Desert Dispatches: Heimlich ReturnsColumns
• Rogers on OSU’s Luke Heimlich
• Rogers observations from OSU-UNM, GCU-TCU
• Spratling on OSU’s Nick Madrigal
SURPRISE, Ariz. — For the first time since he removed himself from the team before they faced Vanderbilt in super regional action last season, Oregon State lefthander Luke Heimlich took the mound against New Mexico on Opening Day. He had mostly good moments, while he lacked command of the breaking ball at times.
After the game, Heimlich, the obvious headliner from the contest, declined all requests to be interviewed. Not about his performance. Not about baseball and certainly not about the charges he pled guilty to, now only to have his family backtrack and say it actually didn’t happen. Heimlich certainly doesn’t owe me or anyone else answers, but the innocent, in most cases, sing from the mountain top. They don’t hide.
Though Heimlich, in due time, will have plenty of questions to answer — without declining — about his past, it’s abundantly clear that least some professional organizations are taking a hard look at him. There’s no doubt that OSU All-American Nick Madrigal and outfielder Trevor Larnach were strong draws for the large throng of scouts at Surprise Stadium. But there was an intense focus, too, when Heimlich took the mound. Time will tell which pro teams are willing to court Heimlich, though at least one organization told me “no chance”. Another said they wouldn’t be surprised if their higher ups took a hard look at him in a few months.
Meanwhile, Oregon State’s Pat Casey, unlike some pro teams and at least some of the college baseball community, doesn’t need to be convinced about Heimlich. He knows where the lefty stands and how he’s prepared for the 2018 campaign.
“I think he has done everything in his power to be the best person and teammate he can be,” Casey about how Heimlich has handled the last year. “I think he’s handled it very, very well.”
Against a Lobos team that historically hits the ball well, Heimlich didn’t look rattled at all from the off the field drama. There was buzz over the past few weeks that Heimlich had been touching 94-95 at times in team scrimmages, and he showed flashes of that early against UNM. In the first, he sat 91-93 and up to 94 mph with the offering, ending the frame with a nasty 94 mph heater for one of his four strikeouts. Heimlich had a clean second inning too, where he collected a strikeout on a filthy 80 mph breaking ball. It wasn’t until the third inning that he allowed his first hit.