Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz had heard of the man whose name he bore 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 via a FaceTime call before the Pirates game against the Bronx Bombers.
Paul also gave Cruz a signed jersey.
Cruz’s father, Rafael, a former Minor League infielder, idolized Paul O’Neill and commemorated his son’s name to the former Major League player.
O’Neill played 17 MLB seasons split between the Yankees (nine years) and Cincinnati Reds (eight years).
A five-time All Star, O’Neill clipped .288/.363/.470 with 281 homers and 1,269 RBI in over 2,000 games on the left side of the plate, winning the 1994 batting title. He also won five World Events Championships with the Reds (1990) and the Yankees (1996, 98, 99, 2000).
Cruz has followed in O’Neill’s footsteps as a left-handed hitter and is looking to defy the odds as a 6-foot-7 shortstop.
Only 77 games into his MLB career before their introduction, Cruz averaged .223, 18 home runs and 54 RBIs.
The Pirates and the Cruz family are hoping Oneil can become the player Paul was at home plate, if not more than the All Star he is named after.