- Toledo Mud Hens' Mike Hessman Becomes Long-Ball King at Age 37
- He also played for the major-league Mets, Braves and Tigers
Mike Hessman became the real Crash Davis on Monday night in Toledo, Ohio, hitting a grand slam to become Minor League Baseball’s career home run leader after 19 years on a dozen different teams.
Hessman, 37, hit his 433rd minor-league homer in the Toledo Mud Hens’ loss to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. In 1988’s “Bull Durham,” Kevin Costner played Davis, a career minor-league catcher, who became the minors’ home-run king at the end of the movie.
Hessman passed former record holder Buzz Arlett with his seventh-inning homer, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. Arlett was a minor-leaguer from 1918-37. There was another tie to the 1988 movie -- Hessman credited pregame work with Mud Hens hitting coach Leon “Bull” Durham, a former Chicago Cubs first baseman, for the hit, according to Minor League Baseball’s website.
“Me and Bull did some work before the game, we got in the cage around 6 and did some stuff, so my swing was feeling pretty good," Hessman said on the website.
Hessman, a first and third baseman for the Detroit Tigers affiliate, was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 15th round of the 1996 amateur draft. He played parts of five seasons with Atlanta, Detroit and the New York Mets, compiling a .188 batting average with 14 home runs in 109 games.
Four other minor-leaguers from the unaffiliated Mexican League have more home runs than Hessman. Hector Espino, North America’s all-time leader, has 484, surpassing Arlett in 1977.
Hessman has 16 homers this season and a .217 batting average, and said he plans to move into coaching when his playing career ends, perhaps after this season. In 2,072 minor-league games, he has a .232 batting average and 1,198 runs batted in.