Sometime over the next 48 hours, a Major League Baseball team is almost certain to ask a convicted, admitted child molester to play in its organization. It’s likeliest to happen Tuesday, during Rounds 3 through 10 of the MLB draft, or perhaps Wednesday, over the draft’s final 30 rounds. And on the off-chance that the handful of teams with Luke Heimlich on their draft boards opt against selecting him, the chance that he goes unsigned is basically zero.
For more than a year now, teams have grappled with the idea of Heimlich. He is Oregon State’s ace and one of the best college pitchers in the nation; he is the signatory of a guilty plea to molesting a 6-year-old female relative when he was 15. He is a left-hander whose fastball tops out at 97 mph; he is an endless supply of bad headlines, treacherous questions and awful publicity. He is worthy of a second chance, with low recidivism rates for the crime to which he admitted; he now says that despite the guilty plea, he didn’t commit that crime, which only confuses the matter more.
Sports so often stumbles as it tries to strike the balance between talent and principle, and Heimlich’s case is no exception. His eventual signing will represent a clear value judgment: that his ability as a baseball player outweighs the moral quagmire of his actions and serves as an admission that the organization will embrace someone who in his guilty plea wrote “I admit that I had sexual contact” with a little girl.