Luke Heimlich will not travel with Oregon State University’s baseball team to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, and hopes to rejoin the team next season, he said in a statement issued through a family representative.
Heimlich, who helped pitch Puyallup High School to a state title in 2014, previously had pulled himself out of a scheduled start in Oregon’s State’s Super Regional. The Beavers won two games against Vanderbilt to reach the College World Series.
Here’s his full statement:
“For the past six years, I have done everything in my power to demonstrate that I am someone my family and my community can be proud of and show the one person who has suffered the most that I am committed to living a life of integrity. This situation has caused great pain to my family members over the years and I am devastated that they have to relive it again so publicly. Today the Oregon State University baseball team is heading to Omaha for the College World Series – something my teammates, my coaches and I have worked for all year and dreamed about for a lifetime. I’m sad to say I am not joining them because doing so would only create further distraction for my teammates, more turmoil for my family and given the high profile of the national championship, direct even more unwanted attention to an innocent young girl. I want to wish my teammates the best. I hope they understand this decision as my family and I continue to work through this together. My hope is to return to OSU next year as a student-athlete and continue to earn the trust of my community.”
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Heimlich, the Pac-12 pitcher of the year, was considered a lock as an early-round MLB draft choice until major league teams took him off their draft boards and wasn’t selected at all after the Oregonian/OregonLive reported last week that Heimlich pleaded guilty to felony child molestation as a teenager. He was home-schooled at the time and shortly after joined the baseball team at Puyallup.
The victim’s mother told The Oregonian that she didn’t understand why Heimlich has been allowed to play baseball at Oregon State. The child was 6 years old when Heimlich, who was 15, pleaded guilty to at single charge of sexually molesting her.
“I’m appalled that the college he’s going to would even have him on their team,” she said.
Puyallup School District athletic director Rick Wells said he did not know of Heimlich’s status as a sex offender until the day the Oregonian’s story published.
School district spokesman Brian Fox said last week that the district adheres to state and federal law in maintaining confidentiality regarding juvenile offenders.
He did not say specifically if anyone at Puyallup High School or the school district knew of Heimlich’s history. Puyallup principal Dave Sunich had not returned a call seeking comment.
“Any written information or records received by a principal as a result of a notification are confidential and may not be further disseminated except as provided in state and federal law as provided in RCW 18A.225.330 and other statutes, or case law, and the family and Educational privacy Rights Act of 1994 (FERPA) regulations,” Fox said.
“For such students, our current School Board Policy 3143 – District Notification of Juvenile Offenders requires the creation of a safety plan, as appropriate, which is only shared with appropriate school personnel. Inquiries by the public at large, including parents and students, regarding students required to register as an offender are referred directly to local law enforcement.”
Puyallup baseball coach Marc Wiese said he did not know that Heimlich was a sex offender, but declined to comment further.
Oregon State University President Ed Ray released a statement to the OSU community. It included that he agreed with Heimlich’s decision to step away from the OSU baseball team and that he would welcome him back for his senior season.
“Yesterday, Luke decided that he would no longer represent the university this year as a member of the baseball team,” Ray wrote. “As such, he will not participate in the NCAA College World Series nor travel with the OSU baseball team to Omaha. I concur with this decision as to do otherwise would certainly serve as a disruption and distraction to the team due to the significant public scrutiny that this matter has attracted. As well, I am mindful of the need for providing safety for all concerned that otherwise might be at risk during times of heightened emotions.
Here’s Ed Ray’s full letter:
To the Oregon State University community,
I am writing regarding recent media coverage of events involving a member of the Oregon State baseball team Luke Heimlich.
The tragedy of sexual assault in our society is both horrific and heartbreaking. I have heard from many individuals who personally - or through loved ones - have experienced the distress of sexual assault. There is no closure. Survivors live with that horror the rest of their lives, but hopefully they can heal and recover. This story has triggered a great deal of sorrow and pain in other victims of sexual assault and among their loved ones. In the midst of all of this, my heart goes out to the young girl in this matter, who was the victim of wrongdoing.
I have taken time this week to think through these complex issues and to give Luke the time and space he needed to determine how he wished to proceed. I believe he made the right initial decision for himself and for the team last Friday when he recused himself from pitching for the team in the NCAA Super Regional.
Yesterday, Luke decided that he would no longer represent the university this year as a member of the baseball team. As such, he will not participate in the NCAA College World Series nor travel with the OSU baseball team to Omaha. I concur with this decision as to do otherwise would certainly serve as a disruption and distraction to the team due to the significant public scrutiny that this matter has attracted. As well, I am mindful of the need for providing safety for all concerned that otherwise might be at risk during times of heightened emotions.
If Luke wishes to do so, I support him continuing his education at Oregon State and rejoining the baseball team next season.
At Oregon State University, we are in the business of transforming lives and creating opportunity for each student. I have always believed that education is a path to a more meaningful, responsible and productive life for everyone. I believe that every individual should have the opportunity to get an education. Therefore, I have long supported the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education to allow individuals to register for college admission without revealing a prior criminal record, except in specific circumstances.
The position that OSU has taken on criminal records in regards to admissions is consistent with the U.S. Department of Education Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge signed by universities and organizations nationally, such as Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, the University of California System, the University of Washington, Google, Starbucks, Xerox and many more. In September 2016 alone, there were 61 higher education signatories to this pledge representing 172 individual campuses serving more than 1.8 million students. Certainly, individual universities have their own specific registration requirements in troublesome cases where public safety considerations may be involved. Clearly, OSU is not an outlier in its admissions policies.
For purposes of employment or volunteer work with OSU, background checks are required for anyone - including students - seeking critical or security-sensitive positions - such as working with minors. Separately, OSU also receives reports through the Oregon State Police (OSP) in Salem of registered sex offenders (RSOs) who attend our university. Upon being notified by OSP, Oregon State's departments of Human Resources, Student Affairs and Public Safety share that information on a need-to-know basis with those OSU managers who meet with the student and otherwise take actions to mitigate any community risks that might result from an RSO attending the university. For example, RSOs cannot live in OSU residence halls on campus, and are prohibited from working with or having unsupervised contact with juveniles. We also require students with criminal backgrounds to reveal this history if it involves crimes that would limit where a student would be allowed to study such as within a College of Education school counseling degree or teacher preparation programs. Students in these kinds of programs are specifically background checked by other public agencies before having certain types of access with minors off campus.
While at OSU, Luke has been in good academic standing, his participation as a student-athlete has been positive, and his presence on the team has been in compliance with existing OSU policies.
Moving forward, I will discuss with university colleagues a review of our policies. This review should consider the possibility that some offenses and situations are so serious that we should no longer let such a student represent the university in athletic competition and other high-profile activities sponsored by the university by virtue of their offense. Such individuals could still enroll as a student in the university with appropriate risk mitigation. Any potential change in existing admission criteria will be implemented for students entering the university beginning in fall 2018.
The safety and security of OSU's students will always be our paramount concern, and we will continue to review our policies to ensure that they are aligned with the best interests of the OSU community.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677