Minor League Baseball is everywhere, in almost every American town with a decent-sized population. That is what makes what Mike Hessman did on August 3 so special. In the Toledo Mud Hens' 10--8 loss to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the third baseman tomahawked a grand slam off of Dustin McGowan to set a new minor league record with his 433rd home run. He broke the record previously held by Buzz Arlett, who bashed 432 in a career that lasted from 1918 to '37.
While some may see a minor league record as being dubious, Hessman disagrees. "I didn't know how much media coverage I'd get with it, how much people would be following it," he says. "It's been really awesome."
While Arlett played in only five cities during his minor league career, Hessman's tenure in baseball has taken him across the globe to such exotic places as Japan and Beijing (for the Olympics). All told, Hessman has played for 16 different teams from the major leagues on down.
If Hessman had hit his 433 home runs in the majors, it would put him 46th all-time, two in front of Cal Ripken, Jr. Alas, Hessman's home run total in the big leagues is just 14. He has not played a major league game since 2010.
Though he has never fulfilled his ultimate major league dream, Hessman intends to keep on swinging. "I've always wanted to play the game, [and] I enjoy being able to play the game," he says. "As long as I know I can compete, then I'll want to continue to play, because I enjoy the game that much. I'm extremely blessed and fortunate to be able to play this long."
Looking to the future, Hessman said he'd like "to stay in the game once my playing days are done, hopefully manage somewhere." It would suit him, as there are few places the game is played that he has not seen. But for now, Hessman will keep taking the field, day in and day out, not for records or an eventual promotion — but, as he has done for nearly 20 years, for the love of the game.
Photo: Scott Grau/courtesy Toledo Mud Hens