Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz had heard all about the man whom he was named after throughout his life.
On Wednesday in New York, Cruz finally met the baseball star behind his namesake.
Yankees Hall of Fame outfielder Paul O’Neill reached out to Cruz and the two connected over a FaceTime call prior to the Pirates matchup against the Bronx Bombers.
Oneil Cruz is named after Paul O'Neill.— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 21, 2022
This afternoon the two FaceTimed and Paul gave Oneil a signed jersey! pic.twitter.com/DMLy2mGWP9
Paul also presented Cruz with a signed jersey.
Cruz’s dad Rafael, a former Minor League infielder, idolized Paul O”Neill and commemorated his son’s name to the former Major Leaguer.
O’Neill played 17 MLB seasons split between the Yankees (nine years) and Cincinnati Reds (eight years).
A five-time All Star, O’Neill slashed .288/.363/.470 with 281 home runs and 1,269 RBI in over 2,000 games from the left side of the plate, winning the 1994 batting title. He also won five World Series Championships with the Reds (1990) and Yankees (1996, 98, 99, 2000).
Cruz has followed in O’Neill’s footsteps as a lefty hitter and looks to defy the odds as a 6-foot-7 shortstop.
Only 77 games into his MLB career prior to their introduction, Cruz has registered a .223 average, 18 home runs, and 54 RBI.
The Pirates, and the Cruz family, hope Oneil can become the player Paul was at the plate if not greater than the All Star he was named after.