As the rest of the baseball eagerly anticipates the World Series, two of the stars from past Fall Classics are probably more interested in the games being played in Arizona right now than they are in the League Championships. Indeed, they both have a good reason to be watching what goes on there instead of in Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston or New York.
This is true even for a former Yankee himself, an outfielder who played on pennant winning New York teams in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. He took home the World Series Championship during four of those years, as well as one while playing for the Cincinnati Reds in 1990.
Paul O’ Neill hit eleven home runs and drove in 38 in his postseason career, but his focus right now is most likely on his nephew. Michael O’Neill, who was drafted in 2010 by his uncle’s long time club in New York, is currently playing outfield in the Texas Rangers system.
The 25 year old has fared well enough to be selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League, where most top prospects are sent after their regular seasons have ended. O’Neill is currently on the roster of the Surprise Saguaros, for whom he is hitting.400 after the first week of play.
Former American League Most Valuable Player Kirk Gibson, who smashed the memorable walk-off home run against Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley to lead the Dodgers to claim the 1988 World Series, has probably seen O’Neill around the Arizona fields this month. His son Cameron is playing in the system of the Detroit Tigers, the team with whom his father won his first World Series in 1984.
The younger Gibson is currently on the roster of the Mesa Solar Sox, though te outfielder has struggled in the team’s six games. He is just 23 years of age, so the left-handed hitter is still developing the power that allowed him to hit 13 home runs at two different levels during the regular season in 2017.
Kirk will likely have to turn his focus from Arizona intermittently if his former club, the Los Angeles Dodgers, overcome the Cubs to make their first trip to the World Series since Gibson’s historical pinch hit shot off of Eckersley. In a few years, he may even see Cameron leading the Detroit Tigers to their first World Series Championship since his father’s 1984 Most Valuable Player season.
O’Neill, too, will probably turn away from Arizona intermittently, especially if the New York Yankees somehow beat the heavily favored Houston Astros to reach the World Series for the first time in a decade. He might find himself in a bit of a dilemma, however, if his nephew leads the Texas Rangers to a league championship series against the Yankees in a few years.
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