Very rarely does a team douse a teammate with champagne on the field to celebrate a loss.
But Monday at Fifth Third Field was the exception. That is because the game included a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Mike Hessman.
The Mud Hens’ slugger broke the record for career home runs in the affiliated minor leagues when he pounded a grand slam in the seventh inning of the Mud Hens’ 10-8 11-inning loss to Lehigh Valley.
The home run, Hessman’s 16th this season, gives him 433 in the minor leagues. That’s one more than the previous record-holder, Buzz Arlett, who played in the minors from 1918-37.
PHOTO GALLERY: Hessman breaks record, Mud Hens lose to IronPigs
RELATED ARTICLE: Manager Parrish says he’s ready for retirement
Hessman already held the record for career home runs by a Mud Hen (184), and last year he set the International League record, which now stands at 288.
Last night, he came up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh and Toledo trailing 6-4.
He got ahead in the count 2-0 and slammed a fastball from Lehigh Valley’s Dustin McGowan well over the fence in left for the record-breaking homer.
"I was looking for a pitch to hit right there, but I certainly wasn't thinking home run," Hessman said. "With that type of game, I was just looking to put something in play hard and drive some runs in.
"But when I got ahead in the count, I got a good pitch to hit."
Hessman certainly has enough experience to know when he has hit a home run.
"I don't watch mine, but I knew I got it," he said when asked if he knew it was gone when it left the bat.
The Mud Hens announced after the game that they will host a special pre-game ceremony Friday to honor Hessman’s achievement.
But that did not stop Hessman’s teammates from interrupting a post-game interview to thoroughly drench minor-league baseball’s new home run king with champagne.
"They've been cheering on me all year," Hessman said of his teammates. "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."
After the game, the 37-year-old Hessman said his accomplishment had not sunk in yet.
"I don't follow the numbers,” he said. “After the season, I'll probably do a little digging and see about the guys whose records I passed and think about what it means.”
Hessman was quick to point out that the only downside to the record was that it came in a loss, Toledo’s fourth in a row.
"It stinks, to be honest," he said. "But we had opportunities, and that's all you can ask for."
Hessman’s home run was one of five hit in Monday’s game, a wild affair that saw the teams trade two-run rallies — outside of Hessman’s grand slam, of course.
The most important rally came in the top of the 11th when Lehigh Valley scored the game-winning runs off Hens reliever Rafael Dolis.
With one out, Tyler Henson doubled and moved to third on a passed ball before Chase d’Arnaud walked to put runners on first and third. Brian Bogusevic singled in Henson and pushed d’Arnaud to third.
Dolis then tried to pick Bogusevic off first base but threw wildly, allowing d’Arnaud to score.
In the bottom of the 11th, the Mud Hens used walks by Dixon Machado, Marc Krauss, and Hessman off IronPigs reliever Adam Loewen to load the bases with one out.
But Loewen, a left-hander, struck out left-handed hitters Steven Moya and Daniel Fields to preserve the win.
That wild finish capped a crazy offensive explosion that included a combined 28 hits and five home runs.
Lehigh Valley took the lead in the first inning when Kelly Dugan rapped a two-out, two-run single off Toledo starter Tim Melville.
Manny Pina got the Hens on the board when he opened the third with a home run off Lehigh Valley starter Alec Asher, his third this season, and Krauss doubled into the right-field corner to score Corey Jones and tie the game.
The tie didn’t last long, though, as Aaron Altherr doubled and Erik Kratz pounded a two-run home run for the IronPigs.
The Hens wasted no time retying the game in the bottom of that inning as Moya doubled into the right-field corner and Fields hit a home run, his second in as many days and fifth this season, off the right-field foul pole.
For the fourth consecutive half-inning, Lehigh Valley scored two runs when in the top of the fifth as Melville walked Cord Phelps, then surrendered an RBI double to Henson and a run-scoring single by Bogusevic.
Hessman’s home run gave the Mud Hens an 8-6 lead that was short-lived because the IronPigs retied the game in the top of the eighth.
Altherr got that rally started with a single off Hens reliever Josh Zeid, who was replaced by Tom Gorzelanny. The left-hander struck out the first batter he faced, but Kratz hammered the first pitch he saw from Gorzelanny well over the fence in left for his second home run of the night.
NOTES: The Mud Hens have added two pitchers that came to Detroit’s organization in trade. LHP Matt Boyd, who came to the Tigers from Toronto in the David Price trade, and RHP Luis Cessa, who came to Detroit from the New York Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes deal, will join Toledo’s rotation. Cessa is scheduled to start Wednesday, while Boyd is expected to start Friday. … Toledo will add OF Jeff McVaney, who is being promoted from Double-A Erie, to the roster today. The Hens had just 24 players on the active roster after Tyler Collins was promoted to Detroit following the Cespedes trade.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.