This post was originally published on November 12, 2014.
The Guy Who Could Have Had it All
Jeff Allison is not a household name. He was supposed to be, though. He threw a fastball at 95 miles per hour. He was pitching for his baseball team in front of 5,000 people at the age of 14. He was the 2003 Massachusetts Gatorade High School Baseball Player of the Year as well as the 2003 Baseball America High School Player of the Year at the age of 17. In his senior year at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, he pitched through 62 and 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. At 18, he was the 16th pick in the first round drafted by the World Series-bound Florida Marlins and signed a $1.85 million dollar bonus with them two months later. In the first round, Allison was selected ahead of four All-Stars and after only two. So why isn’t Allison playing in October during the MLB playoffs? Why isn’t he dating movie stars and on Sports Center’s Top 10 plays of the night during the summer? And, finally, why isn’t he even in the major league? Opiates.
The Boston Globe recently did a story about the suburban superstar’s recovery. He’s still sober and has a tattoo to prove it: “Dec. 4, 2006.” This came as a result him being rushed to the ER unconscious after shooting up bad heroin when he was 19. “Something so prestigious had happened to me and a few months later I found myself addicted to opiates,” says a grateful Allison today. The days of having a seven-figure bank account while pitching in the Florida sun are done for him but he seems to accept that.
Just What the Hell Happened?
Jeff Allison is a handsome guy with a manner that shows the confidence someone would have after 15 years of being enabled by adults and being told all his dreams —of money, bright stadium lights, town cars, ESPN highlights and title rings worth more than the house he grew up in—would come true.
Allison claims that his ego gave him a big head. His tight knit group of friends who played baseball with him his whole life stopped seeing him as much when he got drafted to the Marlins. A million bucks and an MLB contract will do that to you. To put it in perspective on what a million dollars looks like to a teenager, I would say that the president probably makes a $400,000 annual salary, has a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account and $19,000 for entertainment. All of that combined is less than half of what Allison made as a 19-year-old who hadn’t pitched a single inning of professional baseball.
In 2004, the Marlins added Allison to the restricted list for the entire season while he went to rehab for substance abuse. When he came back in 2005, they put him on a farm team designed to develop grown men into the player Allison was at 16. He was addicted to OxyContin and heroin this whole time—but got sober.
Then he relapsed in 2006 after getting pulled over in North Carolina and being slapped with felony charges for possession of heroin, resisting arrest and grand theft auto. He didn’t even show up for court. He was pulled over nine months later, ending up going to jail for 75 days (that’s a lot for an athlete) with three years probation. Allison was a full time, card-carrying member drug addict.
What It’s like Now
The Marlins gave him a shot but Allison’s arm came and went. He blamed it on a click he heard in it years ago but this stuff happens with age and heroin doesn’t help. Athletes are considered old at 29 so it’s no surprise that without major pitching experience in his 20s, Allison is out of the game—or at least the hunt for a roster spot.
Today, he’s teaching kids how to throw baseballs and giving speeches to “drop silent school auditoriums about the power of addiction.” He talks about overdosing twice and wasting the talent that comes to one out of every 100,000 teenagers. Allison has a cool head about it all today. He has to if he wants to be happy. Now he’s giving back to the community that embraced him and probably talked smack about him. He’s back in the suburbs with a life he never thought he would have. But who are any of us to say what life we’re supposed to have? It sounds like Allison would agree that whatever course he’s on is the right one; after all, believing that is the only way to live—for all of us.
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