Division outfielder Matt Bolton will be a member of Nassau’s...

Division outfielder Matt Bolton will be a member of Nassau’s team in the 17th Bonin Grand Slam Challenge, where Nassau plays Suffolk in a senior all-star baseball game. Credit: James Escher

Commack baseball coach Matt Salmon has a full plate for the next few days — and he’s not complaining. Rather, he’s soaking in all the excitement and the experience.

The Cougars skipper will lead his team into the state Class AAA semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday night against Fairport at Mirabito Stadium in Binghamton. His focus will be on winning the state title this weekend, and his heart will be thinking of former Commack coach and close friend Bryan Bonin, who had a profound impact on Salmon’s career.

“He’s all around us,” Salmon said. “We are so blessed he was in our lives. He taught me so much about life, even in death. Enjoy these moments, love your family, be kind. He had such a positive influence in our school, with our team and community. He inspired everyone as he battled cancer with such courage and honor. He was amazing. And having the Grand Slam Challenge played in his name, for his foundation, is dear to my heart.”

Salmon’s plan: Win a state crown and come home to coach the Bryan Bonin Grand Slam Challenge, in which Nassau plays Suffolk in the senior all-star game at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night at Farmingdale State. Admission is $10 at the gate and all proceeds go to the Bonin Foundation.

“It’s a special week any way you look at it,” Salmon said. “The players look forward to the all-star game. It’s a chance to play on the big stage against the best seniors Long Island has to offer. There’s camaraderie and an opportunity to share the field with guys who were opponents throughout their careers before they head off to college. And it’s all for a great cause.”

The Bonin Foundation was created to honor Commack’s beloved coach, who died at the age of 33 of melanoma. The foundation raises money to help families going through a similar struggle and who need financial support and/or guidance.

Bonin, a father of three who taught physical education in the Commack District, was the coach for the baseball team from 2017-21. In that span, he led the program to three league titles, two Suffolk crowns and a L.I. Conference I title in 2021.

The Suffolk all-stars used a six-run third inning to beat Nassau, 8-4, in 2023. Suffolk leads the series 9-7. It’s a game that has had 23 players go on to play professionally, including major-leaguers Marcus Stroman of the Yankees, Jason Foley of the Tigers, Greg Weissert of the Red Sox, Ben Brown of the Cubs and Steven Matz of the Cardinals.

St. Anthony’s coach Paul Parsolano will skipper the Suffolk squad and Farmingdale coach Frank Tassielli was selected to lead the Nassau team. Parsolano will have some of L.I.’s top pitchers in Kings Park’s Hunter Colagrande, Commack’s Evan Kay, Hauppauge’s Matt Neglia and Connor Catania of Smithtown West. Catania, who posted five consecutive shutouts this season, could get the starting nod as the other three aces will  throw in the state playoffs this weekend.

Tassielli has some of L.I.’s top hitters in Division outfielder Matt Bolton, Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK first baseman Michael D’Ambrosio, Wantagh catcher AJ Bardi and Kellenberg shortstop Kenny Noe.

“We have the best of the best,” said LI Lutheran coach Shaun Manning, the game’s coordinator. “This game has been a staple in the baseball community and supported so many great causes over the years.”

Said Salmon: “The game means a lot to me, my family and Bryan’s family. In my heart, this game means so much to me. It’s a fun night.”

2024 GRAND SLAM CHALLENGE ROSTERS

SUFFOLK

1B -- Brandon Hauk, Kings Park

1B -- Jace Alvino, West Babylon

MIF -- AJ Aschettino, Rocky Point

MIF-- Kevin Baez, St. Anthony’s

MIF -- Christian Cox, Shoreham-Wading River

MIF -- Matt Neglia, Hauppauge

3B -- Gordon Votruba, Shoreham-Wading River

3B -- John Margolies, Hauppauge

OF -- Nick Zampieron, Comsewogue

OF -- Logan Norman, Centereach

OF -- Jack Molini, Floyd

OF -- Rob Melo, Patchogue-Medford

C -- Kevin Schnupp, Comsewogue

C -- Luke Ciminiello, Smithtown East

C -- Milo Tompkins, Bridgehampton

UT -- Ryan Krzemienski, Commack

P -- Evan Kay, Commack

P -- Hunter Colagrande, Kings Park

P -- Connor Catania, Smithtown West

P -- Kevin Brown, Whitman

P -- CJ Forman, Longwood

P -- Matt Hesselbirg, Newfield

P -- Ari Gluck, Half Hollow Hills East

P -- Ben Kennedy, Smithtown East

P -- Anthony Vino, Sachem North

P -- Nick Pepitone, Connetquot

Coaches: Paul Parsolano, Greg Naccari, Josh Gutes, Chris Diesso, Matt Salmon

NASSAU

1B -- Michael D’Ambrosio, Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK

1B -- Jordan Welch, Farmingdale

MIF -- Nick Berasti, Clarke

MIF -- Tommy Pasqua, Kellenberg

MIF -- Kenny Noe, Kellenberg

MIF -- Matteo Tufano, Carey

MIF -- AJ Bardi, Wantagh

3B -- Mike Cervoni, Chaminade

3B -- Giancarlo Rengifo, Clarke

OF -- Matt Bolton, Division

OF -- Dan Reynolds, MacArthur

OF -- Steven Mulqueen, Mepham

OF -- Peter Beisel, Chaminade

C -- Paul Dulanto, Massapequa

C -- Thomas Garrett, St. Dominic

C -- Jimmy Ernst, Kellenberg

UT -- Tyler Cook, Holy Trinity

P -- Victor Frederick, St. Dominic

P -- George Adams, Massapequa

P -- Hunter Trenaman, Port Washington

P -- Reid Walter, Cold Spring Harbor

P -- Garret Gates, North Shore

P -- Tyler Bonsignore, MacArthur

P -- Lucas Weisser, Roslyn

P -- Christian Varela, Division

P -- Jack Tate, Wantagh

Coaches: Frank Tassielli, Tom Tuttle, Tom Abruscato, Pat Miles

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