Mets' McNeil Reacts To Death Of His Former Coach In Kobe Bryant Crash

John Altobelli Also Coached Judge In Cape Cod League

Associated Press
January 27, 2020 - 9:29 am

Among the nine people killed in the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash Sunday was a longtime baseball coach who once coached Mets star Jeff McNeil and Yankees slugger Aaron Judge. 

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John Altobelli was the longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. He was killed along with his wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa, in the crash in Calabasas, California, that also claimed the lives Bryant, the retired NBA superstar's daughter Gianna and four others. Alyssa played on the same basketball team as Bryant's daughter.

John Altobelli spent 27 seasons as coach at Orange Coast College. The team won a state championship last year and Altobelli was named a national coach of the year by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He led the team to more than 700 victories and four state titles.

Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was among the nine people killed in the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash.
Orange Coast College via AP

He was also the head coach of the Brewster Whitecaps from 2012-14 in the Cape Cod Baseball League, a summer proving ground for elite college prospects. There he coached more than a dozen players who have reached the big leagues, including McNeil and Judge.

"One of my favorite coaches I have ever played for and one of the main reasons I got a chance to play professional baseball," McNeil tweeted. "Both the baseball and basketball world lost a great one today."

McNeil added in an interview with ESPN's Jeff Passan: "He took a chance on me, kept me the whole summer," McNeil said. "Him taking that chance on me, having me on his team, got me drafted."

Judge tweeted Sunday, "This isn't real...," but it's not clear if he was referring to Altobelli or Bryant, or both.

Orange Coast College announced the creation of a memorial fund for the Altobelli family.

"John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball," athletic director Jason Kehler said in a statement. "He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none - he treated them like family."

The team was scheduled to start its season on Tuesday.

"He treated every player like his own son," Orange Coast first baseman Justin Brodt told the Orange County Register. "He wanted the best for everybody involved. That's what made him such a successful coach and such a great guy."

The Whitecaps posted a statement on Twitter that said Altobelli and his wife are survived by another daughter, Alexis, and son JJ, who also played for the team. contributed to this report.