Paul O’Neill was a fan favorite during his 9-year tenure in the Bronx. Fans would be ecstatic over the fire and passion he brought to the field every game. While the Warrior now sits above the field in the broadcast booth, another O’Neill is patrolling the outfield for the Yankees’ Single-A squad.
Michael O’Neill is not just the starting outfielder for the Yankees’ Low-A Charleston RiverDogs, he is Paul O’Neill’s nephew. The 21-year-old right and left fielder is in his second season with the Yankees system. He already is having a nice start to his young Yankees’ career.
Michael O’Neill was drafted in the 42nd round of the 2010 draft by the Yankees. However, with O’Neill knowing he needed shoulder surgery and a scholarship to the University of Michigan on the table, O’Neill passed up on the Yankees and headed to Ann Arbor. It was the right choice as he finished his 3-year run with the Wolverines with a .331 batting average and 72 stolen bases. He also earned a spot on the 2011 Big Ten All-Freshman team after setting a Michigan freshman record of 30 stolen bases. His Michigan career climaxed after his junior year with an All-Big Ten Team selection and a third-team All-American bid.
While O’Neill was gaining an education and experience, he didn’t miss out on a thing by turning down the Yankees in 2010. The Yankees drafted O’Neill once again, this time in the third round of the 2013 draft with the 103rd overall pick after his stellar final year with the Wolverines. He had a rough time out of the gate in his 2013 season with the Staten Island Yankees in the Rookie League, however this year is another story.
Unlike his Uncle Paulie, Michael has a set of wheels which seems to be helping him become a five-tool prospect. He has played in the most games for the RiverDogs (22) in the young 2014 season and has made the most of it. O’Neill is currently batting just .244, but he has slugged five home runs while driving in 17 RiverDogs. While those are impressive numbers expected from a corner outfielder, O’Neill has also added 15 runs scored, two triples, and 9 stolen bases in his first 10 attempts. He is really putting together a solid all-around season in the early going.
His uncle is part of the legendary rebirth of the Yankees’ Dynasty as one of the faces of the late 90’s run. In his nine years in pinstripes, Paul O’Neill batted .303 with 185 home runs, 858 RBI, 1426 hits, and 720 runs while leaving it all on the field each and every game. He captured the 1994 batting title and was a major part in four Yankees’ World Championships. Now, he is not only an announcer for YES, he is a mentor to his own kin.
The two speak once a week. In true Warrior form, his uncle doesn’t care about stats. ”He never asks about my results,” Michael told the RiverDogs official site. “If I tell him I’m 20-for-20 or 1-for-15, it doesn’t matter. How were your at-bats?”
Yankees’ fans will be hoping to one day see another O’Neill in pinstripes. Until then, he will continue to improve on his rise throughout the farm system. If 2014 is any indication, O’Neill has a promising future ahead.
A fun fact: Our very own TJ Jann, who currently pitches for Penn State University, and is one of our newest staff writers, has personal experience against O’Neill. Last season, while pitching against O’Neill, TJ struck the future Yankees’ farmhand out twice, but O’Neill would have the last laugh, breaking up TJ’s no-hit bid!