One of the stranger MLB local broadcasting situations over the past year involves Paul O’Neill, an analyst for New York Yankees‘ broadcasts on YES. After not meeting a YES COVID-19 vaccination mandate for in-person workers, O’Neill wound up continuing to contribute to broadcasts from his Ohio home instead of the booth (a situation that started during the 2020 height of the pandemic, when there was far more remote broadcasting, but continued after many other booths returned to in-person announcing). And that got more awkward still when his number was retired by the Yankees last August: he was allowed on the field, but not allowed to interact with current players or visit the broadcast booth.
That’s about to change. On Monday, Neil Best of Newsday reported that O’Neill will be back in the YES booth in person this year. Best added that the YES vaccine mandate has been loosened, but it’s not clear if O’Neill did get vaccinated or not:
UPDATE: Per an industry source, @YESNetwork has relaxed its vaccine requirements, so even if O'Neill is still unvaxxed, he is good to go. As to whether he also decided to get the vax anyway, I have no idea. https://t.co/IxiYcllsgM
— Neil Best (@sportswatch) February 20, 2023
While COVID-19 infection numbers remain high, there have been plenty of loosened mandates from states and cities over the past year-plus. That’s had sports impacts, including with Kyrie Irving returning to play with the Brooklyn Nets late last season (before he was eventually traded to the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month). And that’s led to some loosened mandates from private employers as well, apparently now including YES.
O’Neill has been broadcasting for YES since 2002, his first season in retirement. As a player, he played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1985-1992, then for the Yankees from 1993-2001.