Monday, July 21, 2008

Florida Minor Leaguer Jeff Allison's comeback worthy of attention

The original plan was to run the Jeff Allison story later in the year. The Dugout wanted to let Allison get through an entire season and talk about those experiences, along with upcoming expectations.

Josh Hamilton’s Ruthian first half, followed by a Home Run Derby display that left NASCAR wondering whether it could harness his power, sped up the timeline for the story.

Hamilton’s success focused a spotlight back on Allison, who’d been quietly working through his first Florida State League season in Jupiter. Peter Gammons explained during the Derby telecast that, like Hamilton, Allison was trying to overcome drug addiction.

Gammons actually called Allison following the All-Star Game to ask if it was OK to pass his number along to Hamilton. Still don’t know whether they talked, but should have an update on that in the coming days.

One surprising aspect of the story has been the slow but steady criticism of the overwhelmingly positive coverage of Hamilton’s ordeal. Critics point out that unlike various players who’ve overcome cancer or political strife, Hamilton made his own problem.

That’s, well, true.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Hamilton’s ability to overcome drug addiction can’t inspire others. Allison, who lost the three of the last four years to drug addiction and prison time, says he’s feeding off Hamilton’s success.

Talk with Allison about baseball and the excitement for the game is clearly evident. Turn the conversation to his past transgressions and that excitement quickly turns to embarrassment. To Allison’s credit, though, he does talk. He offers glimpses of a world that most people are glad they don’t know and hope they will never experience.

He’s personable, even when irritated. In short, he makes people want to route for him. Allison isn’t showing the 97 mph fastball that caused the Marlins to choose him with the 16th overall pick in the 2003 draft, but he is giving Florida reason to believe he can contribute at the major league level in a few years.

Still, as well as Allison does this season, his biggest challenge way come when the season ends. Returning to his Peabody, Mass. home with all that free time will undoubtedly lead to temptation and opportunity.

Yet Allison is no more concerned about returning to Peabody than he is getting through one more day at Jupiter.

“I started using drugs in Massachusetts in the town where I grew up and I stopped using drugs in Massachusetts where I grew up,” Allison said. “Going back there is just going to a different spot. At the end of the day, I’m my biggest problem. If I’m going to use, it’s on me to do it. Every place in the world has drugs. It’s a matter of whether I’m going to do it or not. Right now, right this second, I’m not.”

Allison admits he created his own problem. Hopefully he can beat it. And if he needs the help of someone like Hamilton or a teammate or fan, what’s wrong with that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

u can do it jeff...we all believe in you...keep ur head up...