MEDFORD, Ore. — On Sunday, news spread of a fatal helicopter crash that killed all nine passengers aboard, including Kobe Bryant, his daughter, John Altobelli, and his wife and daughter.
When Altobelli's former players heard the news, they had a hard time processing it.
"I was devastated," Medford-native and former player for Altobelli Josh Berman said Monday. "It feels like it can't really be true and when it sinks in that unfortunately it is... it's a pretty bad feeling."
Altobelli was traveling with his daughter, Alyssa, and his wife, Keri, to his daughter's basketball game. Alyssa played on the same team as Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who was also aboard the helicopter.
Altobelli, or "Coach Alto" as he was known around the diamond, had been a coach at Orange Coast College for 27 years. Just last year, Altobelli was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association as an ABCA/Diamond National Coach of the Year. His players remember him as a coach who truly cared.
"I think his legacy for me is just going about the little things in life and treating the little things just as important as the big things," Berman said. "I'm always going to remember just the kind of work ethic and the kind of leadership that he had. He was the ultimate man."
Berman is now a senior at Texas A&M-Corpus Cristi. This season, Berman will wear number 14, Coach Alto's number, to honor his former coach who helped shape him not only as a baseball player, but also as a man.
"The most important thing is that I would tell him I love him and I miss him," Berman said.
Altobelli and his wife are survived by their daughter Alexis and son J.J. J.J. was a standout infielder for the University of Oregon from 2010-2013 and is currently a scout for the Boston Red Sox.