Kobe Bryant helicopter crash hits close to home for Sod Squad player

Sod Squad's Chris Ceballos lost coach and mentor in Calabasas helicopter crash.

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash hits close to home for Sod Squad player

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Sports fans across the world will never forget the day Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna passed away in a Calabasas, CA helicopter crash.

Along with Bryant and his daughter, seven other lives were lost. Many remember January 26, 2020 as the day basketball lost one of their greatest athletes. For Amarillo Sod Squad player Chris Ceballos, that was the day baseball lost one of its’ greatest coaches.

“Alto played a really big part of my life getting me into different colleges I went to,” said Ceballos. “He’s the reason I still play baseball to this day.”

Ceballos says he owes his baseball career to Altobelli, who he had the honor to play for at Orange Coast College.

“I was probably about two weeks away from hanging up the cleats and calling it quits when I went on a visit to Orange Coast College,” said Ceballos. “He pretty much saved my career and I can’t thank him enough.”

Chris Ceballos with his former baseball coach John Altobelli
Chris Ceballos with his former baseball coach John Altobelli (Source: Claudia Faust)

On the day of the crash, Ceballos received a heartbreaking call from a friend, informing him that his coach was in the helicopter too.

“I mean he was a mentor to me and it really hit home,” said Ceballos.

Ceballos believes that the opportunity to play summer ball with the Sod Squad is a result of their relationship.

“He was so humble about what he did and I just wish I could tell him I love him and I appreciate everything he did for me,” said Ceballos.

This summer Ceballos wears the number 14 on his Sod Squad uniform in honor of his coach, who also wore the number 14.

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