It may not be as romantic as Crash Davis’ pursuit of home run 247 in Bull Durham , but Toledo Mud Hens’ third baseman Mike Hessman is making a run at minor league history. The definition of a AAAA player, Hessman is putting up prolific power numbers and depending on how long he can stomach “living the dream” he may be well on his way to becoming the all time minor league home run king.
Currently sitting at 328 career home runs in the minors, the 32 year old Hessman, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2008, is in the midst of his best season as a pro, hitting .301 with 17 jacks and 53 rbi after 49 games, albeit against competition as much as 10 years his junior. But who am I to judge, as I am currently toiling in the competitive-rec slow pitch softball leagues of St. Louis. Heck, even Eric Byrnes can hit in slow pitch (by the way, who actually rounds the bases after hitting a homer in slow pitch softball? Act like you’ve been there before Byrnes).
Anyway, what’s the magic number to become the minor leagues Sultan of Swat? Good question, and depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different answer. The all time leader in minor league home runs is Hector Espino who has 484 jacks, but most of those came in the unaffiliated Mexican Leagues. So if you don’t count those, then Buzz Arlett is your man with 432, all hit in the US of A.
In either case, Hessman has a lot of late night bus rides and crappy hotels ahead of him should he decide to pursue the record. Over the past 5 seasons he’s averaged 28 homers per year. At that pace it would take him about 4 more years to pass Arlett and over 5 to pass Espino, which would be a tough task, especially if you don’t have the likes of Annie Savoy to keep you company along the way.
So, if you weren’t destined to be a major league star, what career path would you prefer?
- Mike Hessman, minor league legend– Never made an impact at the major league level, but has put up prolific minor league numbers over a 15 year career, that is still going strong.
- Bud Smith, one year wonder – Threw a no hitter and finished 4th in the rookie of the year voting in 2001. Then got traded and sent down the following year, never making it back to the bigs.
- Matt Bush, first round flameout – Got paid 1st round money, but never came close to the majors. After being released by the team that drafted him, he is currently trying to reinvent himself as a pitcher in the minors.