Orange Coast College baseball team honors John Altobelli and his family in team's season opener

COSTA MESA, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange Coast College's baseball team honored coach John Altobelli, who was among the nine people killed in the Calabasas helicopter crash that also claimed the life of Kobe Bryant.

Altobelli along with his wife Kerri and daughter Alyssa were on the helicopter when crashed on Sunday. Alyssa was on the same basketball team as Gianna, Bryant's 13-year-old daughter who was also killed in the crash.

The team decided to play Tuesday's season opener as scheduled, but there was a tribute to their coach and his family before the game.

John Altobelli's brother Tony led the ceremony, and had a message for everyone attending the game.

"I want you guys to smile. I want you guys to laugh," he said in front of the crowd gathered at the game. "I want you guys to tell jokes."

And that's what people did in between hugs and tears with people from Altobelli's past and present.

Former player Jeff Piaskowski Sr. said he treated everybody like family.

Nick McDonald, a former assistant coach, recalled that Altobelli loved when players came back to visit.

"He was a big family man and loved having alumni and old coaches coming back, and this is kind of the environment that he would want," McDonald said.

The team says the tribute is an important first step in the healing process.

While hearts long for the Altobellis who are now gone, there's a deeper sadness for the two children left behind.
Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.