Hendriks came to the U
On February 25, 2007, at age 18, Liam signed with Twins' scout Howie Norsetter
Liam made the 2009 World Baseball Classic roster, the youngest Australian player in the Classic.
Liam's father was an athlete, an Australian Rules Football player, and his sister also is an athlete. But he's also Australian, so he's not all work and no play and he has a sense of humor.
"I have been to Outback," Hendriks said of the Australian-themed chain restaurant. "They serve a certain Australian beer that I like, I admit, one I drink. So all the Aussies go there for dinner in spring training together, and we drink them right out of that beer." (John Manuel-Baseball America-6/21/10)
In 2010, Hendriks came within a micron of winning the Minor League ERA title. He failed to qualify because he missed time recovering from an appendectomy, and his 1.74 ERA was just behind Braves righthander Brandon Beachy's 1.73.
In 2011, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Liam as the 6th-best prospect in the Twins organization.
Hendriks has impressive makeup. He is a strong competitor and good athlete, both owing in part to his family's Australian rules football background.
Liam might be flying under the radar at Blue Jays camp in the spring of 2015, but the righthander has received plenty of attention in his home country of Australia. Hendriks was named Australia's Baseball Player of the Year for 2014, beating out a group which includes Tampa Bay's Grant Balfour, Atlanta's Peter Moylan, and Arizona's Trent Oeltjen.
Theaward might not have received a lot of attention on this side of the world, but Hendriks knows all too well what it means to everybody back home. It's up to players like Hendriks to carry the torch the way former Blue Jays reliever Graeme Lloyd and David Nilsson did throughout the 1990s.
"I was sitting at my locker when I found out," said Hendriks. "It's a huge honor ... I'm obviously ecstatic to have won that, and now hopefully, I can stay up and do it again next year.(Chisholm – mlb.com – 3/13/15)
He might be a rough-n-tumble Australian Rules Football player at heart, but new A’s reliever Liam Hendriks also has a gentler side, especially when it comes to animals. Hendriks and his wife, Kristi, have two cats, Henry and Leroy, and two teacup Chihuahuas, Stella and Rocco, all of them rescues. They’re fostering a third Chihuahua, Jack, this spring in Arizona, and they’re investigating animal shelters to help with once they get to the Bay Area.
“That’s our main thing — anything to help animals,” said Hendriks, who is on the board of the Remember Me Thursday animal center and also works with the nonprofit Players for Pits.
“When Liam was 4 or 5, he decided he wanted a cat, and not knowing much about cats, he named her Spot,” Hendriks’ father, Geoff, said by phone from Australia. “She just passed away last year at 22, so she was with us a long time. We also got a dog along the way. Liam’s always had a soft spot for cats and dogs, and it gives him a focus outside of baseball.”
One of the first things Hendriks told the A’s is that he would like to get involved with charitable efforts for animals, and A’s player and media relations manager Adam Loberstein added Hendricks to an April 14 event at the Oakland Zoo for the School of Imagination, which educates children with special needs and disabilities, including autism. “It’s really cool that’s a passion for Liam and his wife, they’ve thrown themselves into it,” A’s closer Sean Doolittle said. “They don’t just talk the talk, they’ve adopted a couple of rescues, too. They’re really involved.”
Hendriks also will be putting his skills to work in Oakland’s bullpen, but initially baseball was an afterthought for Hendriks, just something to do after Australian Football between seasons.
“When I was 6, it was a choice between cricket and tee-ball and cricket would take six hours and tee-ball half an hour, ‘My parents were like, ‘Yeah, you can do whatever you want but ... tee-ball!’” Hendricks said.
His father was one of the youngest pro Australian Football players ever, signing at 16. And Hendriks’ grandfather also played professionally. Hendriks had every intention of doing so, too, but showed a lot of promise in baseball as a first baseman and a starting pitcher.
When Hendriks got a chance to go to Australia’s top baseball academy at 17, he had to make a choice. He could go to the intensive MLB-backed camp on the Gold Coast for seven weeks, or he could play with his state’s 17-under Aussie Rules team. His father, who is an Australian Football scout, was assured by friends that Liam could always return to the sport if baseball didn’t work out, so Hendriks went to the Gold Coast. “We don’t mind at all,” Geoff Hendriks said of having a baseball-playing son. “He’s been able to live his dream for coming up on 17 years now.”
Two weeks after he turned 18, Hendriks signed with the Twins. And by 22, he was in the big leagues. He spent the next few years bouncing between the majors and minors until last year, when he went to the bullpen fulltime with Toronto. He was traded to Oakland in exchange for starter Jesse Chavez over the winter. Hendriks has the added plus of appearing to throw even harder than he does because his delivery can be tough to read.
“Certain guys just hide the ball more so, there is something in their delivery that adds deception. For hitters, it can throw timing off,” A’s manager Bob Melvin, adding that with Hendriks, “There’s some kind of herky-jerkiness. You don’t get a clean look at the ball.”
Melvin said Hendriks is likely to be Oakland’s sixth-inning reliever, but fairly interchangeable with John Axford (seventh inning) and Ryan Madson (eighth), because they’re all hard throwers. Hendriks has lost none of his passion for Australian Football, though. He’d love to find a team to support in the Bay Area; there has been one in Oakland in past years and there are men’s and women’s teams in San Francisco.
“It’s just ingrained in the blood,” said Hendriks, who was a half-back flank. “I do miss it.”
He keeps Australian footballs in his locker, and he has a pregame warmup in which he kicks them to himself. He’s hoping he can get some teammates to join him once the season starts. So about his last name…..why no C before the K? Did another new A’s reliever, Marc Rzepczynski take it?
“Probably,” Hendriks said with a laugh. “He steals everyone’s letters.” (It’s the Dutch spelling of the name, not the English; his grandparents were born in Holland.)
Meanwhile, A’s players who were around for the team’s last Australian reliever, Grant Balfour, are happy to welcome another.
“We love our Aussie relievers here, huh?” Doolittle said. “Liam is going to fit right in. He gives us another big arm in the bullpen.” (Susan Slusser - San Francisco Chronicle - March 8, 2016)
December 2016: Hendriks chose to represent Australia in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
February 25, 2017: Hendriks elected out of the World Baseball Classic, forgoing a trip to Tokyo with Team Australia in favor of remaining in Arizona. Hendriks is healthy, but the prospect of making a pair of 15-hour flights within one week and having to immediately return to the mound for the A's in tip-top form proved disconcerting for the 28-year-old.
"I've been wanting to go in my heart as soon as it came out, but when I really sat down and thought about it, I'm not quite where I want to be in competitive games yet," Hendriks said. "I'm not hurt or anything like that. There's no issues. I feel great physically, but it's one of those things. I know that if I get into a situation where, if I push it a little bit more, I'm going to overextend myself, and I don't want to do that, and I don't want to risk this season coming up with Oakland." (Jane Lee - MLB.com - February 25th, 2017)
Hendriks not only is from Australia, but he's from Perth—the only major city on Australia's sparsely populated West Coast.
"It's literally the most remote city in the world," Liam says. "Imagine, in the United States, San Diego's being where it is, the East Coast's being where most of the population is, and then there's nothing in the middle of the country. That's Perth."
When he played in Toronto in 2015, he was 11,280 miles from Perth. (The greatest distance between any two cities on Earth is 12,450 miles.)
So, Hendriks is often on the receiving end of Aussie-themed ribbing. Most of the joke derive from Hollywood movies. "Everyone thinks they're the first one to make (an Australian) joke," Hendriks says. "They're not."
So how exactly did Liam find his way into baseball? Pretty much the same way as most Americans do, by first playing Tee-Ball.
At age 6, "I had a choice between playing cricket and Tee Ball," Hendriks says. "Tee Ball was only a half-hour long every Saturday. Cricket was six hours long." (Laith Laga - Athletics Magazine - June, 2017)
As Hendriks grew, he stuck with the game. He also excelled in a more traditional Australian sport: Australian football. (Or as Americans know it, Australian-rules football.)
Hendriks' father, Geoff, a former Australian football player and currently a scout for a pro team, says that had his son not gone the baseball route, he would have had a future in their native sport.
When Liam was 12, he was cut from the Western Australia state all-star baseball team. As the next year's tryouts for the team approached, Hendriks told himself he would give up baseball if he wasn't chosen.
He made it. And over the next few years, while football remained his first love, Hendriks chose baseball over football in many instances. That included the time when, at 16, he opted to spend two months at an MLB academy instead of playing with his football team.
Over the next couple of years, he had opportunities to sign on with some Major League franchises. But Hendriks held out until agreeing to a contract with the Twins in 2007 at 18.
"I almost signed as an outfielder," he says. "I definitely chose the right way." (Laith Agha - Athletics Magazine - June, 2017)
Teammates call Hendriks "Slydah." Former Blue Jays teammate Roberto Osuna came up with the nickname because of the way the Australian Hendriks pronounces "slider."
Liam received the 2017 Dave Stewart Community Service Award, given annually by the team to a player in recognition of their charitable efforts.
"It's big," Hendriks said. "It means that I'm not just going through the motions and doing just on-the-field stuff. It means I'm having an impact off the field, and that means a lot to me because it's one of those things where you get to help other people out. We've got a platform that we can use, and I'm hopefully using it in the right way and hopefully getting some good publicity for some of the charities that I work with." (Simon - mlb.com - 9/27/17)
March 11, 2019: A’s fans are not going to like this. They have another prospective football player on the team. “I’ve got my backup plan,” Liam Hendriks said Monday morning. “NFL. Punter.” Uh-oh. “I was kicking it around with Marquette King last year 2018, when he came down to hang out [at Spring Training],” Hendriks said, referring to the former Raiders punter. “We were just kicking it around. I put a couple past him.”
OK, a little background: We know Hendriks, 30, as a versatile member of the Oakland bullpen and starter in the 2018 Wild Card Game, but he also played Australian rules football while growing up in Perth, Australia. He didn’t give up the sport until shortly before signing his first professional baseball contract with the Twins in 2007. Hendriks was a defenseman. He said his longest kick was between 65 and 70 meters. That’s a bit more than 70-75 yards. Different ball, sure, but impressive nonetheless. Hendriks hopes to improve upon those numbers with early-afternoon punting workouts at the Oakland Coliseum this year.
“I’m waiting on my boots to come in,” he said, using world football vernacular for the soccer cleats he’s due to receive from Adidas. “My biggest thing is just the consistency now. In Australia, you kick it end-over-end. In the NFL, it’s a spiral.” It’s wonderful to have outside interests, of course, but might this be a little too soon for the A’s to confront another two-sport athlete? Remember, there was the first-rounder who was supposed to be in camp this year . . . “Oh no, I can’t throw a football to save my life,” Hendriks assured his interviewer. “I’m out on that. But I can kick one pretty decently.”
Do Billy Beane and David Forst need to renegotiate Hendriks’ contract, in order to prevent him from pursuing football? Hendriks laughed. He avoided salary arbitration by signing a one-year, $2.15 million contract with the A’s in November, 2018. “I think I’ve given them enough headaches so far,” he replied.
In fairness, Hendriks’ multisport background has helped him endure while moving among six Major League Baseball organizations, including the Blue Jays twice. He has pitched competitively in eight countries: Australia, the United States, Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Czech Republic and Taiwan, when including tournaments with Team Australia. He’s eager to add a ninth in the coming days, as he joins the A’s on their trip to MLB’s Japan Opening Series.
Hendriks has thrown 406 innings in the Majors, fourth all time among Australian-born pitchers. He has a 1.59 ERA this spring after holding the Rockies scoreless while recording two outs in relief Monday. Not bad for someone who said baseball was “an offseason gig” in between his Aussie football seasons. He also played cricket at Sacred Heart College, his high school in Perth.
Hendriks’ baseball experience came largely with a local club team. He played for his high school’s baseball team, too. “But,” he cautioned, “we had two people who’d played the game before, and we came in second in the state. It wasn’t great competition.” Just to make sure there is absolutely, positively, no ambiguity about Hendriks’ sports future: One source confirms that he will not declare for the upcoming NFL Draft.
“I’m not going to leave baseball until my arm falls off,” he said, “but it would be nice to have something in the back pocket, just in case. . . . It’s still the third plan.” Wait. The third plan? “The next plan is to pull the [R.A.] Dickey and start throwing the knuckleball,” he said. Oh, goodness. Has he tried it before? “Once, in the Dominican [Republic],” said Hendriks, who spent the winter of 2014-2015 pitching for the Aguilas Cibaenas. “I hit the guy. The next pitch was a fastball, and the guy hit a homer. Haven’t thrown it in a game since, but I have hit people in the chest with them just missing it [while playing catch], so it’s decent.”
So if you’re scoring at home, Hendriks’ professional priorities are as follows: 1) conventional Oakland A’s pitcher; 2) Oakland A’s knuckleballer; 3) NFL punter. After that, he says he’ll be a stay-at-home father whenever he and his wife, Kristi, begin a family.
For now, he’s focused on baseball and numerous charitable efforts, including anti-cyberbullying and animal rescue initiatives. He’s working with “Blessings in a Backpack,” which helps elementary school students gain access to meals on weekends when they would be at risk of going hungry.
He’s also a diehard fan of the Montreal Canadiens. But after those soccer boots arrive, he’ll get to work in the Coliseum outfield, long before batting practice. He owns one football . . . and hopes some former (current?) neighbors will add to his supply.
“I need the Raiders to drop off like 15 balls,” he said, “so I can kick them and don’t have to run and get them every time.
”The Raiders aren’t sure yet where they’ll play in 2019, but at least Hendriks has settled on which sport he’ll pursue. For now. (JP Morosi - MLB.com - March 11, 2019)
2019 Season: There were many different roles A’s manager Bob Melvin envisioned for Liam Hendriks entering the season. It was the role nobody expected where he ultimately thrived.
In a year where the A’s bullpen led the Majors with 30 blown saves as it struggled to hold late leads, Hendriks brought some much-needed stability to the ninth inning. The 30-year-old righthander enjoyed the most successful season of his career, leading all big league relievers with a 3.8 WAR.
The superb 2019 campaign turned in by Hendriks, which included 25 saves and a franchise record for strikeouts by a reliever with 124, helped mitigate the regression of once-dominant closer Blake Treinen. Treinen lost the closer job in June before finishing the season with a 4.91 ERA. (Martin Gallegos - MLB,com - Oct. 17, 2019)
The journey to success for Hendriks really has been a Cinderella story. It wasn’t too long ago he was designated for assignment by this very A’s organization. That career lowlight came on June 25, 2018, after his ERA had ballooned to 7.36. After going unclaimed, Hendriks went to Triple-A and soon increased his fastball velocity to near-triple digits thanks to a change in diet and implementation of daily long toss. Almost an exact year later, Hendriks transformed from unwanted to elite, taking over as the A’s closer on June 22 and never looking back.
Hendriks earned American League Reliever of the Month honors for June as he compiled a 0.60 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 15 innings. The next month brought even more accolades as he was rewarded with his first career All-Star selection. Finishing 2019 with a 1.80 ERA over 75 games, Hendriks won’t have to worry about getting his contract renewed entering Spring Training. He’s now one of the A’s most important pieces after helping them reach the postseason for a second consecutive season.
“He meant so much to this team this year,” Melvin said. “The acceleration from his role, where he was last year to this year, has just been amazing.”
The A’s were 42-37 at the time Hendriks took over as closer. They closed out the season going 56-28 the rest of the way. Over that time, Hendriks’ 25 saves led the Majors as he brought consistency to a section of the club that was erratic for the first three months of the season.
Avoiding free passes was a big factor in the rise of Hendriks. His 0.84 walks-per-nine innings rate was lowest among AL relievers since taking over as closer, issuing just four walks over 42.2 innings. (Martin Gallegos - MLB,com - Oct. 17, 2019)
2020 Q&A with NBC Sports:
Best thing to tell a teammate after they made an error? Same thing they tell me after giving up a couple runs … get back on the horse and we’ll do it again next time.
Number one piece of tech in your backpack for road trips? Kindle. It has all my books on it. I like to read a lot.
Teammate who gives the best interviews? Have to go with [Sean] Manaea. That guy is quirky—the hair, the googly eyes.
Teammate who you think hates to give interviews? Khris Davis. He’s pretty well known. Great guy, not a media guy.
Team potluck dinner, what does Liam Hendriks bring? Something Australian. Let’s go with fairy bread. It’s a piece of white bread, buttered, with sprinkles on top. And then you cut it into triangles … best thing ever.
Song you know all the words to? I think it’s “Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz? I dont even know the name, but I know the words.
Are audiobooks considered reading? Yes, but it depends on the narrator. I really want to try this immersion reading. It’s where you listen to the book, and read the book at the same time.
Tougher sport if you had to play it tonight: football or ice hockey? Ice hockey for sure. Not even skating but you have to fight. I’m going to get my [expletive] handed to me.
What matters most to you: Launch angle, spin rate or exit velocity? Probably exit velocity because if it’s low, they’re not hitting the ball hard.
All-expense paid trip for the weekend: Tahoe, Napa or Monterey? Never been to Tahoe so I have to try Tahoe out. And I don’t drink, so I can’t do Napa.
Favorite person or account you follow on social media? Montreal Canadiens
Teammate you’d be a fan of if you weren’t their teammate? I’m a pitcher and defense reigns supreme. I’d have to go [Matt] Chapman or [Matt] Olson. And [Marcus] Semien.
Best actor of your lifetime so far is Tom Hanks, agree or disagree? It’s hard to go against Tom, but I’ll disagree and go Sean Connery. I love me some Sean Connery.
Liam revealed that he was diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disorder as a teenager, a condition that puts him in the high-risk category during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said his conditioned improved “after a couple of years,” but “it came back with a vengeance” in 2015. He takes medication for the disorder daily.
“Since then, I've been kind of taking the precautions,” he said. “I've been checking with the doctors with whatever team I'm on and, yeah, so technically, I'm at high-risk just due to that. It's not anything that is like a huge thing. I'm managing myself, but it definitely gives me a little bit of pause when you see certain things going on around the league.
“As long as I'm managing myself, I can have a normal life,” he said. “It's just one of those things that right now, it's a little bit weird and a little bit tense and things like that. But at the end of the day, I need to go there and take care of business, and if I take care of that, it's going to be all right on the field as well.” (Sanchez - mlb.com - 8/3/2020)
2020 Season: Hendriks finished second in the Majors with 14 saves. The right-hander was the hardest reliever in the league to reach base against, with a 0.671 WHIP that was the lowest among AL relievers. Hendriks also had a 1.78 ERA and 37 strikeouts, tied for fifth most among AL relievers. The 31-year-old was every bit as lights-out in 2020 as he was in his All-Star '19, when he had a 1.80 ERA and an identical 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings. (David Adler - Oct. 19, 2020)
Oct 24, 2020: Athletics right-hander Liam Hendriks won the 2020 Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.
Hendriks posted a 1.78 ERA in 24 appearances (25 1/3 innings) for Oakland, along with a 1.14 FIP and 40.2-percent strikeout rate. The 31-year-old right-hander also delivered three scoreless innings in the Athletics’ 9-7 victory over the Astros in Game 3 of the AL Division Series to keep Oakland’s season alive. He finished runner-up to the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman for the Rivera Reliever of the Year Award in 2019.
“Honored is an understatement,” Hendriks said. “It’s humbling to win an award that bears the name of the greatest closer in history. I’m extremely thankful to my teammates. If they weren’t behind me on the field, I wouldn’t be half the pitcher I am today. A huge thank you to the bullpen for sharing years of invaluable advice and experience with me. Thank you to the coaching staff and the entire organization for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to play in the green and gold.” (M Randhawa - MLB.com - Oct 24, 2020)
February 25, 2007: At age 18, Liam signed with Twins' scout Howie Norsetter.
December 13, 2013: The Cubs claimed Hendriks off waivers from the Twins.
December 23, 2013: The Orioles claimed Liam off waivers from the Cubs.
February 21, 2014: The Blue Jays got Hendriks off waivers from the Orioles.
July 28, 2014: The Royals sent 3B Danny Valencia to the Blue Jays, acquiring Liam and C Erick Kratz.
October 30, 2014: The Blue Jays sent C Santiago Nessy to the Royals, acquiring Liam.
November 20, 2015: The Athletics traded RHP Jesse Chavez to the Blue Jays for RHP Liam Hendriks.
Jan 13, 2017: Liam and the A's avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal.
Jan 12, 2018: Liam and the A's avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal.
- Jan 10, 2020: Liam and the A's avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal for $5.3 million.