Should We Forget?

By Lloyd Graff

I have been struggling to write this blog for over a year now, but it is a topic I really want to discuss, because it is so tough. It’s also about baseball – sort of.

Luke Heimlich is the best player on the best college baseball team in the country, Oregon State. He is a left-handed pitcher with impeccable stuff. He has lost only once all season. He is 22 and a Senior. He would easily be a first round draft pick at next week’s Major League Baseball draft. He would have been a first round pick in 2017 as well, but just before the NCAA Tournament last year, a reporter for a Portland newspaper accidentally discovered that Heimlich had registered as a sex offender at age 15, after pleading guilty to improperly touching his five-year-old niece.

By all accounts his behavior has been as impeccable as his control in the eight years since his guilty plea, which was expunged from his record after five years. He also now denies the incident occurred and says he pled guilty because he thought it would be expedient to avoid a trial with his brother’s daughter as the centerpiece.

Luke Heimlich

His reasoning was that his record would be cleansed after five years and he could live a normal life according to the recent cover story in Sports Illustrated. But fortunately, or unfortunately, Heimlich, one of six children from a religious family in Washington State, became an incredible athlete and earned a scholarship at the premier college baseball program in the country. When he enrolled at OSU he strictly adhered to the rules of registering in a new state as a sex offender, but evidently nobody in the athletic department checked the criminal files for Heimlich. He had been home-schooled during most of his time growing up. He did not go around campus in Corvallis with a “sex offender” sign on his back. He was just hoping after five years his record would be expunged and the stigma would go away.

I’ve been wrestling with this case for a year. It was brought to the forefront again with a Sports Illustrated story that covered the issue exhaustively without any clear conclusion or opinion.

Major League Baseball will make its judgement next week.

On the one hand, I think about a teenage boy who may have behaved inappropriately with his niece. She may be affected adversely, though she appears to be thriving now, according to the SI piece. Heimlich’s brother, the niece’s father, now divorced, is estranged from Luke. I think of my three granddaughters and how I would feel about a similar case involving them. Would I exude forgiveness? I doubt it.

But to me this case is not just about how his family regards Heimlich, but whether a kid who makes a mistake like he may have committed will ever be able to live his dream to become a Major League ballplayer or even just live a regular life. He has been incident free almost eight years now. Can he just be a ballplayer or is he forever condemned? His teammates at Oregon State have seemingly embraced him. Most likely some fans won’t.

Should my beloved Chicago Cubs draft him if he is available? I hope so, because I’m sure his talent will be undervalued.

We all have stuff in our past that we are not proud of. Heimlich’s issue is darker than most, but should it doom him for the rest of his life?

Question: Can you ever forget if someone is a sex offender?

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13 thoughts on “Should We Forget?

  1. Rod Hatcher

    Sex offender as in age 45 and uses date rape drugs or sex offender as in age 15, hormones raging and no maturity behaves inappropriately? Don’t see a difference, then don’t forgive. See a difference, then thank your maturity and forgive.

  2. Jeff Kernell

    Forgive-reclaimed lives by committed people are some of the best and most satisfying to be around. This is from an experienced employer who experiences giving people a second chance on a daily basis. In todays open media environment, they are still haunted. To forgive them, and care for them, gives them a chance to succeed.

  3. Dave

    I’m sure many of our sports heroes (along with those from other fields) from both the past and present have skeletons in the closet from adolesent days. It’s only because of our information glut of today that these things are broadcast for all the world to know.

    Give the kid a break and let him show what kind of adult he is rather than trying to imagine the worse case senario of his childhood.

  4. Ed B

    Every young person should be given a second chance. Everyone has done stupid or ignorant things as a kid. Give this guy a break. Hopefully the White Sox take him!

  5. Lloyd Graff

    It appears that only men have commented so far. I would hope women would contribute their views. I wonder if men tend to be more forgiving than women in a situation like this.

  6. Kelly

    This is a easy one! I put myself back at 15, sorry I just don’t see how that kind of action can happen. One question, would you let him baby sit your 5 year granddaughter. Enough said.

  7. Joe

    Incest is one thing; (imagine his niece being close to his age)… obviously the pedophile aspect is most disturbing, an angle that raging hormones may not fully explain- the flaw may only be sleeping / oppressed? For me the overriding factor is we can’t write him off because he was only 15. Being expunged only goes so far, apparently. Would help his cause if his niece and brother would come out in his defense.

  8. Tony

    “improperly touching”- what does this even mean, exactly? None of us will ever know. Probably most of the family isn’t even sure. The brother will remain estranged because he has to choose a side- either his daughter’s, or his brother’s- which would you choose? Whichever side he takes alienates the other- There is no middle ground in that situation. Perhaps whatever he did was misconstrued/taken out of perspective? Once the accusation is made/charged, it is next to impossible to take back/deny. Then everyone involved is in a tough situation.

  9. Emily Halgrimson Post author

    I don’t think I have enough info to judge in this case. It’s too easy these days to make rash judgements based on snippets of third party, potentially unreliable, or one-sided info. I hate when TV pundits manipulate stories, which is why I basically never believe anything I hear on TV or social media any more. A lack of character in this country at this time means almost everyone is twisting the truth for some agenda. Who knows if that applies here, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Before I’d take a side I’d at least need to read everything publicly available on the matter, and to be frank, I’d really rather not do that.

  10. Kim

    Though I could use some more info as well, the fact that this made it to court, that he took a plea and had to register as a sex offender indicates to me that it was a fairly serious event or series of events. This isn’t just a little family secret that got out. Someone felt it serious enough to bring to the attention of law enforcement. That alone indicates to me that this wasn’t just some minor issue or misunderstood. This wasn’t two teenagers fooling around getting caught up in consent age laws, the girl was only 5. That’s a kindergartner and that is just not normal.

    Would I let him babysit my young daughters? Heck no! Should he be allowed to be an elementary school teacher? No way! Should he be allowed to play baseball in the major league? Sure why not. I don’t think this past should prevent him from a livelihood as long as it doesn’t involve interaction with young children. I do hope he has seen a shrink or been though a program of some kind to figure out why he did what he did, and to make steps to correct that behavior.

    1. Emily Halgrimson Post author

      Good point. Unless someone made it bigger than it was or public to try and destroy his character/career for some reason like money. A jealous brother etc. People are sick.

      1. Kim

        Did he have that great of a career/money prospects already in 2012 when he took the plea? I’m sure there are a lot of promising talents in high school that never make it big so it seems a stretch that someone would want to sabotage his potentially non-existent future baseball career. But then again maybe the whole family is more dysfunctional than we know about.

  11. Lloyd Graff

    I really recommend the Sports Illustrated story because it did not take sides. Heimlich now denies the event happened, but he did do the plea bargain with the clear expectation it would be expunged in 5 years. His brother and sister in law were having marital problems at the time, but Heimlich has not said she invented the story. He is estranged from his brother, one of 6 kids in the family, but not from the whole family. And he is a superb pitcher. I saw him on TV Saturday night and since OS* advanced in the NCAA Tournement we will get to watch him again on ESPN. He reminded me of a young Jon Lester.This kid will be a Major League pitcher 9n 2 years if he gets a chance. I hope the Cubs draft him. He should get a second chance.


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