Pirates’ Oneil Cruz got to FaceTime namesake, Paul O’Neill

Oneil Cruz finally got to chat with his namesake on Wednesday.

The rising Pirates star, named for former Yankees slugger Paul O’Neill, FaceTimed with the YES analyst in the dugout before facing the Bombers. He is not calling games at Yankee Stadium because of the network’s vaccine mandate.

“He was so excited, he walked out of the dugout and said ‘Is he on the phone yet?’ ” YES’s Meredith Marakovits said during the Yankees-Pirates broadcast.

Oneil Cruz’s long-awaited chat with Paul O’Neill came with an extra gift from the YES crew.
YES

The call had a little bit of drama, as Marakovits said the initial attempt to call O’Neill didn’t go through, but all parties got to walk away happy.

The namesake O’Neill had some praise for the up-and-coming Dominican native, who hit the hardest ball in recorded history this season, a 122.4 mph single against the Braves on Aug. 24.

“Just his personality, just his smile, he has a lot to look forward to, obviously,” he said on the YES broadcast. “It was fun.”

It was more than just a call, with Cruz, who was named for his former minor leaguer father Rafael’s favorite player, taking home a No. 21 Yankees jersey. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound shortstop gave it a kiss. O’Neill plans to autograph it for him at some point.

Oh, and Cruz plans to return the favor, as Marakovits shared he’ll be sending an autographed Pirates jersey to O’Neill.

“That’s very nice, I’ll keep a spot for it,” O’Neill said, “because who knows where this will be in 20 years, right?”