A historic and fabled career has come to an end, as Mike Hessman, the all-time home run king in Minor League Baseball announces his retirement after 19 professional seasons to become a coach. Hessman initially confirmed plans to call it a career in a tweet which has since been deleted.
Hessman, originally a 15th round pick by the Atlanta Braves in 1996 out of Mater Dei High School, broke Buzz Arlett’s professional record of 433 minor league home runs on August 3, 2015 as a member of the Toledo Mud Hens against former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan. His record-setting home run came one year after setting the International League mark. Hessman made his Major League Baseball debut for the Braves in 2003 after nearly eight minor league seasons.
A bit player for much of his brief big league career, Hessman would never exceed more than 71 at-bats in any of his five big league seasons, but did display some of his International League promise, homering five times in 31 at-bats as a late season call-up for the 2008 Detroit Tigers.
Without a steady big league job, Hessman carved a stable niche in the minors, becoming one of only four players to hit 400 home runs at that level. He also had 13 seasons of 20 home runs or more. As Hessman began to build his minor league credentials, his legend grew and his achievements were compared to the theatrics of the fictional Roy Hobbs and Crash Davis. At the same time he became a mentor to teammates nearly half his age who hoped to get a chance to at least reach the 223 at-bats and 14 home runs Hessman collected in the majors.
Perhaps Hessman’s most treasured accomplishment was winning his first Governor’s Cup as a key member of a 2005 Toledo Mud Hens team which featured future major league stars Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames, and Jason Grilli. The Mud Hens celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Governor’s Cup winner at the end of 2015 season with Hessman still in uniform as an active player as he prepared to end a career filled with prominence and historical achievement on the minor league scene.