Playing minor league baseball has always been difficult with long bus rides and sleepless nights between stops.
There is also a certain amount of anonymity that goes with being in the minors. A popular question from fans is “Who is that guy?”
As I sat in the stands at Victory Field in Indianapolis, no one seemed to be aware of the other team, the Toledo Mud Hens on Aug. 12, 2015. It was the second time I’ve been to a Mud Hens game this season with the other time being in Toledo, so I had an idea of the Detroit Tigers Triple-A player who was on my watch list.
With 453 lifetime home runs (not counting winter ball) and 1,201 RBI, a player should get noticed after playing 20 years. Not in a visiting ball park.
But as Mike Hessman broke the longstanding minor league career home run record earlier this month, the 37-year old is finally getting noticed. He also holds the career mark for most homers in the extensive history of the International League with 288.
On this day, Hessman did something that he has rarely done. The designated hitter tripled in the 4-2 victory over the Indians, who are the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hessman now has 25 triples at all levels in his career.
Began Career in 1996
Drafted in the 15th round by Atlanta in 1996, Hessman has made it to the big leagues for the first time in 2003 with the Braves. He played part of another season for the Braves in 2004. He was with the Tigers in 2007 and 2008. The last time he was in the majors was in 2010 with the New York Mets. He has 14 homers and 33 RBI during his time at the highest level.
Hessman has played with 11 minor league teams in five different organizations. His best year was in 2007 when he was named the IL Most Valuable Player as the Mud Hens won the West Division, but lost in the playoffs. He hit 31 homers and knocked in 101 runs. The following season, he blasted a career-high 34 homers.
This season, Hessman has 16 homers and 51 RBI with three triples.
The Old Home Run Record
Hessman officially has 433 homers in the minor leagues. The other 20 in his career come from the 14 in the majors and six during the 2011 season in Japan. He passed Buzz Arlett on Aug. 3.
Arlett hit 432 homers from 1918 to 1937. Most of his time was spent with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, which at that time was the top line of baseball in the Western United States. Although he finished his career with Syracuse in 1937, he hit his final home run a year earlier for Minneapolis of the American Association.
Arlett did make it to the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1931. He hit 18 homers with 72 RBI, while batting .313. After that season, he returned to the minors as he played with Baltimore in the International League and he hit a career-high 54 long balls in 1932.