ONCE THE question about Jeff Allison, the righthander selected by the Marlins in the first round of the 2003 draft, was, When will he bury his drug problem and become a major league pitcher? Now the question is, Will drugs bury him? On Aug. 7 police in Medford, Mass., responding to a midafternoon call, found the 21-year-old unconscious in the bathroom of a friend's home after a heroin overdose. He was rushed to a hospital, treated and released. It was a repeat, just about, of a 2004 incident (SI, Dec. 20, 2004).
Allison, in the spring of 2003, was a star for Peabody High, on the outskirts of Boston. He was named High School Player of the Year by Baseball America, even as he was routinely abusing the painkiller OxyContin, which he would crush and snort. After his 2004 heroin overdose, Allison found his way back to baseball in '05. He pitched for the Marlins' A ball team, going 5--4. But in March the Marlins, who gave Allison a $1.85 million signing bonus in 2003, suspended him indefinitely for violating club policy. Joel Levine, a high school teammate and a recovering drug addict himself, said he saw Allison shortly before he overdosed. They talked about treatment centers, and Allison told him, "'Baseball's got to take a backseat right now. I've got to get my life together or I'm not gonna have anything.' The kid's a drug addict. Maybe this is rock bottom--maybe it's not."