Helicopter crash victim & Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli had connections to Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Successful California college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their youngest daughter Alyssa, were among the victims of a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of nine people including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna on Sunday.

(Courtesy Jarred Lewis)

Orange Coast College, where Altobelli coached for 27 seasons, confirmed the tragic news Sunday.

Altobelli had a connection to Alaska baseball through his involvement in the Alaska American Legion Baseball college coaches’ clinic and even recruited local players.

Former East High standout Jared Lewis said he met Altobelli during the 1997, 1998 and 1999 clinics.

“He was one of the younger coaches that were telling us instruction and doing it with us,” said Lewis.

Eventually, Lewis and a group of players from Anchorage would play for Altobelli at OCC.

“When I think of coach, the first thing that pops up is how genuine of a person he was, how honest he was,” Lewis said.

Lewis spent three seasons (2000-2002) playing for Altobelli, and said their relationship transcended baseball. After Lewis left California he still kept in touch with Altobelli and said the news of his death Sunday was heartbreaking.

"He was a hero to a lot of us,” Lewis said.

He was also aware of Bryant’s and Altobelli’s relationship which stemmed from their daughters playing soccer and basketball together. Lewis felt Bryant and Altobelli had a similar drive to succeed.

“He (Altobelli) had that instinct," Lewis said. "The coach was really scrappy, my best verse you’re best to let’s get it on and that’s what he instilled in us as men."

Altobelli is survived by his son, J.J. and daughter Lexi. A GoFundMe is currently raising money for Altobelli's family and funeral expenses.

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