Luke Heimlich on College World Series backlash: 'I'm here to play baseball'

Oregon State starting pitcher Luke Heimlich, a convicted child molester, is probable to start in the College World Series on Saturday.

Heimlich, who went unpicked in the 2018 MLB Draft last week, has been largely silent since Sports Illustrated reaffirmed in April that Heimlich maintains his innocence. But online, baseball fans and critics everywhere have been vehemently debating his place in the sport, and most considered it a huge win that he was not drafted.

However, Heimlich remains a key part of the Oregon State team, and thus, will take the mound this week. Last year, after his conviction was first made public, he notably sat out the Super Regional and College World Series.

Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich answers questions in the clubhouse following practice at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha Friday.  (AP Photo)

Heimlich not concerned about crowd reception

During media availability Friday in Omaha, Heimlich publicly addressed the potential backlash he might face. Just days after the draft, he threw seven innings of one-run, nine-strikeout ball in the Corvallis Super Regional, and he walked off the mound in the final home start of his college career to a standing ovation – but the College World Series is in Omaha, far from his home turf.

“I’m not worried about the fans. I play baseball on the field,” Heimlich said. “People and the fans can cheer me on. They can boo. They can do what they want. I’m here to play baseball.”

Heimlich, who this year was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive time, added that his approach which will not change when he takes the mound Saturday.

“I’ve been playing this game since I was 8 years old and I’ve been playing the game the way I want to play all season,” he said. “I’m not changing anything because the scenario changes.”

He also commented on going undrafted. For the last two years, it would not have been surprising from a pure talent perspective if he had gone in the first round, but teams made it through 40 rounds without picking him both times. Heimlich says he did not expect any specific outcome.

“I had no expectations going into the draft,” he said. “I have a great group of guys around me and we’re excited to continue playing baseball.”

He could still sign with an MLB team as a free agent at any time, or with an independent league team, but Heimlich’s options are rapidly shrinking.

For now, it’ll be up to the Omaha crowd to set a precedent.

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