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.
About 2,000 people turned out Monday to remember Newport Beach residents John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli during a public celebration of life.
He was entering his 28th season as Orange Coast College's baseball coach. He had been preparing for his 28th season with the Pirates after securing the team's fourth state championship previous year, according to the athletics department of the Costa Mesa school.
An upcoming episode of ESPN's E60 also played for those in attendance at Monday's service. But it wasn't just his passion for baseball that made him a great coach.
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. At the time, Rees was grieving the loss of his 12-year-old daughter to cancer and Altobelli, who was dedicating a game to her, met him at third base and gave him a hug, promising to support him and his family.
"They're not our rivals, they're our friends and we enjoy playing against them". There is no way for me to put what they meant to me.in words. "Every time you look down the dugout (Altobelli has) been the face that you've seen".
The family members of Orange Coast College players expressed the pain they, too, were feeling.
John Altobelli's best friend, Clarke Smith, said, "The same qualifies and character that guided John as a teacher on the field... was the same as a friend ... loyalty, trust, respect, work ethic and love".
"This is his first year there and he had unbelievable experiences in the few months he was able to learn from that coach".
Hundreds honored Alyssa at a candlelight vigil late last month, where they remembered the 14-year-old as a loyal friend and wore shirts that said, "Live Like Lyssa".
John Altobelli and Keri are survived by a 29-year-old son, J.J. Altobelli, and 16-year-old daughter, Alexis Altobelli.
"I will not only continue to work harder, I will work for both of us", Emily said.
"She always worked 110 percent even when nobody was watching", Sammy said. "Alyssa, thank you for eight years of friendship, eight years of laughter..."
Alyssa and Gianna were teammates at the Mamba Sports Academy.
Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people died January 26 when the helicopter crashed into a hillside outside Los Angeles.
A public memorial for the former Lakers superstar, his daughter and other victims of the crash is scheduled for February 24 at Staples Center.