FRESNO — The baseball field at Fresno City College was pretty much empty Monday, as Fresno City head baseball coach Ron Scott cancelled practice out of respect for junior college coaching friend John Altobelli, and the other eight victims of the helicopter crash Sunday.
“We’re taking the day off today,” said Scott. “The coaching staff didn’t feel it today.”
Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College for the last 27 years, perished in the crash, along his wife Keri and his daughter Alyssa. Former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant also died in the crash, along with Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Alyssa was a youth basketball teammate of Gianna, and they were headed to Thousand Oaks to play in a tournament put on by Bryant, when the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas.
“It puts everything in perspective,” said Scott. “Baseball is just a game. We stress winning, but life is more important. The relationships we have, family. It just crushes me what’s going on. I can’t imagine what it’s like for those familiies (who lost loved ones).”
Because Fresno City is a northern California power, and Orange Coast College is a southern California power, Scott, the head coach at Fresno City for the last 32 years, can only remember playing Altobelli’s team one time in the state tournament over the last 27 years.
Scott’s team won the battle that time, on a controversail balk call at the end.
“It was crazy,” said Scott, about that game. “He came over and yelled at me, and I yelled at him, and he yelled back, and I think I yelled ‘hey, just get on the bus and go home.’ And he’s told me, ‘I fell in love with Ron Scott there, because you put me in my place.'”
Ron says his relationship with John grew closer in recent years, with the two texting each other a lot. Altobelli would usually check in with the Fresno City coach via text every Christmas day as well.
Ron hung out with John earlier this month in Nashville, when Altobelli won a national coach of the year award, after winning his fourth junior college state championship last year.
“He was old school, argued with umpires, (but the) umpires all loved him,” said Scott. “Even when they were throwing him out of the game. Whether it was having a drink in a bar in Nashville two weeks ago with all of us, he was passionate about that, because he was with friends, was hugging on everybody.”
Altobelli also coached former Fresno State and current New York Yankee star Aaron Judge in the Cape Cod League.
Scott says the flags at John Euless Ballpark at Fresno City College will be flying at half-mast this week in honor of Altobelli and the other crash victims.