In the process of writing a feature story on Oregon State star Luke Heimlich, writers at The Oregonian found that the ace pitcher had pleaded guilty to molesting a six-year-old family member when he was 15 years old. Heimlich is not only one of baseball’s top prospects, but he’s also a registered sex offender.

With this news going national, Heimlich made a surprising decision to take a leave of absence with his team in the middle of the NCAA Baseball Tournament. Here’s Heimlich’s statement:

I have taken responsibility for my conduct when I was a teenager. As a 16 year old, I was placed on juvenile court probation and ordered to participate in an individual counseling program. I’m grateful for the counseling I received, and since then, I realized that the only way forward was to work each day on becoming the best person, community member and student I can possibly be. I understand that many people now see me differently, but I hope that I can eventually be judged for the person I am today.

I’m so proud of our team’s accomplishment and don’t want to be a distraction. Therefore, I’ve respectfully requested to be excused from playing at this time. 

Let’s be clear: Heimlich is not a victim here. But you can understand why it would be healthy for him to stay out of the spotlight here, and why it could also benefit his team to dim down the publicity that has come along with this whole ordeal.

Heimlich is one of the best pitchers in the NCAA, and Oregon State is a No. 1 seed currently playing in the NCAA Baseball Tournament Super Regionals. He has an 11-1 record this season with a nation-leading 0.76 ERA.

Prior to the news that he molested a six-year-old family member, he was also a likely top-60 pick in the MLB draft. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo, at least four MLB teams have already removed him from their draft boards.

[ESPN; Photo Credit: D1 Baseball]

About Jesse Kramer

Jesse is a writer and editor for The Comeback. He has also worked for SI.com and runs The Catch and Shoot, a college basketball website based in Chicago. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer.