Mike Hessman is an Oklahoma City version of Crash Davis, the veteran catcher in the movie Bull Durham.
The 34-year-old RedHawk slugger has hit more home runs in the minor leagues than any other active player, offers veteran leadership in the clubhouse and answers questions from the media with the standard baseball clichés that would make the character played by Kevin Costner proud.
On Sunday night, Hessman had perhaps the best game of his 17-year professional career and etched himself in RedHawk history by blasting three home runs in Oklahoma City's 6-5 win over Iowa. He hit 2 more home runs in Monday night's win over Iowa, prompting his teammates to change the name over his locker from Mike Hessman to Babe Ruth.
It was Hessman's second three-dinger game of his career. He became the fifth RedHawk to hit three home runs in a game since Oklahoma City became the RedHawks and moved into what is now called Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in 1998.
Hessman's previous three-homer game occurred while playing for Toledo in 2008, although he doesn't remember much about it.
“I have a short memory on stuff like that,” he said. “I don't follow a lot of the stats or my career numbers or things like that.”
However, the RedHawk first baseman always will remember Sunday night's game because of who was in the stands.
“My mom and cousin had just flown in (Monday) afternoon so they had just got here and to have a game like that, I will always remember that,” Hessman said. “It's nice to have some family in the stands when something like that happens.”
Hessman hit two home runs off fastballs from Cubs' starter Brooks Raley. His third homer, which proved to be the game-winner, was a 3-2 breaking ball with two outs in the seventh off Iowa reliever Jeff Beliveau. Hessman wasn't looking for a breaking ball.
“I usually just sit fastball and try to adjust,” he said.
Hessman was signed by the Houston Astros in February after playing last year in Japan. He played parts of five seasons in the major leagues, a total of 109 games with the Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers and New York Mets.
In addition to his 344 career home runs in the minor leagues, Hessman also has 14 homers in the majors. But he strikes out with regularity, the main reason he has remained in the minors. In his professional career, Hessman has fanned more than 2,000 times.
Hessman has provided some pop for the RedHawks. In addition to leading the team with 15 home runs, he is hitting .304 with 31 RBIs. He has struck out 42 times.
Hessman knows his age is working against him getting another chance in the big leagues, but he remains hopeful.
“There is always hope, but there is a lot of stuff you can't control as a player,” he said. “A lot of younger guys kind of get caught up in that. I'm at a stage in my career where I have a better understanding of why they do some things and their thoughts behind stuff.
“You have to be hopeful to play this game. If an opportunity opens up and they (the Astros) think they can use me, obviously that's what we are all here looking for, a chance to play in the big leagues. If not, I am going to have fun and keep a smile on my face and keep playing hard.”
Crash Davis couldn't have said it better.