For one night, Angel Stadium of Anaheim was Altobelli Stadium.
About 2,000 people turned out Monday to remember Newport Beach residents John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli during a public celebration of life. As the long-time head coach of Orange County College men’s baseball team and father of a Boston Red Sox scout, the death of “Coach Alto” hit the regional and state baseball communities particularly hard but was also felt as far away as Cape Cod, Houston, and Miami.
The Los Angeles Angels displayed “In Loving Memory of Alto, K, and Alyssa” on screens throughout the stadium during the memorial service. The typically emerald field was removed for a monster truck rally last weekend, providing a grim backdrop for baseball lovers.
Audience members fell silent to watch an emotion-filled ESPN segment on the Altobellis and OCC baseball that included an interview with John and Keri’s son, J.J.
“It’s unreal, the amount of love and support our family has gotten in this situation,” J.J. Altobelli told ESPN.
In the interview, J.J. shared he never had a shot of beating his 13-year-old sister Alyssa at basketball.
“She kicked my ass,” J.J. said.
Gianna Bryant, Harbor View Elementary alumna Payton Chester, and Alyssa were members of the Mamba Sports Academy Team.
Alyssa’s best friend Sammy Forbath said she will miss her smile and sarcastic sense of humor, adding that she was the most caring girl she had ever met.
“She always worked 110 percent even when nobody was watching,” Sammy said. “Alyssa, thank you for eight years of friendship, eight years of laughter… I will make you proud.”
Alyssa’s Mamba basketball teammate Emily Eadie also bid farewell to her friend.
“I will not only continue to work harder, I will work for both of us,” Emily said. “Goodbye, my angel.”
Although he racked up 700 wins and four championships, John Altobelli was mourned by thousands of people because of his selfless example of what a coach is and should be, said Buck Taylor, a pitching coach for Kansas State University.
“The impact he made on so many young men’s lives will truly never be measured,” said Josh Belovsky, a longtime friend and Milwaukee Brewers scout.
Belovsky said the next couple of years were expected to be a period of celebrations for the Altobelli family, with J.J. and his fiancé Carly Koningsfeld getting married this summer and Alexis graduating from Newport Harbor High School next year.
“They will still be special but there will be a hole that none of us can ever fill,” Belovsky said.
For the first time, the public also received a more comprehensive narrative of Keri Altobelli’s life.
For example, John Altobelli wrote his phone number on a baseball, handed it to Keri, and asked her to call him the first time they met. Friends said they were immediately smitten with each other and from then on John’s coaching career and later their daughters’ athletic endeavors became the center of her otherwise private life.
Allison Eadie and Keri spent countless hours together in gyms watching their daughters train and play. The two basketball moms joked that they should have plaques on their regular seats so future generations would know they were there.
“Once she had your back, you didn’t need anyone else. She cared deeply and strongly for those she loved,” Allison Eadie said.
Clarke Smith, John Altobelli’s best friend for more than 44 years, summed up the message he hoped the audience would take home with them.
“For those who didn’t get to meet them or spend time with them, I hope the stories you will hear today will touch you and be a positive influence on how you live your life,” Smith said.