Mike Hessman has retired with a career that is among the most important in recent years. Hessman played 109 games over five seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, and New York Mets. Closing out his career with a .188 BA, 42 H, 29 R, 14 HR, 33 RBI, 21 BB, 79 SO, .272 OBP, .422 SLG, and .694 OPS, he did not have Hall of Fame or even All Star caliber statistics. What is important and worth celebrating, is his determination. He began his career in 1996 in Rookie Ball with the Gulf Coast League Braves. He finished his career in 2015 at AAA with the Toledo Mud Hens.
20 years of professional baseball. Hessman spent 19 seasons in the Minor Leagues, 13 of them at AAA, and played one year in Japan. Hessman finishes his career in the Minors having played 2,095 games (1,437 games at AAA), a .233 BA, 1,758 H, 1,085 R, 402 2B, 433 HR, 1,207 RBI, 815 BB, 2,374 SO, .316 OBP, .466 SLG, and .782 OPS. His 433 HR are the most in Minor League history, one more than Buzz Arlett. He played for 18 different teams: 15 minor league teams, the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League, the Tigres de Aragua of the Venezuelan Winter League, and the Tomateros de Culiacan of the Mexican Pacific Winter League. Mike Hessman played seven seasons before making his Major League debut and played five seasons after his final appearance in the Majors.
Mike Hessman is part of what makes baseball great. Effort and dedication allowed Hessman to create a 20-year professional baseball career (19 seasons in the Minors and Majors and one in Japan). It takes dedication and desire to spend 13 seasons just a step away from reaching your goal and only getting a few tastes of it. No one could have faulted Hessman if he decided to walk away after the 2011 season. Hessman had played 32 games for the Mets in 2010 and then went to Japan to play for the Orix Buffaloes in 2011. He had a good career but not many teams were looking to sign a 34-year-old Minor Leaguer.
Mike Hessman kept playing the game he loves. His years playing on the diamond allowed him to mentor countless young players whom he would see move on to the Majors while he remained behind. Mike Hessman got the most out of his abilities on the baseball diamond. His accomplishments might have occurred just short of the highest level of baseball in the world, but this does not diminish his accomplishments. Baseball demands the best effort from every player who steps on the field. The majority of people see their best efforts peak playing in the sandlot or in high school. A small minority of us may play baseball in college, play independent baseball, or get drafted. An even smaller minority makes it to the higher tiers of the Minor Leagues. Only a gifted few make it all the way to the Major Leagues. Even then, only a small pittance of those players are fortunate enough to have a long and successful career.
Mike Hessman accomplished things that nearly none of us even will. He played baseball professionally for 20 years. Almost all of us would love to be so lucky. He made it to the Major Leagues and was able to fulfill the dream held by nearly everyone as a child. Mike Hessman lived the dream for 20 years, even if that dream was a little different than he had originally imagined. Hessman has said he wants to coach baseball now that he has retired as a player. The Detroit Tigers were smart in hiring Hessman to be the hitting coach for their Class A team, the Connecticut Tigers. Any team who wanted to sign him would be making a smart decision. No one could have any doubt about whether Hessman would give up on a player. Often in life, the easiest person to give up on is yourself. Mike Hessman has proven he believes in himself and does not know how to give up. There is nothing minor about that.