The Major League Baseball draft is next week. Luke Heimlich, arguably the best pitcher on Oregon State’s top-ranked baseball team was projected to go high. In light of recent news, there is some debate as to whether he will be drafted at all. If he is drafted, could Luke Heimlich ruin the sport’s reputation?
According to an article from Fox Sports, Luke Heimlich pled guilty to a single count of molesting a 6-year-old girl when he was a teenager. Heimlich’s criminal history was reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive this past Thursday. This was a day or two before he’s slated to pitch in this weekend’s regional final against Vanderbilt. The winner of that game advances to the College World Series.
The report goes on to state that in an editorial accompanying The Oregonian/OregonLive’s article, the newspaper said it learned about Heimlich’s 2012 conviction while doing a routine background check before running a profile on him. Heimlich failed to renew his registration as a sex offender in Oregon, within 10 days of his most recent birthday. He was cited in Benton County on a misdemeanor charge that was dismissed last month, according to court records reviewed by the AP. It was that citation that led The Oregonian to the Washington state case. Information and records were then obtained using a public information act request.
Read the full article from Fox Sports. It goes on to state the usual “no comment from him” and the typical “so-and-so couldn’t be reached for comment” type of things.
The fact that Heimlich committed such a horrible act will never change. He will always have that following him around, in life and in whatever profession he so chooses. If he chooses to play Major League Baseball, 30 teams will have to decide if they want to give him a chance. Front office personnel across the sport will have to choose if they want to allow him to play for their club. What should their decision be?
The ramifications of drafting or signing a player with such a background as Heimlich’s is clear. The team would face a public relations nightmare. Scrutiny and backlash on social media could keep any PR team busy for hours without end. Would a team lose ticket sales? Would a team lose a portion of their fanbase? Would any of these cause long-term problems for the club?
The Texas Rangers signed a pitcher by the name of Matt Bush. On March 22, 2012, Bush was the driver in an alcohol-related automotive accident that severely injured a motorcyclist. He spent time in a prison, from December of 2012 to October of 2015. Bush was the first overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, selected by the San Diego Padres. Bush allowed alcohol and legal issues to ruin his career leading all the way up to the accident.
After his release, Matt Bush still had Major League Baseball talent. Enough to sign a Minor League Baseball deal with the Texas Rangers. Eventually, Bush made it to the show. He is now the closer for Texas.
There are many stories like that of Matt Bush. Many athletes in professional sports have had legal issues, varying in severity. A lot of those players still managed to have careers in professional sports, whether they were successful or not. To date, no major pro sport has been disbanded by the signing of an athlete with a criminal history. However, many teams have paid the publicity price for taking them in.
Whether you are for or against athletes getting a “second chance” in life, the simple fact is that it happens. Teams will continue to employ people with criminal records. Professional sports will not slowly fade away and disappear because of it. If Luke Heimlich is drafted and signed, Major League Baseball will continue to exist as a business.
How do you feel about that?
*Featured image courtesy of Oregon Live.