Mets Jeff McNeil mourns loss of John Altobelli, Cape Cod coach lost in Kobe Bryant crash

Jeff McNeil
Jeff McNeil. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

As more information is received in the aftermath of the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, the identities of the seven other passengers have been revealed. 

John Altobelli was with his wife Keri and daughter, Alyssa — who played on the same travel basketball team as Gianna. 

Christina Mauser was a top assistant of the Mamba girl’s basketball team was also on the helicopter along with Sarah Chester and her daughter, Peyton. 

The helicopter was piloted by Ara Zobayan. 

Altobelli was a legendary baseball manager for Orange Coast College, winning over 700 games and four California state community college championships in 27 years at the school. 

He also managed in the famed Cape Cod Summer League, where he coached Mets All-Star Jeff McNeil in 2012. 

“Tough to hear the news of coach Altobelli,” McNeil wrote. “One of my favorite coaches I have ever played for and one of the main reasons I got a chance to play professional baseball.”

In his first full season with the Mets last season, the 27-year-old made the most of his MLB chance, slashing .318/.384/.531 with 23 home runs and 75 RBI. 

It was worth the long wait to get to the big show as he spent six-plus seasons in the Mets’ farm system before getting a 63-game call-up in 2018. 

Had it not been for Altobelli’s teachings in the Cape Cod League with the Brewster Whitecaps, McNeil might not be the budding star in Queens that he currently is. 

“[Altobelli] made you believe in your ability,” McNeil told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. “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.'”

In 40 games under Altobelli, McNeil hit .301 with 13 RBI. The following summer, he was drafted in the 12th round by the Mets.