Although he hasn’t pitched professionally since 2011, Jeff Allison is not ready to close the door to his career. He’s still working on the elbow injury that led to the end of his nine-year association with the Florida Marlins. He even pitched last summer, going 3-0 without allowing an earned run, and striking out 26 in 21 innings over 15 games for the Malden Bulldogs of the Yawkey Baseball League.
Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year in 2003 out of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, a can’t-miss kid who was the Marlins’ No. 1 pick (16th overall) that year, Allison never made it to the big leagues. Plagued by a drug addiction, he never played above Double A.
Allison, who turned 28 last month, has been taking online classes toward his college degree. But because he’s been so busy, he took this semester off. He is currently the lead pitching instructor at the Show Baseball & Softball Academy in Lawrence, which is run by Steve Lomasney, another Peabody High alum, who was drafted by the Red Sox in 1995.
“I’m coaching his [facility’s] 17-year-old team with him, which is our most talented team, so I’ll be doing all the pitching with them,” Allison said. “I get all the pitching instructions, and all the lessons, and I have my own pitching program. I’m basically doing all of my own stuff but with the help of the other guys there, which is phenomenal.”
He’s also found another calling. He’s been visiting area high schools and middle schools to help kids avoid the road that derailed his career, and nearly led to his death. It’s a mission he knows has value — maybe more than winning games — and gives him a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
“The euphoric feeling that I get when I’m done is indescribable,” he said. “It’s a high in itself. It really is. It’s one of those natural feelings that I used to get when I was in high school whenever I would pitch and do well. There’s no doing well or doing bad when you speak to a school. I just tell them, ‘Here’s my message, my experience, and hopefully a few of you guys can apply it to your own lives because it’s real. Addiction, drugs, alcohol, it doesn’t discriminate. It will get anybody any time it wants, especially if you have an addictive personality.’”
His struggles with drugs and alcohol are well-chronicled. He knows his story is compelling, enough to hold the attention of teenagers when he speaks.
“Every single time I’ve done this I’ve had every classroom or auditorium silent,” he said. “It’s a great feeling after I finish. But I focus on my message and really try to get them to know that this is a real-life situation.”
On Dec. 4, Allison celebrated six years of sobriety.
“It’s a celebration for me because I always go back to that day where I decided to make the next best decision for myself,” he said. “That’s what it took for me to start changing right then and there.
“If I didn’t make that decision, I would be dead right now. That’s why it’s such a celebratory thing for me because I know that I could have, not should have, but possibly could have been in a very bad spot.”
Instead he’s in a good spot. Maybe it’s not the spot he had envisioned for himself a decade ago. But he has memories to remind him it’s not bad, either.
Maureen Mullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.