John Altobelli Dies In Tragic Helicopter Crash

CALABASAS, Calif. — Orange Coast College suffered an incredible loss on Jan. 26 when longtime baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri and youngest daughter, Alyssa, were among the victims of a helicopter crash that took the lives of nine people, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

“It’s hard to put into words what this loss means to the college and the athletics department,” OCC Athletics Director Jason Kehler said.

“John was a tremendous coach and an even better friend. Beyond that, he was an amazing mentor to all of the students and athletes that he taught and coached. He treated them all like family and his impact will live on forever.”

Altobelli, who is survived by his son, J.J. and daughter Lexi, helped lead the Pirates to the 2019 state baseball championship last year and was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

About to start his 28th season with the Pirates, Altobelli was 705-478-4 (.592) with four state championships, eight trips to the State Final Four and seven Orange Empire Conference championships (including the last three years). His four state baseball championships are tied for the third-most in the history of California Community College baseball.

Associate head coach Nate Johnson will take over for the 2020 Pirates

Altobelli was lofty company in 2019 when he guided his Pirate ball club to the CCCAA State Championship, becoming just the fifth coach in the history of California Community College baseball to win four or more state championships.

In addition to the titles, Altobelli also picked up career win No. 700 with a 10-7 win over Mt. San Antonio on May 17, becoming just the 16th coach in CCCAA baseball history to reach that milestone.

The 2019 Pirates set a school record for wins in a single season (39) and OCC won the Orange Empire Conference for the third straight year, last accomplished at Coast when Mike Mayne’s Pirates win three straight conference crowns from 1980-82. It was also the eighth State Final Four appearance for Altobelli’s Pirates and fourth state championship during his tenure (2009, 2014, 2015, 2019). 

As a player, Altobelli was a standout outfielder at both Newport Harbor High School and then at Golden West College. As a sophomore in 1983, he was chosen team captain and was named the team’s “Rustler of the Year.”

Altobelli transferred to the University of Houston, where he was a team captain and two-year starter in the Cougar outfield. As a senior, he led the Cougars to the NCAA Regional Finals, bringing them one game from advancing to the College World Series. Following college, Altobelli played one season of professional baseball with the Miami Marlins of the Florida State League.

Altobelli earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from the University of Houston in 1987 and then picked up a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific University the following year.