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.