Commack coach Matt Salmon greets Luke and Ella, children of...

Commack coach Matt Salmon greets Luke and Ella, children of late Bryan Bonin prior to All-Star Game in honor of former baseball coach on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. Credit: James Escher

The players from the Nassau and Suffolk All-Star baseball teams donned their respective high school hats and graced the field at Farmingdale State to compete once more.

But before the Bryan Bonin Grand Slam Challenge got underway Tuesday night, it was evident this was more than just your typical all-star contest.

The coaching staffs wore T-shirts that read “COACH STRONG” to represent Bonin, the former Commack varsity coach who died at 33 in January 2022 after a battle with melanoma. The game was named after Bonin in 2023, and the respective all-star teams — featuring talent from Nassau, Suffolk and the NSCHSAA — faced each other for the 17th time, and the second under the Bonin name, Suffolk won 3-2.

“He loved being a part of Long Island baseball,” said Commack coach Matt Salmon, who was an assistant under Bonin and a Suffolk assistant Tuesday. “People forget. I’m never gonna forget Bryan’s name. I’m never gonna forget his message. But the people who weren’t as close with him, they’re not gonna remember Bryan. I think it’s awesome that we do this and keep his name alive and in people’s minds.

“It’s normal for people to forget. Time heals all wounds. For the people who are close to him and for the message that matters, I think it’s important that we keep his name out there.”

Salmon caught the ceremonial first pitch, thrown by Bryan’s father, Joe Bonin Sr.

The two teams were led by championship coaches. Suffolk coach Paul Parsolano led St. Anthony’s to its first NSCHSAA title in 24 years. Nassau skipper Frank Tassielli brought Farmingdale its first county title since 1990.

“I knew him in his late 20s when he first started coaching,” Parsolano said. “But I was coaching in college when he was coaching in Commack, so we never really crossed paths on the field. But I knew him, and I knew a lot of guys who knew him. This is a very important day.”

“Going back and thinking about Coach Bryan, it’s a pleasure to be here,” Tassielli said. “It’s an honor to be here. The guys are having a great time, loving playing against the Suffolk foes and being here with their rivals on the same team.”

Salmon was not the only Commack representative to remember Bonin. Suffolk starting centerfielder Ryan Krzemienski has fond memories of the former Cougars coach from when he was younger.

“My brothers played for him in 10th grade, and he held camps in the summer,” Krzemienski said. “I played ever since I was a little kid with him. He was a great guy. He taught me a lot of baseball, and my brothers told me a lot about him. Just playing with him was incredible.”

Massapequa pitcher George Adams earned the nod for the visiting Nassau team, and Hills East’s Ari Gluck started for Suffolk The game MVP was  Tyler Cook of Holy Trinity.

“It’s very important, obviously it means a lot just to be part of it,” Adams said.

Suffolk has a 10-7 advantage in the series. But the game has taken on a new meaning — and what should be a lasting legacy.

“I was talking to the Suffolk guys about this and what Bryan meant to me and about what Bryan meant to baseball,” Salmon said. “It’s really just about being grateful. Being grateful for your health, loving the people that you’re around. I told these guys, ‘Tonight before we play, just be thankful for your health. Look at your families in the crowd, and be grateful that you’re able to play this game.’ ”

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