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The end of an era: a look back at Mike Hessman

Minor League Baseball's home run king decided to hang it up. Let's pay tribute to Mike Hessman!

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

37-year olds usually don't receive much attention on a site devoted to prospects. We here at Minor League Ball are more concerned with who has a chance to make it, who isn’t living up to expectations, you all know the drill. Well, this past weekend, Minor League Baseball saw its living legend decided to hang it up.

Mike Hessman ended his historic 19-year baseball career when he retired this past weekend. Coined by many as the real life Crash Davis, Hessman became a folk hero of Minor League lore this past season when he crushed a grand slam for his 433 career Minor League home run. The record-setting home run came off Dustin McGowan and came one year after he set the International League mark, finishing his illustrious career with 290 in IL play.

Fittingly, he would never hit another home run.

The argument will certainly arise whether one of the best offensive Minor League hitters of all time was really just one of the poorer Major League hitters of all time. I don’t think it really matters.

It seems like so many people today use the phrase "livin’ the dream" as an easy way out of answering how they are doing. Hessman did in fact live the dream. Maybe some people told him that he couldn’t hang in the Major Leagues, but unlike many others, he lived his dream for 19 seasons playing professional baseball.

I think that’s pretty cool, and definitely news worthy. He definitely didn’t merit what will soon become the David Ortiz Retirement Tour, but he did accomplish a lot of cool stuff along the way.

Hessman was drafted in the 15th round by the Atlanta Braves out of high school in 1996. He finally reached the big leagues in 2003. He didn’t have a story book debut — he grounded into a double play in his first Major League at bat. He saved the fireworks for his second big league at bat, a pinch hit home run four days later in the bottom off the ninth of then-Met Mike Stanton (not Giancarlo).

He would play parts of five seasons in the big leagues, smashing 14 career home runs. His best season came in a 12-game opportunity with the 2008 Detroit Tigers. He hit five home runs and batted .296.

Hessman has an International League MVP under his belt. He also won a Governor’s Cup. Heck, he even played all nine positions in a single game back in 2009, blowing the save in the ninth after allowing two runs for the Mud Hens. Throw in a season in the Japanese League and Hessman really did do it all.

He finishes his career with remarkable numbers. In 2094 games he blasted 433 home runs, 402 doubles 1207 RBI and 1085 runs scored. There have been plenty of people who tried to play America’s Pastime and when they didn’t see the end result as a big league career, they understandably hung it up. Hessman? He just played baseball and hit home runs… and more home runs… and more home runs.

Maybe it’s because less than two years ago I hung up my career and decided to chase my dream of being a sports writer. Maybe it’s because people told me I was nuts to do something that I couldn’t. But I definitely think that Hessman’s story is a great one, and I am glad I got to watch it unfold. Maybe it’s because I’m finally livin’ the dream.