Sunday's news of Kobe Bryant's tragic death in a Calabasas, Calif., helicopter crash had ripple effects across the sports world. Among the nine people killed in the crash, which included the 41-year-old Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna, was 28th-year Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli.
Altobelli, 56, was on board Bryant's helicopter with his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, who were among the crash victims. Altobelli's brother Tony, Orange Coast College's sports information director, confirmed the news to CNN.
Orange Coast College assistant Ron La Ruffa told CNN that Altobelli "routinely" flew with Bryant to attend their daughters' basketball games. The helicopter Altobelli was on reportedly had been headed from Calabasas to the Bryant-owned Mamba Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks, California.
Mets infielder Jeff McNeil played for Altobelli in the summer of 2012 in the Cape Cod Baseball League for the Brewster Whitecaps. McNeil took to Twitter upon hearing the news Sunday and called Altobelli, who coached the Cape team from 2012-14, one of his "favorite coaches" and "one of the main reasons" he got to play professional baseball.
"(Altobelli) made you believe in your ability," McNeil told ESPN's Jeff Passan. "I remember when we first got to the Cape, he said, 'You're here for a reason. You've just got to believe you can do it. If you want to steal, steal. Play your game. Do what you guys want to do. Enjoy it. Have fun with it. This is gonna be one of the best summers of your life.'"
A product of Nipomo (Calif.) High in 2010, McNeil played collegiately at Long Beach State from 2011-13. The Mets selected McNeil in the 12th round of the 2013 MLB draft, one year after he spent his summer with Altobelli.
Tough to hear the news of coach Altobelli. One of my favorite coaches I have ever played for and one of the main reasons I got a chance to play professional baseball. Both the baseball and basketball world lost a great one today https://t.co/efAyf3s7Hj- Jeff McNeil (@JeffMcNeil805) January 26, 2020