New York Mets infielder Jeff McNeil is mourning the loss of one of his former coaches, John Altobelli, who died in Sunday’s Calabasas helicopter crash.
On Sunday, the sports world learned of one of the more tragic stories to date. Former NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were involved in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA that killed them and seven other passengers. Bryant leaves behind a legacy like no other, as he and his 13-year-old daughter were taken away much too soon.
One of the other victims happened to be Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, who possesses a connection to New York Mets infielder Jeff McNeil. Altobelli coached the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod Baseball League in the summer of 2012, a team McNeil played for.
Speaking to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, McNeil mentioned how much Altobelli means to him and his career.
“He made you believe in your ability,” McNeil said. “I remember when we first got to the Cape, he said, ‘You’re here for a reason. You’ve just got to believe you can do it. If you want to steal, steal. Play your game. Do what you guys want to do. Enjoy it. Have fun with it. This is gonna be one of the best summers of your life.'”
McNeil added that Altobelli is “one of the main reasons I’m still playing professional baseball.”
OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa told Artemis Moshtaghian of CNN that Altobelli would “routinely” fly with Bryant on his helicopter to their daughters’ basketball games. The crash additionally killed Altobelli’s daughter Alyssa and wife Keri.