Mud Hens' Hessman becomes all-time minor-league HR king

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Toledo — Anyone who has been as patient, as devoted, and as accomplished as Mike Hessman probably deserved Monday's night's milestone.

Hessman blasted a seventh-inning grand slam homer, a rocket that traveled far beyond the high wall and walkway at Fifth Third Field, to give him 433 home runs, the most by any minor-league player in history.

Hessman's homer gave the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens a temporary 8-6 lead over Lehigh Valley in a game the Mud Hens eventually lost, 10-8, in 11 innings.

The home run broke a 432-homer tie Hessman had shared with Buzz Arlett, a star from the 1920s and '30s who played primarily for the Phillies' farm teams.

"I never played the game to chase records," said Hessman, holding a bottle of congratulatory champagne as teammates cheered him in the Mud Hens clubhouse afterward. "I've been extremely blessed to have played for a Tigers organization that gave me the opportunity to continue my career.

"Not many in this day and age get to play this long," he said. "I've been lucky to have had a few cups of coffee (big-league stints) at the top."

Hessman, 37, and primarily a corner infielder in his 20 professional seasons, has had short stints in the big leagues with the Tigers, Braves and Mets, hitting 14 home runs.

He has also played in Japan and is finishing out a long playing career ahead of what he hopes will be a next phase coaching or managing.

"We're getting pretty close to it," he said, speaking of what could, for him and for his family, be his last season as a player.

Toledo manager Larry Parrish was among the Hessman hailers Monday.

"That's a lot of home runs, it doesn't matter where you get 'em," Parrish said. "He's kept himself in great shape, he's a great team player, and he's a great defensive player.

"You probably wouldn't think of that right away," said Parrish, referring to Hessman's corner infield play as he endorsed the idea of Hessman moving to the coaching/managing arena.

"I think he's gonna be good at it. He gets along with all different kinds of players. And he understands the game."