Mike Hessman is a Johnny Cash lyric. He's homered everywhere, man.
The first of his Minor League career came in 1996 in the Gulf Coast League. He later homered for Macon, Danville, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Richmond, Toledo, Buffalo, Oklahoma City and Louisville. At each stop, he's clubbed more than his fair share of home runs, developing a reputation as a corner infielder with killer power (but also more than a few strikeouts) along the way.
Every trip around the bases has taken him to one exclusive spot, where only five before him have tread -- the 400 club.
Hessman hit the 400th home run of his Minor League career Tuesday afternoon in the Mud Hens' 3-0 road win over Rochester at Frontier Field.
He joins Hector Espino (484), Andres Mora (444), Buzz Artlett (432), Nick Cullop (420) and Merv Connors (400) on the list of Minor Leaguers to eclipse the 400 mark in their careers. Espino and Mora clubbed the majority of their homers in the Mexican League, making the latter trio along with Hessman the only players to reach 400 exclusively in American circuits. With 255 of those long balls coming in the International League, he also stands three homers shy of Ollie Carnegie (258) for the circuit's all-time record.
The 36-year-old right-handed third baseman wasted no time Tuesday, smashing a first-pitch fastball from Red Wings left-hander Scott Diamond into the Mud Hens bullpen over the fence in left for a two-run homer in the first inning.
Despite all the milestones, make no mistake -- Hessman appears to have plenty left in the tank. He sits atop the IL leaderboard with 11 homers this season and also ranks second in slugging percentage (.580) and OPS (.964), trailing Pirates top prospect Gregory Polanco in both categories. His highest average in a Minor League season entering 2014 was .278 in the Mets system back in 2010. Through 41 games this year, he's batting .301.
Since being selected by the Braves in the 15th round of the 1996 Draft, Hessman has played 18 seasons in the Minor Leagues with five different organizations (Braves, Tigers, Mets, Astros and Reds). He made his Major League debut in 2003 with Atlanta and smacked a home run for his first big league hit on Aug. 26 against Mets left-handed reliever Mike Stanton. He later made Major League stops in four more seasons with the Tigers and Mets and owns a .188/.272/.422 line with 14 homers and 33 RBIs in 109 Major League contests.
Without a direct route back to the Majors and with a tendency to strike out a lot -- he's struck out in 28.3 percent of his career plate appearances in the Minors -- he made the move to Japan in 2011 and played for Orix, where he owned a .192/.261/.377 slash with six homers and 14 RBIs in 48 games before returning stateside the following season.
It was rather fitting that Hessman's milestone blast came with Toledo, the club with which he's now hit a club-record 151 of his 400 career blasts. He also owns the franchise record with 394 RBIs.
Hessman's homer proved to be more than enough for the Mud Hens on Tuesday. Right-handed starter Drew VerHagen struck out five and scattered five hits and a walk in seven scoreless innings. Relievers Corey Knebel and Kevin Whelan preserved the shutout with zeros in the eighth and ninth, respectively.