Call him the real-life Crash Davis.
Mike Hessman, an infielder for Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit Tigers’ system, became the career home run leader for U.S.-based minor leagues Monday night, hitting his 433rd in the seventh inning of a game against Lehigh Valley.
Davis was the character played by Kevin Costner in the movie “Bull Durham” who set the minor league record for homers.
Hessman, a Loris resident, reached the actual mark in style, hitting a grand slam to break a tie on the career list with Buzz Arlett, who played in the minors from 1918 to 1937.
“I don’t follow the numbers, but after the season I'll probably do a little digging and learn a little bit about the guys I’ve passed,” Hessman said.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Hector Espino hit 484 minor league home runs, but he hit most of them in the Mexican League, which is not part of the affiliated minor league system.
The 37-year-old Hessman has played 109 games in the major leagues for Atlanta, Detroit and the New York Mets. He has not appeared in the majors since 2010. He’s hit 14 homers in the majors, batting .188 overall.
Hessman’s record-setting home run came off right-hander Dustin McGowan. Toledo ended up losing 10-8 in 11 innings, but after the game, Hessman’s teammates doused him with champagne in an on-field celebration.
“They’ve been cheering me on all year,” said Hessman, who played for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in 1999. “I don’t like to talk about numbers and such, but they gave me words of encouragement every day.”
“I was just happy to do it here at home for the good fans here in Toledo.”
Hessman was selected by Atlanta in the 15th round of the 1996 draft. Although he hasn’t been productive enough for an extended stay in the majors, he’s always shown good power, even hitting five home runs in 12 games for the Tigers in 2008.
That same year, he was a member of the bronze medal-winning U.S. team at the Beijing Olympics.
Hessman also holds the career home run records for Toledo (184) and the International League (288).