There is no easy answer to the question that surrounds Luke Heimlich’s professional baseball career.
Or, maybe there is an easy answer for some people. Personally, I’ve struggled with the question as I’ve tried to examine it from both sides. Ultimately, I don’t want my favorite team to sign Heimlich.
If you haven’t heard, Luke Heimlich is a pitcher who just finished his senior season at Oregon State University. When he was 15 and living in Washington, Heimlich pleaded guilty to one felony count of child molestation involving his 6-year-old niece. He was placed on two years’ probation, ordered to register as a Level 1 sex offender — considered the lowest possible risk to reoffend — and attend two years of sex offender counseling, among other requirements. After five years, if Heimlich met every requirement, his record would be cleared.
Heimlich made it through those five years in August 2017, but due to a clerical error when he moved to Oregon for school, his registration on the sex offender list came to light and “The Oregonian” published a story detailing Heimlich’s case four days before the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. Heimlich was considered a top talent, but no team selected him in 2017. Again this year, Heimlich was considered one of the best pitchers in college but 40 rounds of the 2018 draft came and went without a team selecting Heimlich.
He can sign with any professional team as a free agent. Kansas City Royals General Manager Dayton Moore talked about the idea of possibly signing Heimlich during a television interview on Fox Sports Kansas City. Moore said he was comfortable with the person Heimlich is today and that everyone deserves a second chance.
In an interview with “Sports Illustrated,” Heimlich said he didn’t touch his niece inappropriately, that he pleaded guilty to avoid forcing his niece to testify and to keep his family from going through a difficult trial.
The question remains, does an individual who pleaded guilty of child molestation as a teen deserve a chance to play professional sports? Your instinct might be to instantly say no, keep that creep away. Or your instinct might be similar to Moore’s: He was 15, he screwed up, he’s met the requirements of his sentencing and he’s allowed to move forward with his life.
This is where I struggle. Which line of thought is correct? Why plead guilty if you say you’re innocent? According to Carolyn Frazier, a juvenile defense lawyer and assistant professor at Northwestern’s School of Law, it’s not uncommon for the innocent to plead guilty.
“Either the kid didn’t do it or he did it and he’s in some form of denial: Neither one is unusual,” she told SI.
Heimlich has passed lie detector tests. Does that mean he didn’t do it? Does that mean he did it, blocked it out of his mind and now believes he didn’t do it? Why would a little girl make this up? The girl’s mother said she knows what the girl was aware of at the time and couldn’t have possibly thought to lie about the claims. In reality, none of us know with 100 percent certainty the actual truth.
What we do know for certain, though, is Heimlich pleaded guilty. We have to work forward with that piece of information.
So what’s next for him? He’s allowed to be in society, to get a job and have a career. If his greatest talent is baseball, should he not be allowed to have a career in that profession? If his greatest talent was in accounting, for example, he would certainly be allowed to pursue a career in accounting. If you’re going to argue that the Royals should sign Heimlich, this is the route you take.
But playing for the Royals and being an accountant are too different for the comparison to hold water. Accountants don’t perform in front of 30,000 people, many of whom are children. Accountants don’t have their faces plastered on television with kids watching at home.
Yes, I believe Heimlich deserves the opportunity to lead a normal life with a career and a home. But I do not want him to be a Kansas City Royal or a San Francisco Giant or a New York Yankee. He pleaded guilty to child molestation.
Can you imagine a child watching Heimlich pitch at Kauffman Stadium, watching him strike out a batter and then deciding Heimlich was his or her favorite player? That Heimlich was a role model? No, Heimlich doesn’t deserve the opportunity for that to happen.
In his TV interview, Moore said maybe he wasn’t brave enough to sign Heimlich and go through what any team will face if they do sign the pitcher.
Instead, I hope Moore is brave enough to ignore the baseball talent Heimlich has, brave enough to not sign a player that could potentially help the Royals win baseball games. I couldn’t be a fan of that team.