Most baseball fans are familiar with the story of Josh Hamilton -- his fall from being the No. 1 pick in the 1999 MLB draft to chronic drug abuse and rise to superstardom.
Lesser known is the story of Jeff Allison, the No. 16 overall pick by the Florida Marlins 10 years ago. A hard-throwing righthander out of Peabody, Mass., Allison did not allow a single earned run in more than 60 innings pitched his senior year of high school.
"I got to see him pitch in high school one time because I used to live about 25 miles away from where he went to high school," MLB Network's Peter Gammons told ThePostGame. "And I must say he was the best high school pitcher I ever saw."
Allison was so confident in his abilities that he commented after being drafted, "I also think I'll make the All-Star team in two or three years," making the same prediction former Marlins' first-rounder Josh Beckett had four years earlier. (Florida selected Beckett one spot behind Hamilton.)
Like Hamilton, Allison may have felt invincible on the field, but he struggled with substance abuse off of it. In a segment with Gammons that aired Sunday on MLB Network, Allison recalled slipping into addiction at a young age.
The Marlins reported no concerns about Allison's makeup after drafting him. But after he arrived late to spring training in 2004, they learned of his substance abuse issue and sent him home. Instead of getting better, Allison nearly died of a heroin overdose, according to the MLB Network story.
After a brief return to the minor leagues, Allison overdosed again and went to jail multiple times.
"The most ironic part about being where I was –- about 20 yards across the street was the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ stadium that I played in the year before,” Allison told Gammons. "And I'm sitting across the street watching their games on TV at night.”
Allison once walked 33 miles in the rain to get home at 4:30 a.m., calling it "his bottom."
"When I got home, my mother sat there with a candle lit on the 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,'” he said.
Allison started climbing back up from there and says he has been sober since 2006. In 2008, he made the Florida State League All-Star Game in Single-A. It was the same year that Hamilton dazzled the Yankee Stadium crowd at the MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby. At the derby, Gammons discussed Allison’s story with the man who had endured a strikingly similar experience.
“I told Hamilton that Allison had made the All-Star team in the Florida State League, and Hamilton called him and congratulated him,” Gammons said.
For Allison, being called an All-Star was a landmark achievement.
“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," Allison told Gammons. “To me I did it, I made it, and I was proud."
After being released by the Marlins in 2011, Allison returned to his home state of Massachusetts to tutor young pitchers and warn young people about the dangers of drugs. He admits to having regrets, but says that is he at peace.
"A couple years ago in spring training, two different fathers came up to me and said, 'our sons have been working with Jeff Allison, and he's great and so forth.' … They were just so pleased with how he was with their kids and everything," Gammons said.
Allison has some pupils waiting to hear their names called in this week’s draft, although they are expected to play in college for the next three or four years. He dedicates his life to kids in what was once his position, whether they need help with their pitching mechanics or motivation to avoid drugs.
"Every single day, I wake up and get to help at least one person -- I did my job," Allison said. "When I do that right, I don’t wonder, ‘what if?' I don’t have to."
-- Follow Alex Leichenger on Twitter @AlexLeich.
Below is the MLB Network's feature on Jeff Allison:
MLB Network’s coverage of the First-Year Player Draft begins 6 p.m. ET Thursday.