Major League Baseball Sends a Message – From the Bird’s Nest
For the last three days, I followed the Major League Baseball Draft.
I do it every year. I follow to see if the players I've covered, whether they are Cajuns or Tigers, Jaguars or Chanticleers, are being given an opportunity to continue their baseball careers.
But this year there was another reason. I wanted to see if Major League Baseball would take a stand. I wanted to see if a 90 mile per hour fastball was more important than the psyche of a little girl.
I wanted to see if Heimlich's Maneuver would succeed.
If you follow college baseball, you know the story of Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich. It was discovered just prior to the NCAA Regionals last year that Heimlich pled guilty to having unwarranted sexual contact with his niece by inappropriately touching her when he was 13 and she was four. And, again, when he was 15 and she was six.
Heimlich did not participate in the postseason last year, issuing a statement saying he did not want to be a distraction to the accomplishments of his team. Oregon State participated in the College World Series, falling short of the championship series when they were eliminated by LSU.
He was not drafted by any of the 30 teams last year.
Amazingly, Oregon State not only allowed Heimlich to remain in school, they allowed him to continue to play baseball.
But then, in an interview with the New York Times earlier this year, Heimlich finally spoke out. And what he said was a shock to many.
He denied everything.
He said the little girl lied...made the whole thing up. He said he agreed to plead guilty for the sake of his family and because if he had been convicted in court, the punishment would have been more severe.
As a father of four daughters, I was incensed and appalled. I saw the statement for what I believed, and still believe it was.
By denying anything happened, Heimlich tried to become a victim himself. One who now could garner sympathy as a young man whose bright baseball future was being unjustly taken from him because a six year old girl lied about what happened to her.
I did not believe him. I still don't.
His statement did garner some sympathy. Mostly, it was from Oregon State fans who were now able to begin to justify why they stood and cheered him every time he took the mound.
I wondered how Major League Baseball would react.
The Texas Rangers were the first to publicly state they would not draft Heimlich. And, over the last three days, 29 other teams followed suit, if not with a public statement, then with their actions.
Luke Heimlich went undrafted. Again.
Now, it's possible a team may relent and sign him as a free agent. He may wind up on someone's major league roster some day. But, in case you haven't noticed, there is an ongoing shift in culture in this country. It's no longer okay to say "well, he made a mistake."
Heimlich has paid the legal price according to the courts. He has fulfilled the requirements. He has an opportunity to finish his education and move on with his life, wherever that might take him.
But second chances don't necessarily include playing sports.
And, here is some food for thought.
The message sent today by Major League Baseball wasn't sent to Luke Heimlich. Or Oregon State. Or even baseball in general.
The message was sent to a now twelve year old girl.
It was a powerful message.
You matter. And, we believe you.