Monday marks the 10th anniversary of arguably the Marlins' most frustrating first-round draft pick in franchise history. Not frustrating in the sense of picking a player who failed to make it or didn't live up to initial expectations. There have been plenty of examples of those along the way: Josh Booty (1994) Jaime Jones (1995) Aaron Akin (1997) and Brett Sinkbeil (2006), just to name a few.
But the selection of Peabody, Mass., prep star Jeff Allison with the 16th overall pick in 2003 turned into a different kind of frustrating in the sense that the young pitcher had all the markings of a future star until his chronic bouts with drug addition ruined his baseball career and nearly took his life. Allison never threw a pitch in the majors.
With this year's draft set for Thursday, MLB Network will be taking a look back at the '03 draft when the Marlins picked Allison and then watched helplessly over the ensuing years as the promise belonging to the pitcher began to crumble. MLB Network will be airing a profile of Allison, contrasting his troubled past with the present, at 5 p.m. Sunday. Peter Gammons reports. Here's are some excerpts, as well as a video clip:
Jeff Allison on if he ever finds himself saying “what if?”: All the time. I was a number one pick for a Major League Baseball team. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted.
High school friend Andrew Coppola on opposing players facing Allison in high school: Opposing players would get congratulations on their bench for fouling a pitch off.
Allison on his Draft day experience: Once the middle of the first round hit, 14, 15 and 16, I remember my computer went off…I was never able to hear myself being called up on the Draft board.
Allison on being selected in the first round by the Marlins: Immediately, emotions ran high. It’s probably the one time that I cried and cried a lot, and I wasn’t ashamed to.
Allison on ending up in jail: The most ironic part about being where I was, was about 20 yards across the street was the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ stadium that I played in the year before, and I’m sitting there watching their games on TV at night.
Allison on the moment where he said enough was enough: I was so burnt out. I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired. I remember sitting there on a tree at 4:30 in the morning. It was raining out. At any given point, I could have given in to [the] temptation of not wanting to be here anymore, and I didn’t. I stood up and I walked 33 miles at 4:30 in the morning to get home. So, that was my bottom. When I got home, my mother sat there with a candle lit on a mantle because she told me, she goes, “Every time you leave, I light a candle for you because I never know if you’re going to come back.”
Allison on being named to the 2008 Florida State League All-Star team: I cried on the bus when they told me. I’ll never forget it. You think of it like, it’s an A-ball All-Star team, but you know what? I went from dying twice to being an All-Star in baseball. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the big leagues. To me, I did it, I made it and I was proud.
Allison on dedicating his life to helping kids fight addiction: In my personal life, I’m still fighting what’s being tossed in these younger kids’ direction. I’ll do anything. I’ll go to war with these kids to fight that disease of addiction. That’s why every single day, I wake up and [if] I get to help at least one person, I did my job. And when I do that right, I don’t wonder “What if?” I don’t have to."