Altobelli’s impact stretched from California to Alaska
Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Jan 27, 2020
John Altobelli – one of the key figures that helped get the College Coaches Camp off the ground in the 1990s – was killed in a helicopter crash in California. He was 56.
Altobelli, his wife Keri and their teenage daughter were among the nine people onboard that died, including basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
Anchorage's Jarred Lewis played for Altobelli at Orange Coast College from 2000-2002 and said he was much more than a baseball coach.
“He was such a great man. I'm going to miss him. My family is going to miss him,” Lewis said.
Lewis also coached with Altobelli.
“His wife Keri helped me get my first job out of college,” he said. “Alto pretty much took me under his wing. He was an amazing person, an amazing mentor. He showed me how to run a baseball program. He taught me about life in general.”
Altobelli, who was better known as “Coach Alto” or just “Alto,” was entering his 28th season at Orange Coast College. In 2019, he got his 700th career coaching win during the California community college playoffs.
The Altobellis are survived by a daughter, Alexis, and a son, Boston Red Sox scout J.J.
“They can't be forgotten,” Lewis said. “J.J. was huge with what Alto did in Alaska. All the summer camps, J.J. was with him for basically all of them.”
The College Coaches Camp is where Altobelli recruited Lewis, who played for East Post 34 and later coached the team.
“I couldn't have been more thankful to him for betting us and giving us a chance,” Lewis said of the Alaskans that Altobelli signed.
Altobelli was part of the College Coaches Camp from 1998 to 2004.
That’s where former Dimond Post 21 player Andrew Sullivan met him back in the late 1990s.
“He coached all the baserunning drills stations and was the de facto third base coach in any game situation, and his demeanor was the right balance of intensity and calm,” Sullivan said. “What I remember most about him was that he was a big proponent of ‘dirtbag’ baseball. He loved seeing dirt on the front of the jersey and that spoke to me at the time.”
Lewis said Altobelli was didn’t mince words. He pushed buttons to get the most out of his players, usually with brutal honesty.
“Anybody who played for him will tell you he's a straight shooter,” Lewis said. “He was not going to tell you what you wanted to hear. He would tell you things that hurt your feelings, but then he would say, ‘How are we going to fix it?' He was always there for his guys.”