accounted for more than 700wins along with four state titles. His legacy, like that of Kobe, will live on forever in the baseball world.

“He kind of gets overshadowed by Kobe a little bit,” Orange Coast associate coach

Nate Johnson told ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez Sunday. He finished by stating that Altobelli was “(h)is own Kobe of the junior college baseball world.” He really was. Nowadays, you never see a coach that stays in one place for more than a few years, especially to have success. Normally, coaches who are as successful as John was, find a new job that allows them to move up the ranks. Not John; he was all for what he had built at OCC. He wanted to keep the legacy and winning tradition going for as long as they would allow him.

John was known as “Alto” by those who played under him. He was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Association for the past season and he became the fifth coach in the history of community college baseball in California to win four or more state championships. His career ended with a record of 705-478-4 and landed the program in the state Final Four eight times during his 27-year career at Orange Coast College.

John and his family became close to the Bryants because their 13-year-old daughters were part of a travel basketball team coached by the former NBA champion. John’s younger brother was the sports information director for the Orange Coast College and said his brother earned respect from players and coaches because of his demanding but caring approach to coaching at the school. Many players and coaches gathered at the school’s baseball field late Sunday afternoon to remember a father, husband, coach and friend.

Altobelli was tough on his players, but he always cared for them and considered the program part of his family. “He treated every player like his own son,” said Justin Brodt, a sophomore first baseman at OCC. “He wanted the best for everyone involved.

That’s what made him such a successful coach and such a great guy.” Alto was respected by his players, just like he respected them as their coach.

In the past few years, Altobelli had fundraised to acquire new turf for the field, while also renovating the scoreboard, sound system and batting cages. Being at a small college meant that he had to prepare his kids for the challenges they faced ahead of them. He wanted what was best for his players and what he thought they deserved.

“He wanted them to move on to their dream school. That’s what drove him,” Johnson told the New York Times. Altobelli was proud of what each and every one of his guys accomplished. He was like a father to the players. He saw 10 of his guys from the previous year receive scholarships to four-year universities. He was most proud when he sent his guys to division one programs, like that of Michigan University, where former player Cody Bruder plays.

During 2012 to 2014, John went on to manage the Brewster Whitecaps. The Whitecaps are part of the Cape Cod League on the east coast. It is one of the most prestigious Collegiate Baseball leagues in the country. There, he coached players like Jeff McNeil of the Mets and Aaron Judge of the Yankees. McNeil took to Twitter in the wake of his former coaches passing.

“Tough to hear the news of coach Altobelli. One of my favorite coaches I have ever played for and one of the main reasons I got a chance to play professional baseball. Both the baseball and basketball world lost a great one today,” McNeil posted on Twitter. McNeil could not have explained it better. What Alto stood for and what he did for the game of baseball. Alto had a legacy that impact hundreds. He will be remembered for his coaching approach, and what he did for OCC and its community. He will be in the hearts and memories and players and coaches for years and years to come.

Altobelli, his wife and daughter are survived by a daughter, Alexis, and son JJ, who is a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.