By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich, who as a teenager pleaded guilty to molesting a 6-year-old girl, will not accompany the Beavers to the College World Series.
The 21-year-old left-hander made the announcement in a statement released Thursday through a representative for his family. He called going to the series something that he and his teammates have worked toward all year.
“I’m sad to say I am not joining them because doing so would only create further distraction for my teammates, more turmoil for my family and given the high profile of the national championship, direct even more unwanted attention to an innocent young girl,” the statement said.
Details about the molestation were revealed last week in a story published by The Oregonian/OregonLive. In an editorial accompanying the article, the newspaper said it learned about Heimlich’s 2012 conviction in Washington state after running a background check that it routinely does for in-depth profiles.
“I want to wish my teammates the best. I hope they understand this decision as my family and I continue to work through this together. My hope is to return to OSU next year as a student-athlete and continue to earn the trust of my community,” Heimlich’s statement said.
Heimlich was the top pitcher during the regular season for the Beavers, who have lost just four games. He has compiled an 11-1 record with a 0.76 ERA.
He had been projected to be an early round pick in Major League Baseball’s draft, which ended Wednesday without him being selected.
The Beavers are the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Heimlich pitched in the opening round for the Beavers, before the story broke. He asked that he be removed from the rotation in the super regional round.
The Beavers (54-4) are scheduled to play Cal State Fullerton (39-22) on Saturday in the College World Series opener for both teams in Omaha.
Prosecutors in Washington state initially charged Heimlich with two counts of molestation for abuse that began when the girl was 4, The Oregonian said. He ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of molestation between February 2011 and December 2011, a period during which he was 15. Prosecutors dismissed the other charge as part of a plea bargain.
He entered a diversion program, received two years of probation and was ordered to attend sex offender treatment for two years, according to court records. He was sentenced to 40 weeks of detention at Washington’s Juvenile Rehabilitation authority. But that sentence was suspended and he served no time, according to court records, because he successfully completed probation.
Heimlich of Puyallup, Washington, was classified in Washington as the lowest-level sex offender with little risk of repeating the behavior. He finished his probation and court-ordered classes in fall 2014, around the time he moved to Corvallis to attend Oregon State.
“For the past six years, I have done everything in my power to demonstrate that I am someone my family and my community can be proud of and show the one person who has suffered the most that I am committed to living a life of integrity,” Heimlich’s statement on Thursday said. “This situation has caused great pain to my family members over the years and I am devastated that they have to relive it all again so publicly.”
Oregon State President Ed Ray issued a statement shortly after Heimlich announced that he would not play.
“I concur with this decision as to do otherwise would certainly serve as a disruption and distraction to the team due to the significant public scrutiny that this matter has attracted. As well, I am mindful of the need for providing safety for all concerned that otherwise might be at risk during times of heightened emotions,” Ray’s statement said.
Ray said he supports guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education to allow individuals to register for college admission without revealing a prior criminal record, except in specific circumstances. He said he supports Heimlich continuing his education at Oregon State and rejoining the baseball team next season.
However, Ray left open the possibility that Oregon State’s policies could change in the future, following a review of the matter.
“This review should consider the possibility that some offenses and situations are so serious that we should no longer let such a student represent the university in athletic competition and other high-profile activities sponsored by the university by virtue of their offense. Such individuals could still enroll as a student in the university with appropriate risk mitigation,” he said.
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