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Hundreds pay tribute at Angel Stadium to Altobelli family members killed in Bryant helicopter crash

Hundreds pay tribute at Angel Stadium to Altobelli family members killed in Bryant helicopter crash

Three members of a beloved Orange County family who were among nine people killed when a helicopter crashed on a hillside in Calabasas were remembered Monday at a moving ceremony at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

The service at Angel Stadium of Anaheim began with a reading of the nine names of the victims of the helicopter crash, including Bryant and his daughter. It honored Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and teenage daughter Alyssa, who played basketball on Bryant’s youth team

People attending Monday’s public memorial for John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli hold up their lighted cellphones in tribute at Angel Stadium on Monday. 
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A podium erected on the field was adorned with flower bouquets, sports jerseys and photos. In one, Alyssa was show clutching a basketball and smiling.

A photo slideshow was shown on stadium screens of the family at baseball and basketball events, boating, laughing and sitting by a chimney covered with Christmas stockings.

Pastor Erik Rees said he met John Altobelli for the first time eight years ago when Rees was grieving the loss of his 12-year-old daughter to cancer.

Altobelli, who dedicated a game to her, met Rees at third base and hugged him, Rees said.

“That is one of the many things I am going to miss, is an ‘Alto’ hug,” Rees told the crowd.

The 45,000-seat stadium is a fitting location to honor a family with close ties to Orange County and the baseball community. 

John Altobelli, 56, coached baseball for 27 years at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. The Pirates won four state titles and more than 700 games under Altobelli, who was honored with a moment of silence before the team’s season opener just days after the tragic crash. 

The college’s baseball foundation started a fundraiser to help the family with expenses and the team has placed a banner bearing his No. 14 on the outfield wall.

 They made everyone feel like an Altobelli or a Pirate 

OCC interim coach Nate Johnson

More than 2,000 people attended the game, including the Altobellis’ son J.J., a scout with the Boston Red Sox, and 16-year old daughter Lexi. They received hugs from each team member after the emotional game.

“They made everyone feel like an Altobelli or a Pirate,” interim manager Nate Johnson said in a pregame ceremony. “That’s why so many people are wearing 14 today. I know if (Keri) were here she would be judging me on everything I’d be doing. (Keri) really ran this team.”

Altobelli’s brother, Tony Altobelli, works for the college’s sports public relations department. He posted a touching tribute delivered as a thank-you letter to his brother.

“He worked hard at what he did, everything he did,” said John Altobelli’s father, Jim. 

Alyssa’s goal was to attend Oregon because her favorite basketball player was college hoops star Sabrina Ionescu. J.J. attended Oregon after playing for his father at Orange Coast.