Placing judgement on a group of individuals is not at all the purpose of this article. Instead the criticism of a vetting system that failed the family of a toddler along with unsuspecting student-athletes is the main point of this piece.
If the reader has not heard by now, there is a pitcher from Oregon State by the name of Luke Heimlech who was passed up by MLB teams during this year’s draft. Why did they pass on him? After researching his background they came across info that disclosed his guilty plea in a child molestation case. Now before we go and bash any coach or recruiting director on how an individual who did such a terrible act was able to take residence in a Oregon State uniform, the facts must be laid out. This act was committed before Heimlech was admitted to Oregon State and in the process of recruiting kids from high school, a crime of this sort could in fact be missed. But we are not focusing on the when or the why. We are looking at the how. Without claiming to be an on staff scout or recruiter for an NCAA university, I do have some idea on what they focus on when recruiting a potential prospect. These focuses usually include game day performance, grades, and behavior/attitude not necessarily in that order. While it seems almost impossible for an infraction such as child molestation to be missed on a prospect’s scouting report, figure what a person would go into a relationship looking for. Probably nice looks, good personality, and a good job. You usually assume that you a person doesn’t have mass murderer on their life resume or is a member of terrorist organizations. So would an unsuspecting coach see a hidden monster in a young man who has the athletic drive of a potential pro ball player, the innocent looks of Pee Wee Herman, and the personality of a paperboy? Probably not. Moreover a coach would likely see opportunity and have the concerns of his program in mind and miss a lot of the unseen flaws in a prospect. And for reasons of saving face, we all have made mistakes in our life and are still making them to date.
Let’s switch gears over to the prospect only to take it back to the staff at Oregon State later. This is a young man who admitted that he committed a heinous act and asked for the mercy of the court. There’s a saying that goes “two things are unforgivable and those are blasphemy against the Almighty and sexual assault against a child.” Now even if you don’t believe in the Almighty, you have to know that it is absolutely unacceptable to commit an act of such evil against a toddler. So what’s next? Do we sit here and throw stones at a young man who is already walking around with a cast out sign above his head not seen since the days of Cain and Abel, or do we look into the program that allowed him to represent it and other student-athletes. A re-trial of Luke Heimlech by a public empathetic to victims of sexual assault would be fruitless. The verdict is in and his act makes him a little more than a young man with a monster inside him and a little less than the monster itself.
But there’s still a big fat elephant in the room trying to hide behind a curtain of fault deflection. The Oregon State coaching staff has to pocket some of the guilt in terms of the cloud it put over the program. Who made the mistake of missing such a critical error in Heimlech’s past? Over-thinking critics will assume that the staff slid the crime under the table because the reward outweighed the risk. The prospect had so much upside that one bad decision such as molesting a child didn’t carry enough weight to keep him off the field. I guess an assumption within an assumption is a waste of time so we will error on the side of saying no human is that selfish to brush aside such an act in order to get a few more wins on their stat sheet. Bottom line is that someone dropped the ball in this one. No pun intended. This situation may not have the magnitude of the Jerry Sandusky ordeal in terms of the actual incident taking place in a team locker room. There are similarities though. Some how the vetting system at a major school failed the student-athlete body and the family of the victim. Chalk it up as one more scandal in a bucket of sports program scandals. The outcome of this will more than likely fall in the hands of a public that is already oversaturated with issues in sports. At the least we can commend the MLB for stopping this situation from snowballing even more. Imagine the public outcry if Heimlech would have continued playing in the college world series or the MLB? Love it or hate but in the end…it is what it is.