There are a lot of records in baseball that are considered sacred and highly desirable to surpass.  You have the career hits, career home runs, career wins, and career strikeouts.  There is one record, you don’t want to own.  It brings with it a distinction of failure.  The record I am speaking of is the minor league career home run record.  Sure you may have hit more home runs in the minors than any other hitter in the history of the minors, but is that a good thing or a bad thing?  I mean they made a movie about that “Bull Durham”.  Substitute Mike Hessman in for Crash Davis and you have an idea where I am going with this.

Mike was originally selected by the Braves out of Fountain Valley, CA in the 15th round of the 1996 draft.  The Brave’s brass knew he had the power, it was just a matter of teaching him the strike zone and patience.  Mike put up impressive home run totals with the Brave’s farm system (21, 20, 23, 19, 26, 26, 16, and 16) before finally being traded to the Tigers in 2005.  Power has never really been an issue, he has played in a little over 1500 career minor league games and has struck out almost 1900 times.  Out of his nearly 1600 hits, 311 of them have been for home runs (nearly 20% or 1 in 5 hits).

The truth of this story is that Mike is your prototype AAAA player.  Not good enough for the pros and too good for the AAA.  He is only 31 years old, so you can bet that he still has plenty of power left in him.  When it’s all said and done he could possibly (and I know this is a stretch) break the 500 home run plateau.  If so he would certainly roll up more than 2000 hits and nearly 3000 strikeouts.  Meaning if he never get’s to play significant time in the majors, he still would have had himself a stoic career.

While most of us tend the celebrate the greats who play the game, I am one to celebrate the greats that never made it.  Like most players who get drafted, you will probably never remember Mike when he retires.  He will though have his name in at least one record book, current minor league home run king.  It may not be as impressive as Aaron or Ruth, but it’s something that I am sure he will always treasure no matter what happens in his career.

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8 responses »

  1. Jon says:

    It is a BIG stretch considering he has hit less than .220 in three of his last five seasons.

    Also, Hessman has played in the majors which is something the all-time home run leader in the minors, Hector Espino, never did. How about giving Hector a celebration?

    • chemgod says:

      When I researched the Mike Hessman piece, I never even came across Espino. I guess I should put in this post that Hessman is the American minor league record holder and Espino is the all time minor league leader in homers. Too bad he passed away aver a decade ago, I would have loved to get his auto.

  2. the drizz says:

    i got a chance to watch hess play at a couple of ‘hens games this past season. he’s a decent (14 errors in 131 games in ’09) defender at third, and it’s a stretch, but he could get one last shot in the majors if the tigers decide to do something like move inge next year.

  3. the drizz says:

    …and i thought the all-time home runs leader in the minors was crash davis? 😉

  4. Hoiles says:

    I remember going to a September (MLB) game, and there were these teenagers in front of me ruthlessly heckling him with chants like “Hess-man” (like Barry) and “Hessman sucks”. I wonder if he found it annoying or actually got a kick of it.

  5. Cameramano says:

    Hessman played for my hometown Toledo Mud Hens and a couple stints with the Tigers. He is a class act and loves the game. I’ll take that over the supernaturally gifted player who doesn’t realize how quick it can all go away. I hope he takes the record he takes as badge of honor.

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