The Royals are “exploring the possibility” of signing Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich, according to Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star. The left-hander is considered a top talent that could have been selected in the first few rounds of the draft, but went unselected because he is a convicted child molester.
Dayton Moore seemed to confirm that the team is looking into Heimlich, but did not give any indication the team was close to a deal.
“We continue to seek information that allows us to be comfortable in pursuing Luke,” general manager Dayton Moore said earlier this week....
“You try to be open-minded,” Moore said. “We’re an organization that has constantly given players second and third chances.”..
“The easy thing is to wipe your hands of it and don’t even look into it or deal with it. We’re going to continue to look into it,” he said. “I think that’s what good organizations do. I think that’s what good people do. And we try to be both.”
Heimlich was accused of and confessed to molesting his six-year old niece when he was 15 years old. According to court records:
The girl told investigators that inside Heimlich’s bedroom, he pulled down her underwear and “touched her on both the inside and outside of the spot she uses to go to the bathroom,” according to court records.
”She said that she told him to stop, but he wouldn’t,” the documents state, and that “it hurt” when he touched her.
Heimlich was alleged to have molested her on multiple occasions between the ages of four and six. He was charged with two counts of molestation, and ultimately pleaded guilty to one count. As part of the plea bargain, he admitted to having sexual contact with the girl.
Heimlich went to a diversion program and received two years of sex offender treatment, according to court records, and was classified as a “low-risk” sex offender, but missed an annual update, which caused his case to be discovered by The Oregonian last year.
Despite the confession, Heimlich has denied molesting his niece, saying he only wanted to move on and give himself “the best chance at a normal life”.
“I pled guilty to it,” he said of the child molestation charge. “But ever since that day and even before that, in court records and everything, I’ve denied ever committing the offense. I stand by that.”
Asked, minutes later, if he ever touched his niece inappropriately or sexually, Heimlich said, “No.”
Asked, then, if he’s asserting that the girl repeatedly told a false story, he said, “Yes.”
Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger recently wrote about Heimlich and second chances, comparing the pitcher to Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill, who pleaded guilty to strangling his pregnant girlfriend while in college, but received a second chance to play. One distinction is that Hill admitted to the abuse and expressed contrition, while Heimlich has denied he ever committed the crime.
Mellinger questions how long Heimlich should be punished beyond his legal obligations from the plea bargain.
But this is the legal system we have. Heimlich should be disqualified from consideration for many jobs. Teacher. Day care. But why should he be disqualified from baseball? To make ourselves feel better?
Legally, he’s free to make a living. Based on projections and draft-pick value, Heimlich lost well into seven figures by not getting drafted where his abilities with a baseball alone would suggest he should.
This doesn’t mean he’s worthy of sympathy.
But a chance?
Vahe Gregorian, considers what message this would send to victims of child molestation.
“I’m sorry, but Luke does not deserve to be on that platform and pedestal, (potentially) looked up to and adored by millions of people, including young kids,” Brenda Tracy, a nationally recognized activist and survivor of a gang rape in Corvallis, Ore., said by telephone Saturday....
If he were to join the Royals and move up through the system to the parent club, even with no further issues on his ledger, his debut would be less a moment of celebration than one of anguish for many.
Inherent in such a scene, Tracy says, would be a statement about “the ways we think about victims and survivors” — who aren’t enough of the equation.
There are a lot of complicated factors, some of which we touched upon when the Chiefs signed Hill and we discussed the limits of fandom. The legal system is separate from baseball, and according to the legal system, Heimlich is eligible to be employed and a productive member of society. But playing baseball is a privilege, not a right. Should an opportunity be given to those who confessed to unspeakable crimes? Do we believe in second chances for him because we feel strongly about the redemptive power of the criminal justice system or because he throws a 97 mph fastball?
The Orioles were also said to be interested in Heimlich last year. Oregon State is still participating in the College World Series, so Heimlich would not be able to sign with anyone until his college career is over. The Royals have already had a bit of a controversial season this year, both on- and off-the field. Taking a chance on Heimlich could be the biggest gamble of Dayton Moore’s career, for reasons that have nothing to do with baseball.