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Orange Coast College names Nate Johnson head baseball coach

Nate Johnson was named the head coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team Thursday.
Nate Johnson, who was named the head coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team Thursday, becomes just the seventh skipper in program history.
(Courtesy of Orange Coast College)

Nate Johnson has been named the seventh head coach in Orange Coast College baseball history, the school announced Thursday.

Orange Coast College stayed in house to find a replacement to run “The House That Alto Built.”

Johnson was previously the Pirates’ assistant coach for seven years under the late John Altobelli. Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, all died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash that also claimed six other lives, including former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

Coaches and players weigh in on what Pirates coach John Altobelli meant to the game and to them personally. Altobelli, 56, died Sunday in the helicopter crash that killed nine people in Calabasas.

Johnson was named Orange Coast’s interim coach for 2020, a tag which is now removed. OCC went 12-8 overall in 2020 before the rest of the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A two-month hiring process had over 70 applicants, the school announced, before Johnson, 30, was selected.

“It’s been a roller coaster six months, that’s for sure, but in the end, this is where I always wanted to end up and I’m so excited to follow in Alto’s footsteps,” Johnson said in a release. “He has set the standards high with this program and I’m going to do my best to not only maintain the success he brought, but also maintain his legacy, while at the same time, begin my career as the skipper of this program.”

Nate Johnson and his wife Jonai, right, listen to Orange Coast College sports information director Tony Altobelli speak.
Nate Johnson and his wife, Jonai, right, listen to Orange Coast College sports information director Tony Altobelli speak prior to the Pirates’ season opener on Jan. 28.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Orange Coast had success under Altobelli, who won more than 700 games in 27 seasons in charge and four state titles, including in 2019. The Pirates came into the 2020 season as three-time defending Orange Empire Conference champions.

Now they turn to Johnson, who played college baseball at Pepperdine University.

“We are very excited with the direction that Nate will take our baseball program,” OCC athletic director Jason Kehler said. “He brings such a great combination of playing and coaching experience, along with his commitment to student-athlete success, that makes the next phase of Pirate Baseball as promising as its history.”

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