While honoring his father, stepmom, and sister – who perished alongside Kobe and Gianna Bryant in that fatal helicopter crash – a devastated JJ Altobelli said the loss of his family left him struggling for words.
“Thank you guys so much for coming, it really means a lot to all of us.” JJ Altobelli, 29, told the crowd gathered at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California on Feb. 10. Thousands had come to pay their respects after the tragic death of JJ’s father, college baseball coach John Altobelli, 56, John’s wife Keri Altobelli, 46, and their daughter, Alyssa, 13. The three perished in the same crash that took the life of Kobe Bryant and five others. While struggling to maintain his composure, JJ thanked the crowd. “The amount of love and support we have received these last few weeks has been truly amazing. Each text, call, donation, or act of kindness has not gone unnoticed.”
“It really goes to show the impact that my dad, K, and Alyssa had on everyone here. I was going to get up here and talk about my dad, K, and Alyssa, but there’s no way for me to put what they meant to me into words,” said JJ (around the 24:00 mark in the video below.) After fighting through the tears, JJ remembered his father’s spirit and encouraged everyone to focus more on the positive John did in life than the fact that he was gone. “The legacy they left will continue to live on through all of us. But, for tonight, let’s all live by my dad’s favorite motto: you drinkin’ or thinkin’?”
The Altobellis were referred to as “the First Family” of Orange County college baseball, per the Orange County Register. John coached baseball for 27 years at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. JJ, before becoming a scout for the Boston Red Sox, played and coached baseball in Orange County. John and Keri’s daughters, Alyssa and 16-year-old Alexis, were batgirls for their father’s team. Alyssa was a friend and teammate of Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, on the Orange County Mambas. Gianna was aboard the helicopter that killed her father and the Altobellis. Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mouser, and Ara Zobayan were also killed.
HAPPENING NOW: Memorial at Angel Stadium of Anaheim remembers the lives of John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and daughter Alyssa, who died in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant. https://t.co/qcdFqMtJml https://t.co/uGKtkWlvBb
— ABC News (@ABC) February 11, 2020
John’s brother, Tony Altobelli, who works as the OCC sports public relations department, posted a tribute to his brother ahead of the team’s season opener. “THANK YOU for being my big brother. For most of my young life, you were there, setting the pace that I had to try and keep up with. To say that bar you set was rather high is putting it mildly, but I guess I needed to have that type of example so in the event I came within a country mile of that expectation, I’d be well ahead of the rest of those around me growing up,” he wrote.
“You left a lasting impact on thousands of kids, and you left a mark in the collegiate baseball world that will never be forgotten. You made a difference, John — what more can anyone ask for? THANK YOU for keeping the bar high, John. Give Mom a hug for me.”