During Sunday's 5 PM edition of MLB Tonight, MLB Network will be airing a feature on Jeff Allison, the 16th overall pick in the 2003 MLB Draft by the (then) Florida Marlins. Going into the 2004 season, he was the third best prospect in Florida's organization, and the 44th best prospect in all of baseball. But he didn't pitch at all in 2004 and was placed on the restricted list due to a substance abuse problem. He also didn't pitch at all in 2006 or 2007 due to his addiction to heroin and Oxycontin, overdosing twice and nearly dying.
Allison has been sober since December of 2006, and the highlight of his pro career came in 2008, when he made the high-A Florida State League All-Star team at age 24. The Marlins released Allison after the 2011 season, and he's currently working as a public speaker, warning kids about the dangers of drug use.
This was a player who got a $1.85 million signing bonus from the Marlins. He was Baseball America's High School Player of the Year in 2003. He had a 97 mph fastball and a knee-buckling, mid-80s curve. He threw all that away, along with nearly throwing his life away, because of his addiction.
During the feature, Allison discusses the emotions he felt during his career and his addiction, from the moment he was drafted by the Marlins to his All-Star berth in 2008. He talked about rock bottom, when he returned home after walking 33 miles in the rain at 4:30 in the morning, and hearing his mother tell him that every time he left, she'd light a candle for him because she didn't know if he'd ever return. He talked about being in jail 20 yards across the street from the stadium of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, where he played in 2005 with the Marlins organization.
I'm not here to lecture anyone, but the feature is something that everyone (especially potential draftees) needs to watch. For every player like Bryce Harper with a straight-laced lifestyle and impeccable work ethic and every player like Buster Posey who rockets through the minors and becomes a superstar before anyone can blink, there are players like Allison and his addiction, players like Billy Rowell who flamed out once they faced tougher competition, and players like Wade Townsend that could never stay healthy. Being a top draft pick doesn't guarantee you a life of superstardom.
Jeff Allison's baseball career may be a memory, but the lessons he can teach future draft picks (and hell, any young person venturing into new avenues) are something that cannot and should not be forgotten.