Red-hot Michael Conforto flourishes wherever he bats in New York Mets' order

Red-hot Michael Conforto flourishes wherever he bats in New York Mets' order

PHOENIX -- All Michael Conforto needed to hear was, "How 'bout those Beavers?"

With wide eyes and big smile, he started talking about what one New York Mets beat writer said is his favorite subject -- his college baseball team.

"What a season," he said. "Forty-one and four? I remember when I was there we were ranked No. 1 and I think we lost 13 or 14 games and it seemed like we never lost. I don't know what just four losses would feel like."

Conforto is proud of his alma mater and its coach, Pat Casey. "He's just what everyone says he is -- someone who cares about you on and off the field. He transformed me as a player and a person."

Conforto broke in with the Mets in 2015 after a meteoric rise through their farm system. He made an immediate impact at the age of 22, hitting .270 with nine home runs in 56 games. And when he followed that by hitting .333 with two homers in the World Series, the New York hype machine kicked into high gear. He came into the following season as a rising star. In New York, which is a bigger deal than anywhere else.

But the 2016 season was anything but easy for Conforto. He hit just .220 and found himself back in Triple-A.

"I learned a lot," he said. "I think I was trying to do too much. Then I started pressing. But I went back to the minor leagues and played well. I think some of that was good for me."

Evidently it was because he's off to a terrific start this season. He went to spring training knowing he was going to have to scrap just to get into the team's starting lineup. With Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce making big money in the New York outfield, Conforto seemed a good bet to be the odd man out.

"I knew I would have to battle to play," he said Monday before the Mets' game against the Diamondbacks.

And battle he did. He's hitting .343 (sixth-best in the National League) with nine home runs, a .686 slugging percentage and a whopping 1.116 OPS. A big part of that story is his move to the leadoff spot in the batting order. And this from a player who has always projected as more of a power hitter, a No. 3-4-5 hitter in the order. Well, actually, he still is a power hitter, as his slugging percentage proves.

Conforto has started 19 games in the leadoff spot this season and has hit three leadoff homers. He's hitting .471 with four homers, six RBI and 10 runs scored just in the first inning!

"It doesn't really matter where I hit," he said. "I'm just trying to be patient."

He moved to the No. 3 slot in the batting order Sunday and responded with a double, triple and home run at Milwaukee, missing the cycle by the easiest of the four hits. But Monday night he was right back in the leadoff spot.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "I haven't changed my approach at the plate much."

And while acknowledging that living in New York is nothing like living anywhere else, he's made the adjustment.

"It's nothing like Corvallis," he said with a laugh. "All the media and everything. But I've grown to like it. I like New York."

And he still loves his Beavers.

"I try to keep up with what's going on," he said. "There's only one player left there who I played with but I know a lot of the guys there now. We were recruiting them while I was there. They have some really good players."

The Beavers' control of the strike zone has been amazing

The Beavers' control of the strike zone has been amazing

Oregon State doesn't have the most experienced team in the College World Series. Certainly it didn't have the most draft picks in the recent June free agent draft.

But it owns the corners of the plate on offense and defense and that's been a major key to its success.

Beaver hitters are among the most disciplined I've ever seen at anything below the major-league level. They don't chase bad pitches. They are not afraid to hit with two strikes on them. They work counts and run up pitch counts to a degree that is wrecking pitching staffs.

Monday night against LSU, the Beavers were struggling against reliever Caleb Gilbert in the third and fourth inning. Gilbert struck out four of the first six hitters he faced. But then the Beavers dug in and started doing what they do best on offense -- grinding out at bats, fouling pitches off, taking close pitches off the plate and extending at bats and innings.

Gilbert managed to last two and two-thirds innings but needed 68 pitches to do it. He allowed a couple of unearned runs -- but as we've seen with the Beavers, if you make an error or mental mistake against them, they'll usually make you pay for it. A good part of that is their patience at the plate. And that's something so difficult to teach or coach. You can't just tell players to swing at only good pitches. That kind of discipline comes through countless hours of work -- learning the strike zone, learning the pitches you can hit and the ones you can't and simply being willing to sacrifice yourself at certain times to be willing to take more pitches than you might wish.

LSU used seven pitchers to get through the final seven innings of the game and they combined to throw a whopping 173 pitches -- yes, in seven innings! That kind of workload destroys pitching staffs. We saw OSU do the same thing to Cal-Fullerton in the first game of the CWS and to Vanderbilt in the Super Regionals -- where the Beavers broke first-round draft pick Kyle Wright's resolve with their patience.

Meanwhile, Oregon State starter Bryce Fehmel was creating another masterpiece on the mound. He used only 108 pitches through eight innings, walked three and allowed a paltry two hits. Fehmel is an artist at working the corners and changing speeds, throwing off hitters' timing and messing with their minds. He made it look easy and it wasn't. The Tigers have a terrific offensive team, loaded with speed and power, and Fehmel had them eating out of his right hand.

It was yet another spectacular game for the Beavers, who continue to pile them up. Now, with three days of rest, pitching coach Nate Yeskie will have all his arms rested and ready to go for a game Friday that could vault OSU into the best-of-three championship round. He can choose between Jake Thompson or Drew Rasmussen as his starter and has a bullpen so fresh that many of the best have yet to throw a pitch in the CWS.

And as long as the Beavers continue to control the strike zone, they're going to be a tough team to beat.

LSU brings a solid starting pitcher and a lot of speed to today's CWS matchup vs. Beavers

LSU brings a solid starting pitcher and a lot of speed to today's CWS matchup vs. Beavers

We know all about Oregon State by now. The winning streaks. The nearly impossible feat of getting this far into a baseball season with just four losses. But what about today's opponent, the LSU Tigers? Here is a quick look at what they'll bring to today's battle of 1-0 College World Series teams:

  • The Tigers will start freshman right-hander Eric Walker (8-1, 3.46 ERA, 93.2 IP, 78 K, 23 BB) on the mound. Walker did not pitch in the Super Regionals but won big games in the team's conference tournament and regional. He's much like OSU starter Bryce Fehmel in that he's not overpowering. He changes speeds and keeps hitters off balance. He apparently has overcome some arm "tightness" that kept him out of the Super Regionals. Alex Lange, the LSU ace who was drafted in the first round last week, pitched the team's opening game of the CWS.
  • LSU has a terrific bullpen, featuring setup man Zach Hess, a hard thrower who has allowed only one earned run over his last nine appearances, and closer Hunter Newman.
  • The Beavers have a 22-game win streak but the Tigers bring a win streak of their own into this game -- 17 games, during which they've averaged more than eight runs a game and allowed fewer than three earned runs per game. LSU has come from behind to win five of its six postseason games. There is little question that these are the two hottest teams in the country.
  • The Tigers have plenty of speed and like to pressure the defense into mistakes with it. That will be interesting, because the Beaver defense has survived all attempts to do that. Running foolishly against Oregon State can be a futile pursuit.
  • The team that wins this game has a HUGE advantage in getting to the championship round of this tournament. It will not play again until Friday -- a chance for the entire pitching staff to get fully rested -- and a win Friday would wrap up a berth in the best-of-three championship round. The team that loses today's game must win three straight games to get to the title round.
  • Beaver Coach Pat Casey had this to say about the Tigers: “(LSU is) just so athletic, I mean, it’s unbelievable the guys that they’re running out there. Then you run arms out there. (Zack Hess) came in there last night … and he was 94, 95 (mph fastball) with an 85 mph slider. I don’t know if there’s a more talented team in the World Series.”
  • It would be expected that the first man out of the bullpen for the Beavers would be Drew Rasmussen, who threw an inning in Saturday's win over Cal-Fullerton. If the Beavers can pick up a win over LSU, No. 1 starter Jake Thompson would be fully rested for the Friday game.

OSU's Christian Donahue not with the team in Omaha

OSU's Christian Donahue not with the team in Omaha

Multiple sources have confirmed to CSN that Oregon State's Christian Donahue did not travel with the team to Omaha for the College World Series.

While listed on the team site as an Infielder, Donahue started in Left Field during three of the last five games including both Super Regional games vs. Vanderbilt.

The university did not respond to CSN's request for comment on the situation.

OSU starts the College World Series on Saturday vs. CSU Fullerton at 12pm pacific time.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available from the University. 

UPDATE: Pat Casey has spoken with the media and stated that Donahue was suspended for a violation of team rules, but offered no further explanation. 

President Ed Ray's message to OSU community regarding Luke Heimlich

President Ed Ray's message to OSU community regarding Luke Heimlich

Oregon State University President Ed Ray’s message to the OSU community on the status of pitcher Luke Heimlich and his decision to step away from Beavers Baseball and not participate in the NCAA College World Series:

----

To the Oregon State University community,

I am writing regarding recent media coverage of events involving a member of the Oregon State baseball team Luke Heimlich.

The tragedy of sexual assault in our society is both horrific and heartbreaking. I have heard from many individuals who personally – or through loved ones – have experienced the distress of sexual assault. There is no closure. Survivors live with that horror the rest of their lives, but hopefully they can heal and recover. This story has triggered a great deal of sorrow and pain in other victims of sexual assault and among their loved ones. In the midst of all of this, my heart goes out to the young girl in this matter, who was the victim of wrongdoing.

I have taken time this week to think through these complex issues and to give Luke the time and space he needed to determine how he wished to proceed. I believe he made the right initial decision for himself and for the team last Friday when he recused himself from pitching for the team in the NCAA Super Regional.

Yesterday, Luke decided that he would no longer represent the university this year as a member of the baseball team. As such, he will not participate in the NCAA College World Series nor travel with the OSU baseball team to Omaha. I concur with this decision as to do otherwise would certainly serve as a disruption and distraction to the team due to the significant public scrutiny that this matter has attracted. As well, I am mindful of the need for providing safety for all concerned that otherwise might be at risk during times of heightened emotions.

If Luke wishes to do so, I support him continuing his education at Oregon State and rejoining the baseball team next season.

At Oregon State University, we are in the business of transforming lives and creating opportunity for each student. I have always believed that education is a path to a more meaningful, responsible and productive life for everyone. I believe that every individual should have the opportunity to get an education. Therefore, I have long supported the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education to allow individuals to register for college admission without revealing a prior criminal record, except in specific circumstances.

The position that OSU has taken on criminal records in regards to admissions is consistent with the U.S. Department of Education Fair Chance Higher Education Pledge signed by universities and organizations nationally, such as Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, the University of California System, the University of Washington, Google, Starbucks, Xerox and many more. In September 2016 alone, there were 61 higher education signatories to this pledge representing 172 individual campuses serving more than 1.8 million students. Certainly, individual universities have their own specific registration requirements in troublesome cases where public safety considerations may be involved. Clearly, OSU is not an outlier in its admissions policies.

For purposes of employment or volunteer work with OSU, background checks are required for anyone – including students – seeking critical or security-sensitive positions – such as working with minors. Separately, OSU also receives reports through the Oregon State Police (OSP) in Salem of registered sex offenders (RSOs) who attend our university. Upon being notified by OSP, Oregon State’s departments of Human Resources, Student Affairs and Public Safety share that information on a need-to-know basis with those OSU managers who meet with the student and otherwise take actions to mitigate any community risks that might result from an RSO attending the university. For example, RSOs cannot live in OSU residence halls on campus, and are prohibited from working with or having unsupervised contact with juveniles. We also require students with criminal backgrounds to reveal this history if it involves crimes that would limit where a student would be allowed to study such as within a College of Education school counseling degree or teacher preparation programs. Students in these kinds of programs are specifically background checked by other public agencies before having certain types of access with minors off campus.

While at OSU, Luke has been in good academic standing, his participation as a student-athlete has been positive, and his presence on the team has been in compliance with existing OSU policies.

Moving forward, I will discuss with university colleagues a review of our policies. This review should consider the possibility that some offenses and situations are so serious that we should no longer let such a student represent the university in athletic competition and other high-profile activities sponsored by the university by virtue of their offense. Such individuals could still enroll as a student in the university with appropriate risk mitigation. Any potential change in existing admission criteria will be implemented for students entering the university beginning in fall 2018.

The safety and security of OSU’s students will always be our paramount concern, and we will continue to review our policies to ensure that they are aligned with the best interests of the OSU community.

Sincerely,

Ed Ray

President

College World Series: Beavers the favorites, but the road isn't easy

College World Series: Beavers the favorites, but the road isn't easy

Pac-12 Championship. Check.

No.1 overall national seed. Check .

Advance through the Regionals. Check.

Sweep the Super Regionals, punch ticket to Omaha. Check.

Win the College World Series. To be determined.

The Oregon State Beavers (54-4) arrive in Omaha this week riding a 21-game win streak, and as heavy favorites to win the College World Series (CWS) Championship. Joining them in Nebraska will be Florida, LSU, Cal State Fullerton, Florida State, Louisville, Texas A&M, and TCU.

-- A full schedule can be found here --

The Beavers’ road to another title starts on Saturday when they take on Cal State Fullerton (39-22).  In six postseason games the Titans have outscored their opponents 35-9, and have allowed just one run over their last 25 innings. The Titans have one of the better pitching staffs in the country with a 3.57 ERA, the 23rd best in the nation. However, it pales in comparison to the incredible numbers Oregon State has put up. The Beavers lead the nation with an amazing 1.80 ERA. That’s nearly two runs better than Fullerton’s, and a full run better than Louisville’s 2.85, which is the third best in the country.

It still remains to be seen if Oregon State’s Luke Heimlich will pitch in the CWS. Heimlich holds the best ERA of any pitcher in the nation, at 0.76, but is dealing with off-the-field issues stemming from a sexual molestation charge prior to his arrival at Oregon State.

With or without Heimlich, the Oregon State pitching staff is a force to be reckoned with. Fellow starting pitcher Jake Thompson has the nation’s fifth best ERA at 1.58, and Bryce Fehmel showed he can be leaned on in Omaha after a great spot start against Vanderbilt; a complete game victory where he allowed just one earned run on five hits.

As Eric Sorenson of D1Baseball.com pointed out on Monday’s edition of Talkin’ Ball, this early matchup with the Titans holds a lot of intrigue. These are two teams that could match up in the finals if they were in opposite brackets. So right out of the gate Oregon State will be tested. 

As noted above, Oregon State by far has the better pitching staff, and as Sorenson notes, they also are the better hitting team. All things on paper point to Oregon State getting past Fullerton, but as we all know, games aren’t played on paper, they are played on a diamond.

Depending on if they win or lose, Oregon State will play either LSU (48-17) or Florida State (45-21).

LSU is riding an Oregon State-esque hot streak. The Tigers have won 16 games in a row, outscoring opponents 136-45 in that stretch, and overall has won 21 of its last 23. LSU reminds you a lot of this Beavers squad: Great pitching (3.53 team ERA), great hitting (2.94 team batting average), and lots of grit. Could the Tigers be the ones to take out OSU?

Facing off againt LSU: The Florida State Seminoles. Florida State falls in line with many of the teams heading to Omaha in that they got their on the backs of their pitching staff. Returning to the CWS for the first time since 2012, the Seminoles have the 36th best ERA in the nation at 3.72. The team has allowed 18 runs this postseason, with their starters allowing just nine runs in 48 innings pitched. Strong pitching is definitely a theme this year in Omaha.

On the other side of the CWS bracket are Florida (47-18), Louisville (52-10), Texas A&M (41-21), and TCU (47-16).

Florida returns to Omaha for the third season in a row, but is still looking for that elusive championship.  Could this be the year for the Gators? Florida leads the nation in one run victories, with 18, and has already played three extra inning games this postseason. The Gators have a flair for the dramatic and like to keep things interesting to say the least.  Their team 3.22 ERA, the 22nd best in the country, helps them out, but they will need a little more from their offense for the Gators fan base to breath a little.

Their first opponent, TCU, has quickly become one of the best programs in the nation. The Horned Frogs are appearing in their fourth straight College Worlds Series, and fifth in program history. Their pitching staff has the worst ERA of any team in the CWS (3.99), but their .272 team batting average is one of the best in the CWS. Their solid hitters should make for some good matchups with the better pitching staffs in Omaha.

Moving on, we have Texas A&M. The Aggies return to the CWS for the first time since 2011, and behind some solid arms could make it all the way. A&M has the 15th best ERA in the nation at 3.42, and starting pitcher Brigham Hill has been a stud this postseason. The Aggies have a good baseball team, however, their first game is against a very tough Louisville team. It will be a great chance to see if A&M will sink or swim.

Speaking of Louisville, the Cardinals, like Oregon State, are heavy favorites to get through their bracket and play in the championship. Much like the Beavers, the Cardinals are extremely balanced both in the batter's box and on the mound. They have the third best ERA in the country (2.85), and the 67th best batting average (.289). The 67th best average may not sound like much, but that is the third best average of the eight teams in the CWS.

Louisville vs. Oregon State in the CWS championship seems like a good bet. Not only would it be the matchup we all want to see, it would make for some of the best baseball games you can imagine. But this is Omaha. This is the College World Series. You never know what will happen at TD Ameritrade Park.

--Schedule update per the press release from the NCAA--

 “The first game this Saturday is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. CT, and will feature Cal State Fullerton (39-22) against No. 1 national seed Oregon State (54-4). Saturday’s second game features No. 4 national seed LSU (48-17) against Florida State (45-21), and is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CT.

The Sunday doubleheader features the No. 7 national seed Louisville (52-10) vs. Texas A&M (41-21) at 1 p.m. CT. In the evening game starting at 6 p.m. CT, No. 6 national seed TCU (47-16) will be squaring off against No. 3 national seed Florida (47-18).

The losers of Saturday’s two games will play at 1 p.m. CT Monday, June 19. While Saturday’s winners face off at 6 p.m. CT Monday, June 19.

The losers of Sunday’s games will play each other at 1 p.m. CT Tuesday, June 20. Sunday’s winners will meet Tuesday, June 20 at 6 p.m. CT. The winners of the two brackets will play a best-of-three College World Series Finals, with the first game set for 6 p.m. CT Monday, June 26. The second game is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT Tuesday, June 27, while the third and deciding game (if necessary) is slated for 7 p.m. CT Wednesday, June 28.”

For more information visit ncca.com

Beavers, Titans open CWS on Saturday

Beavers, Titans open CWS on Saturday

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State and Cal State Fullerton will open the College World Series Saturday with a 2 p.m. CT (12 p.m. in Oregon) start at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
 
The game will air on ESPN and is also available online at WatchESPN.com for subscribers.
 
It will mark the first matchup between the teams since the 2007 College World Series, a game won by the Beavers en route to their second consecutive national championship.
 
Oregon State takes a 54-4 overall record into the game, while Cal State Fullerton is 39-22 after winning at Long Beach State in an NCAA Super Regional.
 
Follow Us On Social
For more information on the Oregon State baseball team, follow the club's official Twitter account at Twitter.com/BeaverBaseball, by Facebook at Facebook.com/OregonStateBaseball or on Instagram at Instagram.com/BeaverBaseball.

OREGON STATE ATHLETICS' EVERYDAY CHAMPIONS CULTURE
Through the power of sport, we help people discover and pursue their passions, talents and purpose in order to live a life of balance and positive contribution.
 

Inside Bryce Fehmel's "out of nowhere" OSU pitching performance

Inside Bryce Fehmel's "out of nowhere" OSU pitching performance

Oregon State has piled incredible on top of amazing one game after another this season on the way to its berth in the College World Series, culminated by its 9-2 win Saturday night over Vanderbilt to close out a Super Regional.

But incredible and amazing arrived at the game together Saturday night in Corvallis.

The Beavers won behind the pitching efforts of sophomore right-hander Bryce Fehmel, who went the distance and allowed just one earned run, five hits, no walks while striking out 10 and using just 104 pitches. That's the same Bryce Fehmel who had a terrific season as a frosh, but who had been all but forgotten the second half of this season. He hadn't gotten a starting assignment since May 6, dropped from the rotation as Drew Rasmussen returned from Tommy John surgery. Fehmel wasn't even starting the mid-week, non-conference games.

"We never dreamed he would go nine," Coach Pat Casey said after the game. "I don't know how long it's been since he had a start but he was so good that I almost fell asleep. He was fantastic. I went out to make a (position-player) change and the umpire said, 'I hope you're not taking that pitcher out.' He did say that. I think (Fehmel) should be a poker player. You ask him how he's doing and it's the same every time. Wow, what a game to pitch in that situation against that club.

"It was an absolute warrior mentality from him."

Fehmel was asked where that performance came from.

"Out of nowhere. I don't know," he said. "I've been ready to be in this situation... I was ready for the moment.

"It was part of the scouting report going into the game -- do the best I could to keep the batters off balance and it worked out for the whole game."

Fehmel has a nice assortment of off-speed stuff, breaking balls and when he's right, can spot his fastball. But he isn't overpowering. He doesn't blow anyone away with a 95 mph fastball. But everything was working for him against the Commodores and he had some help from his dugout. Pitching coach Nate Yeskie called every pitch and Fehmel didn't shake off a single call. And make no mistake, that's a critical part of getting a pitcher through a game like this one.

"Coach Yeskie just does a fabulous job," Casey said "He has such a good feel for his pitchers. He really called a great game tonight. Spectacular."

Moving forward to the CWS, the Beavers -- who will likely be without Luke Heimlich -- are going to need more spectacular pitching performances from unsuspected places. It's going to take at least three starting pitchers (and possibly more) just to get through to the best-of-three championship round. If the team loses a game, a fourth starter will likely have to step up. It's expected Rasmussen will join the rotation with Jake Thompson, the nation's winningest pitcher. Fehmel has earned a starting shot now, too. But someone else is very likely going to have to step up at some point in Omaha.

And with the way this season has gone so far for the 54-4 Beavers, that someone -- whomever he is -- WILL step up.

Beavers' magical season continues with Super Regional win over Vandy

Beavers' magical season continues with Super Regional win over Vandy

CORVALLIS – Next stop on Oregon State’s magic carpet ride of a season is Omaha and the College World Series.

The Beavers found some magic Saturday night as they blew past Vanderbilt 9-2 to capture their Super Regional in two straight games and hike their latest winning streak to 21 games.

The tourney's top seed will take an eye-popping season record of 54-4 into the eight-team World Series and meet the winner of the Long Beach State-Cal Fullerton Super Regional in their first game.

Heroes? How about sophomore right-hander Bryce Fehmel, making his first start since May 6? He went the distance, allowed five hits, just one earned run, fanned 10 and didn't walk a batter. It was an amazing performance from a pitcher who had been all but forgotten over the latter part of the season.

And what about KJ  Harrison, who hammered a three-run homer to get the Beavers going in the third? It was his second three-run big fly in two nights.

The Beavers got four runs on five hits in a marathon third inning, capped by Harrison’s three-run clout into the high bleachers in left field.

Adley Rutschman opened the inning with a sharp single to right and moved to second on Christian Donahue’s groundout. With two out, Steven Kwan lined a single to center to score Rutschman with the first run of the game.

Nick Madrigal followed with an infield single to set up Harrison. The OSU first baseman then crushed a 2-1 pitch for his second three-run homer in as many nights.

Donahue actually may have provided some momentum for that inning with a spectacular catch leaping against the left-field wall in the second. It was a terrific play with the ball and Donahue arriving at the fence at the same crashing moment.

Fehmel allowed a lead-off double to open the bottom of the third, but pitched his way out of the inning without allowing the runner to advance –- a shutdown inning.

The Commodores got to Fehmel in the sixth for two runs, one of them unearned and by then the Beavers were lacking in baserunners. After getting five hits in the third, they got only one more over the next three innings.

But OSU came back in the top of the seventh to load the bases on two infield hits and a walk, getting Harrison to the plate with two outs. The Oregon State first baseman fell behind on the count 0-2 but worked a walk to force in OSU’s fifth run. That was the end of the line for Vanderbilt’s much-heralded starter Kyle Wright, who has been tabbed as a possible No. 1 pick in Monday’s baseball draft.

Trevor Larnach then grounded a single up the middle to plate two more runs and the Beavers had a 7-2 lead -- a three-run, two-out rally immediately after the Commodores had put two on the board.

But the Beavers weren't done. Cadyn Grenier smacked a triple to deep right-center field in the eighth to drive in two more runs and the lead was 9-2.

Heimlich: It's not about baseball, it's about punishment and rehabilitation

Heimlich: It's not about baseball, it's about punishment and rehabilitation

CORVALLIS -- Of all the questions surrounding the Luke Heimlich situation at Oregon State, the one that befuddles me the most is "How long?"

Nobody yet has been able to give me much of an answer.

And by "How long?" I mean how long must somebody who admitted guilt to a molestation at the age of 15 pay for his crime? Is it 10 years? Twenty years? Life? Honestly, I have no idea.

The whole concept of a juvenile justice system is to understand that youngsters make mistakes. Sometimes serious ones. Often those mistakes can be attributed to cultural, economic or familial influences that youths cannot control. And as kids, they are allowed a chance to move on from those and have a productive life. Heimlich is now 21 years old and, by all accounts, has done just fine as a student at Oregon State and has complied with all the stipulations of his plea agreement.

Or, as his coach, Pat Casey, put it: "I can just tell you that he's a fine young man and for every second he's been on this campus, on and off the field, he's been a first-class individual -- someone that his family should be proud of, the community should be proud of and our team is proud of him. I believe in Luke."

This isn't about baseball, it's about a young man who is, to the best of our knowledge, doing all he can to rehabilitate himself. I don't know Heimlich well enough to say I believe in him. I don't know him at all. But I believe in the concept of giving people a chance to atone for their mistakes and move forward with a productive life -- particularly when it's a juvenile. But as you know, the courts decide punishment but society also weighs in on the subject -- and public opinion can be more harsh than a judge.

I don't pretend to have all the answers in a situation like this. And as I said, this isn't about baseball, it's more about juvenile offenders and their rehabilitation. So I go back to the original question:

You tell me -- if Heimlich doesn't belong on this team, when does he? What are his rights as a student? What are his privileges as a student? When, exactly, does punishment end and rehabilitation begin?

And most pertinent, who is supposed to make those calls?