Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli is in his 20th year.

Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli is in his 20th year. (Courtesy of OCC Athletics / May 9, 2012)

Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli has been named the Orange Empire Conference's Male-Sport Coach of the Year, as voted by conference administrators.

"It's quite an honor," said Altobelli, who is in his 20th year. "It's always nice to be recognized by your peers for the work you've been doing — especially when they work just as hard. We've had quite a remarkable season and hopefully, it will continue for another couple of weeks."

The Pirates (33-4-1), ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 1 by a national poll, are hosting one of the Southern California Super Regional playoffs this weekend. OCC will take on conference rival Cypress on Friday at 11 a.m. at Wendell Pickens Field, before Mt. San Antonio faces Glendale in the second game of the afternoon.

Last week, Altobelli was awarded the OEC Baseball Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his career as he led the Pirates to their first outright conference title since 1987.

In addition to his hard work on the field, Altobelli has been a leader off of it. When Jessica Rees — granddaughter to longtime physical education/athletics professor Leon Skeie — passed away after a 10-month battle with brain cancer, Altobelli honored Jessica by dedicating the 2012 season to her memory. In addition, OCC held a "Jessica Rees Day" and helped raise $1,000 to her foundation.

The 2011-12 school year wasn't an easy one for "Alto" as he underwent open heart surgery on Dec. 15. Despite the life-changing procedure, it's been business as usual for Altobelli. He wanted to have his surgery in mid-December so he wouldn't miss any of his classes, baseball practices or games. Just 19 days after his surgery, Altobelli was back at practice with his team and both he and the Pirates have been rolling ever since.

A Super Regional victory will send Altobelli and the Pirates to the State Final Four for the fourth time in Altobelli's coaching career and the first since 2009, when OCC last won the state title.

— From staff reports