Hessman hits 259th International League homer
Corner infielder now all-time league leader in home runs; boasts 404 total in Minors
Mike Hessman waited a month for the biggest moment of his baseball career.
Hessman became the most prolific slugger in the history of the Triple-A International League on Monday night when he drilled a home run in Toledo's victory over Indianapolis. Hessman, who hadn't homered since May 30, now has 259 homers in the IL, the highest total of all time.
Hessman has an astounding 404 home runs during his Minor League career, and more than half of them have come at the highest level of the Minors. His teammates enjoyed his accomplishment on Monday night, and they showered him with champagne and Gatorade during a postgame interview.
"It was awesome," Hessman said to MiLB.com. "After I hit it, the whole team came out there outside the dugout to congratulate me, high fives and hugs all around. ... It's been good, been fun, the whole process of going after it. It was nice to see my teammates celebrating and have a good time with it."
Hessman's power surge has taken him to the Major Leagues, but only for brief periods of time. The corner infielder is a career .188 hitter with 14 homers in 109 games in the Major Leagues, and he batted .192 with six home runs in a brief audition for Orix of Japan's Pacific League in 2011.
One of Hessman's biggest moments came in 2001, when he was playing in the Arizona Fall League. Hessman, playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, led his team to a 12-8 win over the Grand Canyon Rafters with a walk-off grand slam in the first Arizona Fall League championship game.
But in Triple-A, Hessman has consistently been one of the league's most dangerous hitters. Hessman is one of just seven Minor Leagues to hit 400 home runs. He's chasing Nick Cullop -- who had 420 home runs in the Minors between 1920-44 -- for sixth place on the all-time charts.
Hessman, originally drafted by the Braves, hit his first 15 Triple-A homers for Richmond in the 2003 campaign. He came back the next season and went deep 14 times before being granted free agency for the first time. Hessman signed with the Tigers' organization and hit 140 home runs for Triple-A Toledo between 2005-09. And after a few seasons away, he went back to Toledo this year.
Hessman, 36 years old, is hitting .252 with 15 homers for Toledo, a run that follows two highly successful seasons for other teams. Hessman hit 35 homers for Triple-A Oklahoma City in Houston's farm system in 2012, and then he hit 25 homers for Triple-A Louisville in Cincinnati's chain last year.
Where will the road end? Can Hessman hang on to hit 500 or 600 homers in the Minor Leagues? Does he want to play until after his 40th birthday? Hessman is too busy playing to think about the end of the line.
"Honestly, I haven't put a lot of thought into it," Hessman said. "My thoughts are just trying to stay healthy and stay on the field to compete and try to give my team a chance to win.
"I think once my playing days are over, or once the year is over with, maybe I can take a step back a little bit and look at it in a different perspective and see what was really going on. But like I said, I'm just enjoying the process and enjoying going out and playing the game."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.