May 24, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

FINAL THOUGHTS: Here’s why JJ Altobelli selected Angel Stadium for celebration

A look at the Angel Stadium sign at the entrance which on Monday acknowledged John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli and Alyssa Altobelli. (Photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

Angel Stadium’s turf was filled with dirt after a monster truck show over the weekend. The field certainly didn’t look like the well-groomed field we typically see for Angels’ games and how it will look when the Angels take the field.

But that didn’t matter to JJ Altobelli, the son of former Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli. JJ Altobelli wanted to have the celebration of life for the Altobelli family at Angel Stadium Monday because of what the stadium represented to him and his father.

PHOTOS, STORY: Thousands show up at tribute for Altobelli’s

Family friend Guy Lemmon pointed out to the thousands attending Monday’s tribute for Coach Altobelli, Keri Altobelli and Alyssa Altobelli that Coach Altobelli “coached and pitched with his son JJ at Angel Stadium.”

That was when JJ Altobelli was on the Angels elite team when he was a senior in high school at Woodbridge. It was a moment that JJ Altobelli will never forget and so Angel Stadium was the perfect location for the celebration, which attracted an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people.

Monday’s celebration was filled with heartwarming stories about the Altobelli’s, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26 along with six others including Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. The three had a common thread: they loved life and enjoyed every minute, they were compassonate, honest, driven and they treated people with respect and inspired others every day they were on this earth. Baseball coaches also shared their thoughts on Altobelli before the game.

It was a powerful tribute unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed. The Altobelli family, Guy Lemmon, Orange Coast College and the Los Angeles Angels who made everyone feel comfortable and right at home, deserve a big tip of the cap. The Angels, in an appropriate move, waved the normal rules on security checks for fans entering the stadium.

Understandably, the family requested privacy during the celebration, so they were seated in the dugout on the third base side out of sight from most in attendance. There were dozens of camera crews from around the country. Media members were restricted to an area above where the guests were sitting and the Angels public relations personnel indicated no interviews with family members were allowed.

However, the messages from those who spoke during the ceremony very much told the story of the Altobelli’s. We learned so much more about the Altobelli family and Coach Altobelli that we didn’t know.

…Like Altobelli’s relationships with umpires. He got ejected from his share of games because of passion and his desire to stand up for his players. Yet, according to Lemmon, many showed their love for Altobelli by showing up in uniform Monday to honor him.

…Like Coach John Altobelli’s hugs. They were apparently very powerful. We can’t imagine what this family is going through. But those in attendance suggested we can honor the Altobelli’s by carrying on their legacies.

“Hug your loved one a little tighter just for a little bit longer,” said family friend Lee Watanabae, the son of OCC assistant baseball coach Kent Watanabe.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com