The Suffolk County All-Stars and the Nassau County All-Stars were squaring off on the baseball diamond at Farmingdale State Wednesday night for bragging rights, but also for something more.
Long Island’s annual senior showcase game was renamed this season as the Bryan Bonin Grand Slam Challenge to honor the beloved Commack coach who passed away at age 33 of melanoma in 2022 and to raise money for the foundation that bears his name.
“I was just honored, really,” Lauren Bonin said of naming the game for her late husband. “I know it's only been a year but . . . people are still thinking about him. He's still relevant. He's meaningful to people. And that means so much to me and my family . . . It's so great for my kids that I can talk to them about this and his name will live on. They’ll know who he was and that he meant so much to people that they're willing to do this.”
“Right now he's smiling down on us,” said St. John the Baptist assistant coach Casey McKay, who played with Bonin at LIU Post. “But he also never wanted it to be about him. He was always about the kids, only about everybody else.”
Suffolk County sent 10 batters to the plate in a six-run third inning and East Islip lefthander Nick Rizzo sealed the 8-4 win over Nassau County, pitching scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth with five strikeouts.
Connetquot’s Anthony Scarabino had two hits and three RBIs for Suffolk and was named Offensive Player of the Game. Ward Melville’s Jack Friend extricated Suffolk from a bases-loaded jam by starting an inning-ending 5-5-2 double play in the third and received the Defensive Play of the Game trophy. Lindenhurst’s Chris Carson added two hits and an RBI for Suffolk.
South Side's Sean Britt, Division's Joe Yovino and Wantagh's Tim Hennig drove in runs in the fourth inning as Nassau cut its deficit to 7-3 and Chaminade’s Mike Sweeney stole home in the seventh to make it 7-4; it was as close as Nassau would get. South Side righthander Justin Peralta retired Suffolk in order in the fifth with a pair of strikeouts and was named Pitcher of the Game.
Two Suffolk All-Stars, Chris McHugh and Aidan Murphy of Commack, were sophomores on the Cougars varsity in Bonin’s final season when they won the 2021 county and Long Island Class AA championships. Both remember how Bonin fought off his illness to coach the team to the Long Island title game win.
That day Matt Salmon, then Bonin’s assistant and the current Commack coach, told the players their coach refused to miss the game. Murphy recalled: “He told him ‘I'm going to push through because these guys have been pushing through the whole season — I’ve been pushing for them and we're going to go out together and win this.’ ”
“It was just awesome playing for such a great guy,” Murphy added. “He taught us how to play the game the right way [and] . . . enjoying the success of others.”
“Seeing him fight [cancer] made us want to fight [to win],” McHugh said. “He was an inspiration.”
Salmon said that when Bonin left a position in finance to go into education and coaching in 2016, he’d found his calling.
“When he came into this world, it was the happiest he’d been,” Salmon said. “He really treasured [investing] in his students and his players.”