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The Minor Leagues’ Home Run King

Most baseball fans are familiar with Barry Bonds, also known as baseball’s all-time home run king. But he’s just the MLB’s leader in home runs. “Who leads the minors in career homers?” you ask. The answer? A man named Mike Hessman.

Hessman went to Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California and was a star on the school’s baseball team. He was so good that he was drafted right out of high school by the Atlanta Braves in the 15th round of the 1996 MLB Draft. Hessman did great for the Braves’ minor league affiliates during his time in the organization. During these years, 1996-2004, he averaged 19 home runs a season. After the ’04 campaign, Hessman became a free agent and decided to sign with the Detroit Tigers. Despite singing with Detroit, he spent most of the time in the Tigers’ organization in Toledo with the franchise’s Triple A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens. His power numbers rose even higher with Toledo, as he smacked 28 home runs a season with the minor league club from 2005-2009. In fact, his power numbers actually helped the Mud Hens win the 2005 and 2006 International League championships, the ’05 win being their first in 38 years. On September 4, 2009, Hessman played all nine positions for the Mud Hens. He started as the catcher for the day and ended as the pitcher.

After the 2009 season, Hessman signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets, but only hit 18 home runs for their minor league teams in 2010. After playing with the Orix Buffaloes, a Nippon Professional Baseball team in Japan, in 2011, he returned to the MLB and signed a contract with the Houston Astros. His 2012 minor league campaign featured his career-high in home runs with 35 while playing for Houston’s Triple A affiliate, the Oklahoma City RedHawks. Hessman then signed with the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 2013 season and hit 25 for the organization’s Triple A affiliate, the Louisville Bats. After signing with the Tigers once again and while playing for Toledo on June 30, 2014, Hessman hit his 259th International League home run, a now-career record for that league. On August 3, 2015, while still playing for the Mud Hens, Hessman hit his 433rd career home run, which just so happened to have been a grand slam, setting a new minor league baseball record for the most home runs in a career. He also had 1,207 RBIs in the minors. On November 28, 2015, at the age of 37, Hessman announced his retirement.

I know I’m telling you all these minor league stats, but what about the Majors? Surely the minor league leader in home runs has had some major league experience, right? Well, not really. He did play in the Majors, but only for 109 games over five seasons with three different teams. During his time in the Majors, he batted only .188 with just 14 homers.  It just goes to show you how unpredictable the MLB can be. You can be one of the greatest hitters in the minors, but just not get your chance in the Majors. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it. Check back soon for more of “all the buzz on what wuzz.”

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