Hessman On Historic Run
It's no longer a surprise to see a baseball player get better with age, but there are still times when a veteran can turn heads and open eyes with his performance.
Buffalo Bisons journeyman third baseman Mike Hessman is still surprising many by becoming an offensive force this season.
Through the first 40 games, he is batting .319 and leads the International League in home runs (14) and RBI (47) while ranking second with 15 doubles.
"It's been nice [to have the start I've had] but I'm just trying to keep it going [every day]," Hessman said. "A lot of this stuff wouldn't be happening if the guys up in the lineup weren't doing their thing. They're getting on base for me and giving me opportunities to drive in runs. A lot of the credit goes to the other guys in the clubhouse."
His manager, Ken Oberkfell, hasn't been able to stop singing the praises of the 32-year-old since Opening Day. And although the slugger takes pride in his work he is quick to praise the other guys in the clubhouse who help make his job easier.
"It's more than just one guy on this team," Hessman said. "Everybody is doing their part. It's definitely a team game here right now."
Hessman is the active minor league leader with 327 home runs. He is the ultimate professional and has been a positive influence on his Bisons teammates throughout the season. Getting a chance to hit in front of Hessman did wonders for Ike Davis and Chris Carter when they were in Buffalo and the same goes for current Bisons first baseman Mike Jacobs.
A change of scenery often times proves to be helpful for athletes who have been in the same place for a while. The same could be said for Hessman as he has blossomed into the best version of himself since he signed a minor league contract with the Mets during the offseason.
"I think the change of pace helped out," Hessman said. "Getting away from the Detroit system has helped a little bit. I've been blessed to be able to go out there and perform pretty well so far."
Being a leader is more than just being vocal in the clubhouse. Hessman displays his leadership in the way he approaches the game and never takes a play off. His defense has been outstanding this season and he's been able to get the Herd out of several late inning jams with his glove.
The power portion of Hessman's game has always been there but his plate discipline is what has made the power hitter into such a difficult out. Last season, he struck out a staggering 171 times and posted a dismal .217 batting average.
With almost three-quarters of the season remaining, Hessman has only been called out on strikes 32 times and is almost half way to his doubles tally from a season ago. He has made a concerted effort to cut down on the strikeouts and it has helped other parts of his game in the process.
"I've tried to shorten up on two strikes," Hessman said. "I think probably about half of my home runs have been on an 0-2 count. So I'm trying not to do too much and put the ball in play."
Even with the amazing statistical output this season, Hessman remains in Triple-A and has watched fellow teammates head to New York while he stays put. His chances of getting that call seem even less likely considering that David Wright currently holds down the fort for the Mets at the hot corner.
Most people might let the odds get to them but Hessman keeps a positive attitude and attributes his ability to focus on the present to his years in the game.
"I've been around long enough to not get wrapped up with who is going where," he said. "I just try to play to the best of my ability every day and if some doors open they open. If not, I have to keep grinding it out."
Coca-Cola Field is where the home run leader will continue to call home for now. But if Hessman continues to perform the way he has in the first two months, he will have made the case for a promotion sometime in the summer.
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