Luke Heimlich has been one of the best pitchers in college baseball this year and appeared a lock to prepare for his major league future.
But through 40 rounds and three days of the MLB draft – which concluded Wednesday – the former Puyallup High School pitcher who has since been the ace pitcher at Oregon State University was not drafted.
It comes less than a week after The Oregonian/OregonLive first reported that Heimlich had pleaded guilty as a 15-year-old – while he was living in Puyallup – to sexually molesting a 6-year-old female family member and had been cited in April for not updating his status as a sex offender in Oregon’s Benton County.
Heimlich was the 43rd overall prospect by Baseball America before the report published and Keith Law of ESPN had Heimlich at No. 76 on his top 100 prospects before taking him off his big board, just like Baseball American did.
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“I felt he was probably going toward the end of the second round, early third round,” Law said on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” “That seemed to be a pretty good consensus.”
His playing status for the College World Series with No. 1-ranked OSU remains uncertain and he excused himself from playing in the NCAA Super Regional, though he dressed in uniform and watched from the dugout during the Beavers’ two wins over Vanderbilt.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported on Thursday that multiple teams were previously aware of Heimlich’s sex-offender status and would not have selected him.
Heimlich is a junior, so he has the option of returning for his senior year and being eligible to enter the draft again in 2018.
He had released a statement through his attorney on Friday.
“I have taken responsibility for my conduct when I was a teenager,” Heimlich wrote. “… I understand that many people now see me differently, but I hope that I can eventually be judged for the person I am today.”
Oregon State coach Pat Casey defended Heimlich’s character.
“I can just tell you that he’s a fine young man and for every second that he’s been on this campus, on and off the field, he’s been a first-class individual. Someone that his family should be proud of, the community should be proud of, our team is proud of. I believe in Luke.”
Heimlich was home-schooled while he played baseball his sophomore and juniors seasons for Puyallup – when he was 17 and 18.
Prosecutors initially charged Heimlich with two counts of molestation for incidents between September 2009 and September 2010, and between September 2011 and December 2011. In Washington, child molestation is a Class A felony.
The District Attorney of Clackamas County, John Foote, spoke on an Oregon radio show on Tuesday and said that Heimlich would have gone to prison in Oregon – and still be there.
“People should know that this is a very serious crime,” Foote said. “Molesting a girl of any age, but particularly a young girl over two years makes it even worse. It’s not a one-time event. This is significant. This would be a significant crime in our office if we were to receive it and our No. 1 priority would be proportional punishment and working with the victim to make sure there was a sense of justice for the victim.
“We’d take into consideration this young person’s age – this pitcher’s age, he was 15 when it started – but he would go to prison in Oregon. He’d go to the juvenile correctional facility. … If he had been sentenced when he was 15 in Oregon, he would still be in prison finishing his sentence. That’s how significant it is.
“This is not some little thing. It’s easy to diminish this, but our laws and our voters view this as a very serious crime. I don’t mean this as any malice toward this young person. That’s not what this is about... society views these crimes, especially over an extended period against such a young person, a vulnerable person, as serious. I hope people will talk about this first, especially before baseball.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677