John Altobelli
Biographical details
Born(1963-05-08)May 8, 1963
Chicago, Illinois
DiedJanuary 26, 2020(2020-01-26) (aged 56)
Calabasas, California
Playing career
College and Minor League Baseball
1982–1983Golden West
1985Miami Marlins (Florida State League)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1987Houston (asst.)
1988–1992UC Irvine (asst.)
1993–2019Orange Coast
Head coaching record
Overall705–478–4 (.596)
Accomplishments and honors
  • CCCAA (2009, 2014, 2015, 2019)
  • 2× CCCAA Coach of the Year (2009, 2014)

John Edward Altobelli (May 8, 1963 – January 26, 2020) was an American college baseball coach who worked for 27 seasons at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. During his career, he led the Pirates to four California state junior college titles and in 2019 was named National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

Altobelli and eight other people, including his wife Keri, daughter Alyssa, and former professional basketball player Kobe Bryant, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020.

Early life and education

John Altobelli was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 8, 1963.[1][2] He was the sixth of seven children. His father, Jim Altobelli,[3] was a professional baseball player.

Altobelli graduated from Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California. He enrolled at Golden West College, where he played college baseball for the Golden West Rustlers as an outfielder.[4] He transferred to the University of Houston, where he finished his college baseball career with the Houston Cougars from 1984 to 1985 and was a captain on the baseball team.[5][4][6] In 1984, his junior season, Altobelli led the Cougars in runs batted in (34), runs scored (47), and triples (three). He shared leads in doubles (14) and stolen bases (eight). As a senior in 1985, Altobelli had a single-season record 57 walks and led the team in runs scored (68) and stolen bases (13).[7]

After his senior season, Altobelli played briefly in the 1985 season for the Miami Marlins of the Florida State League, which at that time was an independent full-season Class A team.[8] Altobelli returned to school after playing only 15 games. He graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1987.[9] In 1988, he earned his master's degree in education from Azusa Pacific University.[4]

Coaching career

Altobelli began his coaching career in 1986 as junior varsity coach at Newport Harbor High School.[4] In 1987, he returned to Houston as an assistant baseball coach.[7] From 1988 to 1992, Altobelli was an assistant coach at UC Irvine under Mike Gerakos.[4]

Two months after UC Irvine cut its baseball team for budgetary reasons, Altobelli became head coach at Orange Coast College in July 1992.[5] Altobelli led the Orange Coast Pirates to state championships in 2009, 2014, 2015, and 2019. He won his 700th career game in 2019.[10] He was named National Coach of the Year for the Pacific Association Division by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.[11][12][6] In 27 seasons as Orange Coast head coach, Altobelli had a cumulative 705–478–4 record.[7]

For three summer seasons between 2012 and 2014, Altobelli served as head coach for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Among his players were Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets, and Ryon Healy of the Milwaukee Brewers.[8][13]

Personal life

Altobelli and his first wife, Barbara Jean WooSam, had one son, John James (J.J.).[14][15] J.J. played college baseball for the Oregon Ducks[16] before playing professionally for the Johnson City Cardinals, and later became a scout for the Boston Red Sox.[4][17][18][19] Altobelli and his second wife, Keri L. Sanders, had two daughters, Alexis and Alyssa.

Altobelli underwent open heart surgery in December 2012.[20]


Main article: 2020 Calabasas helicopter crash

Altobelli died on January 26, 2020, when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed in Calabasas, California.[21][22] All nine passengers on board were killed, including Altobelli's wife Keri, the Altobellis' 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, former professional basketball player Kobe Bryant, Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Sarah Chester, Chester's 13-year-old daughter Payton, Mamba Sports Academy assistant coach Christina Mauser, and helicopter pilot Ara Zobayan.[23] Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant, and Payton Chester were teammates on the Mamba Sports Academy basketball team.[23] The group were traveling to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball tournament when the helicopter crashed.[24]

Altobelli and Kobe Bryant became friends through their daughters and had previously traveled to practices and games together. Altobelli invited Bryant to speak to his baseball team in 2018. Orange Coast College associate baseball coach Nate Johnson said of Altobelli, "He kind of gets overshadowed by Kobe a little bit, but he was his own Kobe of the junior college baseball world".[25]

Like all of the other passengers, Altobelli's cause of death was blunt trauma.[26]


  1. ^ "John Edward Altobelli discovered in U.S., Baseball Questionnaires, 1945–2005". Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  2. ^ "Four helicopter crash victims identified". Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. January 28, 2020. Archived from the original on January 29, 2020. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
  3. ^ Gonzalez, Alden (January 29, 2020). "Orange Coast College opens season 2 days after coach John Altobelli's death". ESPN. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "John Altobelli". Orange Coast College. Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Kresal, Steve (July 3, 1992). "Ex-UCI Assistant Altobelli to Coach Baseball at OCC". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ a b "Inside John Altobelli's Kobe connection: A shared ferocity and passion for players". February 11, 2020. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Rogers, Kyle (January 26, 2020). "Houston Mourns Loss of John Altobelli". University of Houston. Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Glaser, Kyle (January 26, 2020). "Renowned Coach John Altobelli Killed In Helicopter Crash With Kobe Bryant". Baseball America. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  9. ^ Duarte, Joseph (January 26, 2020). "UH family mourns copter crash victim John Altobelli". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  10. ^ "Altobelli adds to OCC legacy". Daily Pilot. February 10, 2017. Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  11. ^ "The Latest: Baseball coach, family also killed in crash". Associated Press. January 26, 2020. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  12. ^ "Altobelli scores big". Coast Report Online. September 4, 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  13. ^ Reed, Russ (January 26, 2020). "Former Cape League coach, father of Red Sox scout, among victims of deadly helicopter crash". WCVB-TV. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  14. ^ "2013 Baseball Roster: J.J. Altobelli". University of Oregon Athletics. 2020. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  15. ^ "J.J. Altobelli". California State University, Fullerton. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  16. ^ "J.J. Altobelli – Baseball". University of Oregon Athletics. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  17. ^ "College baseball coach John Altobelli, wife Keri, daughter Alyssa also died in helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Gianna Bryant (report)". masslive. January 26, 2020. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  18. ^ "J.J. Altobelli College & Minor Leagues Statistics & History". Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  19. ^ Brown, Larry (January 26, 2020). "John Altobelli, junior college baseball coach, also died in helicopter crash". Larry Brown Sports. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  20. ^ Watson, Brantley (May 30, 2013). "Five Questions with OCC baseball coach John Altobelli… about his over four decades of experience with the game". Orange County Register. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  21. ^ "Orange County baseball coach, his daughter and wife were in helicopter crash along with Kobe Bryant". CNN. January 27, 2020. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  22. ^ "The Latest: Baseball coach, family also killed in crash". Associated Press. January 26, 2020. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Bonesteel, Matt (January 27, 2020). "Remembering the nine victims in the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  24. ^ Lapin, Tamar (January 26, 2020). "Kobe Bryant was headed to Mamba Sports Academy when he crashed". New York Post. Retrieved January 27, 2020.
  25. ^ Gonzalez, Aiden (January 26, 2020). "Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli among helicopter-crash victims". Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  26. ^ "Coroner officials confirm IDs of five more people killed in crash of Kobe Bryant's helicopter". Los Angeles Daily News. MediaNews Group. January 29, 2020. Archived from the original on February 1, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2021.