clearn.png
Wednesday August 12th, 2020 2:14AM

Baseball coach killed with Bryant honored at team's opener

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — John Altobelli’s team knew there was only one way to honor its late coach — by playing on his favorite day.

Altobelli’s Orange Coast College baseball team opened its season as scheduled on Tuesday against Chula Vista Southwestern. The game occurred two days after Altobelli, his wife and their 13-year-old daughter were killed in the helicopter crash that also took the life of Kobe Bryant and five others.

“They didn’t so much ask me. They told me,” athletic director Jason Kehler said about the team's decision to play.

The game at Wendell Pickens Field was a celebration of Altobelli’s life and the 27 years he devoted to his program. More than 2,000 people were on hand on a sunny day at a field that seats 500. Fans were lined up and down the first- and third-base lines.

Altobelli’s son J.J., a scout with the Boston Red Sox, and his 16-year old daughter Lexi watched from an area reserved for family along the first-base line near the Pirates dugout.

After the game — which Southwestern was leading 7-6 when it was called due to darkness in the ninth inning — the team lined up to hug J.J. and Lexi.

“I went down and hugged Lexi probably every single inning because she needs it,” interim manager Nate Johnson said. “I told the team they need us.”

Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa were among the eight passengers killed along with the pilot Sunday morning when the helicopter chartered by Bryant plowed into a cloud-covered hillside in Calabasas.

The Altobellis, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who was also killed in the crash, were on their way to a youth basketball tournament in which Alyssa and Gianna were to play.

There was a banner with Altobelli’s uniform number, 14, on the left-field fence as well as flowers and cards honoring the family on a wall behind home plate. Many fans were wearing No. 14 T-shirts that read “Forever A Pirate.”

“This is a fraction of the impact that John had. Today speaks to that,” Kehler said. “We couldn’t ask for more than this. We want to make sure that John and his family get the recognition they deserve. He deserves to have his story be told.”

Kehler, Johnson and Altobelli's brother Tony spoke during a pregame ceremony. Johnson paused a couple times as he reflected on his former boss and his family.

“They made everyone feel like an Altobelli or a Pirate. That’s why so many people are wearing 14 today,” Johnson said. “I know if (Keri) were here she would be judging me on everything I’d be doing. (Keri) really ran this team."

”If you heard Alyssa laugh she would make you laugh. She lit up any room she went into. John loved his family and was so proud of his team. We’re going to do our best to honor him in everything we do moving forward.”

Johnson said Alyssa's goal was to attend Oregon, because her favorite basketball player was Sabrina Ionescu. J.J. attended Oregon after playing for his father at Orange Coast.

Tony Altobelli — who is also Orange Coast College's sports information director — said his younger brother's death was emotional for everyone, including umpires.

“It was touching. The only thing that could come to my mind is could you imagine my brother making an umpire cry? I know he would have loved it,” Altobelli said.

Despite dealing with his own grief, Altobelli announced the game and carried on his usual duties.

“In days like this I wasn't John's brother, I was the SID at Orange Coast College doing something for my brother. That was the only way I could get through today,” he said.

John Altobelli, 56, won more than 700 games at Orange Coast. The American Baseball Coaches Association named him its coach of the year last year after he guided the Pirates to their fourth state title.

He also managed the Brewster Whitecaps for three seasons in the Cape Cod Summer League. Among the players he coached there were New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and New York Mets infielder Jeff McNeil.

McNeil told ESPN that Altobelli took a chance on him and credits him with being drafted.

Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, who lives in Newport Beach, attended the game and watched from the Orange Coast dugout for an inning.

Johnson said his team was trying too hard early. The Pirates committed three errors the first five innings and fell behind 7-1 in the sixth. They scored four times in the sixth and added a run in the seventh.

“It was a good day. It stinks that we didn't finish it,” Johnson said. "It still doesn't feel real to me. When I was making in-game decisions, I kept a seat open. You're making decisions that the man who mentored you made the last seven seasons.

“Today, this team ran themselves. I put the guys out there that I thought Alto would want to see and I felt like were playing with emotion for him.”

___

More AP coverage of the death of Kobe Bryant: https://apnews.com/KobeBryant

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Sports - College Baseball, AP Sports - Major League Baseball
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Deaths rise to 132 in China outbreak as foreigners leave
Countries began evacuating their citizens from the Chinese city hardest-hit by an outbreak of a new virus that has killed 132 people and infected more than 6,000
11:32PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Middleton has career-best 51, Bucks win minus Antetokounmpo
Khris Middleton scored a career-high 51 points in the absence of injured teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 151-131 victory over the Washington Wizards
11:21PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Baseball coach killed with Bryant honored at team's opener
John Altobelli's Orange Coast College baseball team opened its season as scheduled, two days after Altobelli was killed in the helicopter crash that also took the life of Kobe Bryant
11:08PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Lowry leads Raptors past Hawks for eighth straight win
Kyle Lowry had 12 points and 11 assists while becoming Toronto's career assist leader and the Raptors beat the Atlanta Hawks 130-114 for their season-best eighth straight win
10:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
Kobe Bryant's body, other crash victims identified
Los Angeles County coroner's officials have identified the bodies of Kobe Bryant and three other people killed when their helicopter smashed into a foggy hillside near Los Angeles
9:43PM ( 2 hours ago )
WaPo clears writer who tweeted about Bryant rape allegation
A Washington Post reporter who had been placed on administrative leave after she tweeted a link to a story about a 2003 rape allegation against Kobe Bryant has been cleared to return to work, the paper said Tuesday
8:55PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
Pilot of Bryant helicopter tried to avoid heavy fog
Authorities say the veteran pilot of a helicopter that crashed near Los Angeles, killing Kobe Bryant and eight others, tried to avoid fog so heavy it grounded police choppers
3:51PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP source: Astros, Dusty Baker working on manager deal
A person with knowledge of the negotiations says Baker is working to finalize an agreement to become manager of the Houston Astros
3:31PM ( 8 hours ago )
10 Things to Know for Today
Get ready for Tuesday, January 28th with a few things to know about the day’s news from The Associated Press
6:42AM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Online Baseball
Chiefs embracing loose locker room culture on Super Bowl run
If you’re planning to walk through the Kansas City Chiefs locker room between lunch and their typical afternoon practice, you might want to grab someone’s helmet
3:30PM ( 8 hours ago )
Dream allowing Angel McCoughtry to test WNBA free agency
Angel McCoughtry, the two-time WNBA scoring champion, is testing free agency
12:35PM ( 11 hours ago )
Kobe Bryant leaves lasting impact on women's basketball
Kobe Bryant always had an interest in women's basketball even before his daughter Gianna started excelling in the sport
12:27PM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
Judge rejects Sandusky's latest request for shorter sentence
A judge is flatly rejecting Jerry Sandusky's latest request to have his 30- to 60-year child molestation sentence reduced
2:18PM ( 9 hours ago )
Stewart returns, US beats UConn 79-64 in women's basketball
Breanna Stewart made her return to the court nine months after rupturing her right Achilles tendon as the U.S. women's national team beat No. 4 UConn 79-64 in an exhibition game
8:56PM ( 1 day ago )
College Sports
2020 Democratic race is wide open in Iowa as caucuses near
Presidential candidates have swarmed Iowa’s rolling landscape for more than a year, making their pitch to potential supporters on college campuses, county fairgrounds and in high school gymnasiums. But three weeks before the caucuses usher in the Democratic contest, the battle for the state is wide open
1:44PM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Sports - College Baseball
Fiers declines to discuss whistle-blower role in cheat scam
Oakland Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers has declined to answer questions about his whistle-blower role in the sign-stealing scam that has engulfed Major League Baseball
9:22PM ( 4 days ago )
Keuchel apologizes for 2017 Astros' sign-stealing scandal
Dallas Keuchel has become the first member of the 2017 Houston Astros to offer a public apology for the team's sign-stealing scheme during their run to the World Series championship
5:41PM ( 4 days ago )
New Mets manager Luis Rojas thanks famous father, brother
Luis Rojas began his tenure as manager of the New York Mets by thanking his famous father, Felipe Alou
3:33PM ( 4 days ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
Deaths rise to 132 in China outbreak as foreigners leave
Countries began evacuating their citizens from the Chinese city hardest-hit by an outbreak of a new virus that has killed 132 people and infected more than 6,000
11:32PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Middleton has career-best 51, Bucks win minus Antetokounmpo
Khris Middleton scored a career-high 51 points in the absence of injured teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 151-131 victory over the Washington Wizards
11:21PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Missouri ends four-game skid with 72-69 win over Georgia
Missouri overcame a 20-point deficit in the second half to defeat Georgia 72-69 in Columbia, ending a four-game losing streak
11:06PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Japanese evacuation flight brings back workers from Wuhan
The first group of Japanese evacuees from a virus-hit Chinese city has arrived in Tokyo wearing masks but showing a sense of relief
11:01PM ( 45 minutes ago )
Halep, Muguruza to meet in Australian Open semifinals
A pair of two-time major winners will play for a spot in the Australian Open final after No. 4 Simona Halep and unseeded Garbiñe Muguruza won their quarterfinals in straight sets
10:59PM ( 47 minutes ago )