Last night, the Detroit Tigers‘ 36-year-old minor leaguer Mike Hessman clobbered his fourth home run of the season for the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. It was also the 393rd long ball of his minor league career.
Hessman is something of a right-handed Adam Dunn. He has massive power, but he also has 2,179 strikeouts and a career .232 batting average to go along with his 393 minor league home runs. Unfortunately, Hessman has simply not been able to stick around MLB like Dunn has. Perhaps if he was left-handed, he might have had better luck.
As a result of the fact that Hessman is now in his 18th season in the minor leagues, and has accumulated nearly 400 home runs down there, he is often compared to Crash Davis — Kevin Costner’s iconic character from the movie Bull Durham. Hessman has, however, had a few brief stints in the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves, Tigers and most recently the New York Mets in 2010.
Hessman did the most damage in his big-league career with the Tigers from 2007-08. During the two seasons he was up with the Tigers, he actually hit nine home runs and drove in 19 runs while batting .256 over 29 games. He left the Tigers organization after the 2009 season for his aforementioned opportunity with the Mets, and then proceeded to go over to Japan for the 2011 season.
Hessman would return home in 2012 to play for the Oklahoma City Redhawks, the Houston Astros‘ triple-A affiliate, where he hit 35 home runs. After that he migrated to the Louisville Bats, the Cincinnati Reds‘ triple-A club, where he spent all of the 2013 campaign and hit 25 home runs.
This offseason, the Tigers decided they wanted to have a reunion with Hessman and signed him to a minor league deal. He once again finds himself wearing a Mud Hens uniform as he did from 2005-09, which is very fitting as he enjoyed a large chunk of his minor league success in Toledo. Hessman entered the season with the Mud Hens’ all-time home run record with 140, and he has now added four more to that total.
Hessman currently ranks 11th on the all-time list of minor league home run hitters. He is quickly closing in on Jack Pierce, who hit 395 minor league home runs, for 10th place all-time. Hector Espino currently holds the all-time record with 484 minor league round-trippers.
If Hessman is able to notch another seven home runs, he will become just the eighth player in history to ever hit 400 homers in the minor leagues. Although there are not too many people who are talking about it, tracking Hessman’s charge towards 400 minor league big flies should certainly be a fun story to keep tabs on over the coming weeks.
It should also be noted, however, that Hessman does have a total of 14 major league HRs, and he also hit six during the season he spent in Japan, which therefore gives him a professional total of 413 overall. So in a sense, he is already there.