Skip to main content

Twins reliever Sergio Romo played 1 season under college coach killed in helicopter crash

John Altobelli was among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in California.

Among the victims of the helicopter crash that killed Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others on Sunday was a long time college baseball coach. 

John Altobelli, 56, died in the crash along with his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa. Altobelli's connection to Minnesota is through Twins reliever Sergio Romo, whom he coached for one season in the early 2000s. 

In fact, it was Romo's first year playing organized college baseball after growing up through the high school ranks in Brawley, a small town located about 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Southern California. 

John Altobelli

John Altobelli

Romo played the 2001 season at Orange Coast College, then played the next two seasons at another junior college (Arizona Western) before making the leap to Division II at North Alabama and Mesa State in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Those years led him to him being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2005. 

Sixteen years later Romo finds himself in Minnesota while Altobelli was about to begin his 28th season Orange Coast College before Sunday's tragic crash. He was entering the 2020 season after being named the 2019 National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, having led Orange Coast College to a state championship. 

"It's hard to put into words what this loss means to the college and the athletics department," OCC Athletics Director Jason Kehler said in a release. "John was a tremendous coach and an even better friend. Beyond that, he was an amazing mentor to all of the students and athletes that he taught and coached. He treated them all like family and his impact will live on forever."

Related: Past, present MN athletes react to Kobe Bryant's death

According to ESPN, the Altobelli's daughter was teammates with Bryant's daughter and they were headed to a basketball game when the crash happened in the hills of Calabasas, approximately 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. 

Note: Marty Cordova, who won the 1995 American League Rookie of the Year award, was drafted by the Twins out of Orange Coast College in 1989, just a few years before Altobelli got there. 

Next Up

police tape

3 at trauma centers in critical condition after rural MN attack

Two victims and the alleged attacker are in critical condition.

grinch neighbor

Neighborhood 'grinch' sends letter to Burnsville family over holiday lights

A Burnsville family's holiday decorations were the subject of an anonymous complaint.


Anthropologie shutters Grand Avenue store, opening planned for Rosedale Center

The popular holiday shopping weekend marked the last for customers of the Grand Avenue store.

hospital, emergency room

Woman found on side of highway after hit-and-run

The 41-year-old was airlifted to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Jorden Nicole Borders

Charges: Minnesota woman tortured her kids, removed boy's blood

Warning: This story contains upsetting content.

first snow

Will narrow band of 6+ inches of snow hit Twin Cities Tuesday?

The NWS says a band of 6+ inches is looking likely. It's now a matter of where.


Siblings, ages 19 and 14, killed in crash on icy MN highway

The crash happened around 1:15 a.m. Saturday in Carlton County.

Nicholas Kraus

Man sentenced for fatally striking woman during Uptown protest

Nicholas Kraus, 36, of St. Paul drove into a protest in Uptown last year, killing Deona Marie Knajdek.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Fleeing suspect crashes into vehicle in Woodbury, 2 injured

The crash occurred Friday afternoon after a pursuit with Woodbury police.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 2.34.44 PM

Yes, that's MN native Jenny Taft in a State Farm commercial

Jenny Taft got her broadcasting career started in Minneapolis in 2011.

crime scene tape - police tape

23-year-old woman critical after shooting in Plymouth

A 23-year-old woman was shot Friday night in Plymouth.

white Christmas

2 MN towns among most 'magical' winter locations in the country

The list was compiled by Trips Discover and published earlier this month.


Sergio Romo

Report: Twins bringing back reliever Sergio Romo

The veteran right-hander was excellent out of the bullpen last season.

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 7.23.29 PM

Wolves pay tribute to Kobe Bryant in 1st game since his death

Bryant, 41, was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday near Los Angeles.

Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard give veteran boost to Twins' bullpen

Minnesota's bullpen could be really good in the shortened season.

Sergio Romo

Numbers say Twins now have 3 of MLB's best relievers

The two trade acquisitions could prove to be key down the stretch.

Sergio Romo

Twins decline 2021 option on Sergio Romo

The Twins begin a potential overhaul in the bullpen.


Twins acquire Sergio Romo and Chris Vallimont from Marlins

It looks like the Twins will get some pitching help.

Kobe Bryant

Athletes react with shock to news of Kobe Bryant's death

Multiple outlets have confirmed that Bryant died in a helicopter crash.