Allison reaches milestone in long journey back

Allison reaches milestone in long journey back

Allison reaches milestone in long journey back
JUPITER, Fla. -- On Jeff Allison's right arm is a tattoo that serves as a reminder of where he once was, and how far he has come since.

Inscribed on his biceps is an image of a demon rising from a grave site and puffing into smoke. The date, 12/4/06, is etched into his flesh.

The symbolism is of Allison's personal journey in dealing with a drug addiction that nearly claimed his life.

It's been four years and four months that Allison has been sober. The specific day is Dec. 4, 2006. About a year after achieving sobriety, the Marlins' right-handed Minor League pitcher decided to get the tattoo.

The meaning, he says, is how he is personally exorcising his demons.

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Allison's personal struggles have been well documented. Florida's first-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft has dealt with heroin and Oxycontin addictions.

The former standout at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School in Peabody, Mass., overdosed on heroin in July of 2004. His road back has been a long one, and on Tuesday, he achieved a personal milestone.

Along with Brad Stone, Allison was called up from Minor League camp for one day to offer pitching depth. Burke Badenhop was off on Tuesday due to a sinus infection.

Allison has been pitching in the Marlins' Minor League system for the past few seasons, and he pitched at Double-A Jacksonville last year. Tuesday is his first day in big league camp. The right-hander, who is wearing No. 92, is just happy for the opportunity.

"I did what I did," Allison said. "I'm blessed for this opportunity. If it's a day, it's a day. If it's only for a day, I still have a jersey, and that's what it's all about. Whether it's a Minor League or a Major League jersey, it's still a jersey. I'm blessed to have that opportunity, for sure."

At 26, Allison continues to chase the big league dream, and he is aware that the day may never come. But he is grateful that the Marlins have stuck with him through his darkest days.

In terms of pitching, this is a big season for Allison, who could be eligible to move on in 2012 if he is not part of the organization's plans.

"I'd love to be here. I've become close to a lot of people in the front office," Allison said. "Hopefully, there are more years to come with this organization. If not, I'll take it someplace else, and go from there.

"But I grew up a lot in this organization. I couldn't ask for anything else, whether I make it or not."

Allison is thankful to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and others who have given him a chance to get his career and life in order.

As a pitcher, Allison isn't the same hard thrower that made him a first-round pick eight years ago. Back then, he threw 95 mph. He isn't sure what his velocity is now, but it's well below what it was when he was 18.

"I've accepted that," Allison said. "You see a lot of guys in the Major Leagues who don't throw really, really hard, but they can get people out. To me, that's a lot more important than to throw 95 and not get people out. You can throw 95 down the middle of the plate and get hit.

"I'd like to be the type of guy who could hopefully get up here, throw strikes, get ground balls, and get people out."

Getting a big league look, even if it is a one-day deal, is something Allison is cherishing.

"A lot of hard work, and want and desire," Allison said. "To come out of a hole -- a deep, deep, deep hole. To walk and come out of it.

"To be able to be here and speak about it, I can't really explain. Whether it's Minor League or Major League, it doesn't really matter."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.