UH alum and former baseball team captain John Altobelli was among those killed in the helicopter crash on Sunday morning in Calabasas, California. John’s wife Keri and youngest daughter Alyssa also lost their lives.
The family was en route to a basketball tournament aboard Kobe Bryant’s Sikorsky S-76B helicopter. The LA County Sheriff’s office says the pilot and eight passengers were in the flight manifest.
Altobelli was the head coach at Orange Coast College. He was set for first pitch for his 28th season on Tuesday.
The baseball field today at Orange Coast College where John Altobelli would have started his 28th season as head coach Tuesday. Altobelli was on the helicopter with Kobe Bryant this morning #Kobe pic.twitter.com/v7CSSBj3Za
— Steve Fryer (@SteveFryer) January 26, 2020
“I was devastated to hear the tragic news that one of our former players and dear friend of mine, John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and his daughter, Alyssa, have passed,” Todd Whitting said Sunday night in a statement.
Alto came to UH in 1983 after two years playing JUCO ball in California. In his two seasons at UH, Altobelli led the program in numerous offensive categories: RBIs (34), runs scored (47), doubles (14), triples (3) and stolen bases (8) in 1984 and runs scored (68) and tied for most stolen bases (13) in 1985.
In 1985, Altobelli set the school record for walks in a season (57).
Teammates described Altobelli as scrappy and dependable. He was a team captain in 1985 and started in rightfield in both seasons at UH. John played in 116 consecutive games – every single game in his Houston career. The Cougars made the NCAA Regional in 1985 and beat #21 LSU in game one.
“I wasn’t great but I could grind,” Altobelli told the TopCoach Podcast last September. “Some of my best friends are from Houston. I still stay in contact with a lot of them.”
In 1987, Altobelli served as an assistant coach at UH under Bragg Stockton for one season as he finished his degree. He then went on to obtain a master’s degree in education Azusa Pacific University before working as an assistant at UC-Irvine. He became the head coach at Orange Coast in 1992.
After 24 years at Orange Coast, John was named an assistant coach for Team USA in 2016. Altobelli’s UH teammate, David Pierce, recommended him for the first base coaching job on Team USA after Pierce took the Texas head coaching job and could not serve.
“To have the opportunity to wear a Team USA baseball uniform and represent USA was a dream come true,” Altobelli said.
Daughter Lexi (16) and his son JJ, who played baseball at Oregon, survive. Keri and John would have celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary two weeks from today.
The entire UH community mourns with the JJ, Alexis, and the friends and family of John, Keri, and Alyssa.