Hendriks came to the U.S. from Perth, Australia.
On February 25, 2007, at age 18, Liam signed with Twins' scout Howie Norsetter. "I chose to pitch for the Twins not just because of what they were offering but because they have a lot of Australians in their system," Hendriks said. "And that makes that 'bridging' process easier. With all the Aussies that they have, it can feel like home. And that makes things a lot easier."
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.
- In 2011, the Twins named Hendriks as their Jim Rantz Award winner as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
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.
The award 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 is there no 'c' before the 'k'? Did 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 25, 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. “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. 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 an R.A. Dickey and start throwing the knuckleball,” he said. Oh, goodness. Has he tried it before? “Once, in the Dominican,” 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, 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 AL 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 don't 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)
In 2020, Athletics right-hander Liam Hendriks won the AL 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)
Spring training 2021: Liam's biting wit just might be as tough as his high-riding fastball. “Oh yeah, always. I’m going to be making fun of absolutely everybody,” said Hendriks with a laugh. “Sometimes a little pointed. Sometimes it’s a little joking around about certain things, but the biggest thing is you have to be self-deprecating when you make fun of everyone else. I’m pretty good at making sure I cut myself down a couple of rungs every now and then as well.”
The native of Perth, Australia, now known as the South Side Slydah, truly is a unique character, in a very good way. He’s an intense competitor, who could be heard unleashing an expletive or two from a field or two away when he missed a spot during a live batting practice on the backfields of Camelback Ranch. But that boisterous reaction represents the fighter within Hendriks. He features a good mix of humility and unwavering confidence. (Merkin - mlb.com - 3/17/2021)
April 9, 2021: Liam and Kristi Hendriks wanted to start giving back to the chosen city where they signed as soon as his free-agent process was complete. In fact, that question became an integral part of their interview process with potential teams during this past offseason.
“On all of the Zoom meetings we had with all of the teams we met with, we said it’s extremely important for us to be able to immerse ourselves in the community,” Kristi Hendriks told MLB.com during a recent interview. “We find the best way is by volunteering and giving back.
“We like to bring attention to things that are happening in the community via Liam’s platform. If we don’t use the platform he is given when he has it, I feel like we totally missed the mark. And for us, it was just very easy.” Easy and dedicated enough that after Liam came to Chicago and took his physical to finalize a four-year, $54 million contract, they already were planning their first contribution. Firefighters from all three platoons at Engine 29 near Guaranteed Rate Field were treated to lunch from Nana restaurant with a video message of appreciation from Liam and Kristi included.
Saint James Food Pantry received 20 meals from Gio’s Café & Deli, while Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center received 50 meals from Sweet Maple Café. The Hendriks family also donated 40 meals from Taylor’s Tacos to Howard Brown Health on 63rd Street in the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood. The home opener, featuring a 6-0 White Sox victory over the Royals, brought about a party for youth seeking treatment and their families at the La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Jackson Park. The Hendriks’ financial support arranged treats, gifts and a special video message for the nearly 300 patients, family members and hospital staff in attendance.
Feed the Frontline has been the Hendriks’ slogan during this year. Liam, who is quite possibly the game’s top closer, would prefer to do things in person, but he's happy to assist in any way possible in this age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You help the little guy out,” Liam told MLB.com during a separate interview. “You help the guy who is struggling a little bit, because in turn that person goes out, and when they get a chance to give back, they just do it. It’s a continuous cycle of making sure people know that there are kind people in this world and not everyone is out to get them. “The biggest thing is making sure that everyone knows there is someone out there who is thinking of them and thanking them for what they do, especially during this time. It’s making sure nobody is left behind and realizing the fact how much they mean to this society and the community.”
There’s an equal love for animals shared by the Hendrikses, reinforced recently during a Zoom call in which Liam finished the interview by talking to one of the reporter’s dogs as he was held near the screen. The Hendrikses are involved in an Illinois-based dog rescue, Players for Pits, and own numerous pets themselves.
“For legal reasons, I probably shouldn’t answer that question,” Liam said with a laugh when asked how many pets they have. “We have several. We've got a farm out there, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Hendrikses giving nature will continue throughout the 2021 season. Kristi explained the original plan of giving back every two weeks leading up to the home opener has been expanded to an ongoing every two weeks.
“It started with Spring Training, and we are just going to do it throughout the year,” Kristi said. “So every two weeks, there’s going to be a new organization that just has lunch on us with a thank you that we can give.
“It’s also fun, though, because we get to connect with people that I probably wouldn’t with on a general basis. So we get to know our community better. We get to know the inner workings of the community, and I just feel like we can express gratitude to the community as a whole that way.”
The Hendrikses have moved more than 50 times, per Kristi’s recollections. But they feel as if Chicago is now home.
“Chicago is going to be a really good fit for Liam and I, and I think the White Sox are a really great fit for Liam in particular,” Kristi said. “Everyone has been so great for us, and you definitely know when you meet people who are fans of the South Side, which is exciting. “They are so excited to hear that Liam is here. I appreciate that, because all I want is for Liam to be accepted and to do his job well and to be a part of a community and team.” (S Merkin - MLB.com - April 9, 2021)
Liam uses both physical and metaphysical aspects in order to fine-tune his game. As an example, he noticed his extension was a little short during a blown save in April 2021, as well as there being too much drop on his fastball after talking to people at Codify Baseball. But Hendriks also felt “lighter” after speaking with Rubi, his tarot card reader. She also will be sending crystals and bracelets to help Hendriks figure out his locker, after Hendriks saged his locker.
“I had some sage spray I spritzed around my locker,” said Hendriks, who saged a few other players on the team who were “a little bit more open to it. Things like that that are able to, in theory, remove negative energy and put a positive spin back on everything. It’s just something that I’ve known. It seems to change the way I perceive things. That’s one of the hardest things to do is just change your perception on certain things, whether it be to get you out of that negative funk, focus on positivity, focus on this one thing that can push your forward. For whatever reason it seems to work for me. It takes that edge off and all of a sudden I’m able to flip that switch a little bit quicker than I would by myself.”
Hendriks actually has been working with Rubi since 2018, when his wife, Kristi, saw something about her on an Instagram post and reached out. Rubi has become part of the family, with Hendriks mentioning how they’ve all spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together previously. Her baseball knowledge is limited, at best. Hendriks laughed in pointing out Rubi calls it the “mount” and not the mound in talking about pitching.
“That’s the best part about it,” Hendriks said. “She’s not a baseball fan that’s giving me information that she thinks is right. She has no idea about the game. She’s telling me purely from an emotional and a physical standpoint of where she can kind of feel and see the difference of the way I’m talking about things and the way I describe things. “She has given me a couple of exercises where I’m manifesting certain things, whether it be just waking up and saying the five things around me I’m very grateful for or the three things that I really want to define me as a person. Those things help me get kind of locked back into that positive frame of mind and the thing that I’ve been preaching the last several years of my career.”
Hendriks talks to her at the start of every new year and reaches out for a reading when he goes through struggles. Rubi basically reinforces points of focus already in place for Hendriks, sort of like reading a book and a certain passage jumps out and really resonates. “She also said at the start of the 2020 offseason she foresaw above three years, not four, and for over 50 million,” said Hendriks of Rubi’s free-agent projection. “And this was in the first week of October, or just after the playoffs. If you want to talk about accuracy, she’s got that pretty down pat, too." (Merkin - mlb.com - 4/12/2021)
White Sox closer Liam Hendriks leads the American League in saves, and the eccentric Australian is also leading the league in Lego building.
Hendriks may be 32, but he says building things with Legos helps him stay calm; and now he has teammate Lucas Giolito doing it too.
“I’ve been doing Legos a lot with them, and Gio’s joined in a little bit with that, and I love to show off my little collection, because I built the ‘Friends’ set. I’ve got an R2-D2 that I’m about to build. I finished Baby Yoda. I finished a bust of Darth Vader – I’ve done some stuff like that. And he’s been doing his own little thing. I’ve got these 3D puzzles I was able to find at a bookstore on the road – so we keep each other entertained – that’s for sure,” Hendriks said.
Earlier in the season, Hendriks was working through a couple of rough games – with the help of Rubi, his longtime tarot card reader.
“I think everybody’s actually just really relieved at the fact that I put headphones on and do my Legos so that they don’t have to hear me talk anymore. So it’s actually a bit of a break for everybody, not just for me. So I’ll do my Legos and I’ll finish the set the homestand. Then I’ll read for the last few days or whatever it is. I just need like an outlet to kind of get out of my own head, and that’s when I listen to heavy metal music and do my Legos, or heavy metal music and read my young adult teen fiction books,” Hendriks said. “You need an outlet, and those two things tend to be what I do, and on the road, it’s too hard to transfer the Legos back. So on the road, it’s always books, and at home, it tends to be Legos.” (CBS - June 7, 2021)
July 2021: Hendriks was chosen to pitch in the All-Star Game.
Liam was talking to his wife, Kristi, as he drove home after this past his August 14, rough outing against the Yankees when she diagnosed her husband’s recent mound problems. “She was like, ‘Yeah, you are tipping,’” Hendriks said. “Having that conversation with her, I was like, ‘I hope it’s tipping because tipping is the easiest thing to fix.’ If it’s something mechanical, if it’s something else, those are the hard things to fix. Turns out she was right, which [ticks] me off to no end. She’s always right.”
Hendriks has been almost exactly what the White Sox envisioned when they brought him aboard via free agency in the 2020 offseason. As of August 18, 2021, he had 27 saves and 85 strikeouts over 51 innings, helping bring a little attitude to the back end of the bullpen.
The only issue for Hendriks has come via the 11 home runs he's allowed, representing his largest total since a career-high 17 in 2012, when he worked as a starter for the Twins. Seventeen of his 22 runs allowed have come via the home run, including four runs he allowed to the Yankees in the ninth inning of the Field of Dreams Game on August 12, 2021 in Dyersville, Iowa, and Joey Gallo’s two run blast in the 10th inning on the 14th.
But that’s where the pitch tipping comes in relation to Hendriks’ struggles against the Yankees. He took his wife’s advice, studied video with the White Sox coaching staff and made that little adjustment leading to him striking out the side in a 5-2 victory over the A’s on August 16, 2021.
“That's why I was really happy to get up on the next day and warm up on the 15th, so I could actually go through it,” Hendriks said. “Because the first time I warmed up, I didn't feel great. Second time I warmed up, I was able to make a little bit more of an adjustment to where I needed to be, and the ball was coming out well. Even if you look at the metrics of it, gravity took hold of a lot less of the ball. I was getting less horizontal movement and it was staying in the vertical plane a lot better, which is where I've been trying to get to all year and maybe this is the thing I needed to have.
“You have teams out there using specific cameras purely based on finding if there’s a mechanical hitch in there that something is different,” Hendriks added. “It’s wild the capabilities they’ve got. It keeps you honest a lot more as a pitcher. You can’t get too far down the rabbit hole.” (Merkin - mlb.com - 8/18/2021)
July 19, 2022: I was walking around downtown Chicago, taking advantage of the unseasonably cooler July conditions, when a bus passed by with Liam Hendriks’ picture on the side. It made me stop and think, partially because, if that bus placard could talk, it would be very colorful and entertaining.
Hendriks’ success is an excellent lesson for everyone pursuing workplace greatness. Despite the right-hander’s on-field bravado, his gregarious nature and his mound dominance, the White Sox closer’s All-Star ascension was anything but overnight. Far from it.
On June 25, 2018, Hendriks, then with the A's, was designated for assignment after giving up four runs on four hits in one inning at the White Sox the previous day. At that point, he began to think about life on the diamond, but potentially life on the diamond outside of Major League Baseball.
“We were three months away from being out of baseball or at least out of affiliated baseball in America,” Hendriks told MLB.com during a recent interview. “We were talking about possibilities about going to Korea or Japan if those opportunities arose.
“I got called back up in September 2018, started the AL Wild Card Game, and it didn’t go well. But then after that, kind of ran with it a little bit and here we are.”
Ran with it, as in Hendriks became one of baseball’s most coveted free agents in the offseason prior to the 2021 campaign and is currently one of the top closers in the game. So, what changed? For openers, it was Hendriks’ attitude.
“Going back to what made me successful when I was coming through the Minor Leagues was something I fully embraced again,” Hendriks said. “I was along the lines of, if I’m going to go out, I want to go out on my terms. Not an organization directive. I want to go out doing the things I think can make me successful. Then that turned into something. “It was very surreal, and I want to make sure I never lose that kind of viewpoint,” Hendriks added on being coveted as a free agent. “Making sure everything I do, I’m excited to be here, I’m excited to play. I just want to go out there and pitch no matter what the role. I want to make sure I never lose that mindset. Complacency is one of my biggest cruxes. I want to make sure I never fall into that trap.”
When discussing Hendriks’ life outlook, complacency never is a word that comes to mind. He often talks about hot-button issues being debated around the country, although it’s always topics brought to him for replies, and Hendriks doesn’t really care about the "stick to sports" crew. He believes in himself across the board and has made it to the top with that conviction and the help of his inner circle.
“I don’t think I would be anywhere where I am right now without the people surrounding me,” Hendriks said. “That’s something that has helped me. Whether I’m being down on myself and they are picking me up, or whether I’m too high on myself and they are bringing me back down to make sure I remember where I’m at, and how grateful I need to be to be able to play this game for a living.” (S Merkin - MLB.com - July 19, 2022)
Jan 8, 2023: Liam announced that he is beginning treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hendriks issued a statement via his personal Instagram account:
“As a professional athlete, I have always been mindful to try and use my position in the public eye to the most positive ends possible by shining a light on causes or issues that touch close to home for myself, my wife, and my family. It is in that spirit that I want to share some personal health news I have learned in the past few days and do so on my own terms.
“Recently I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Hearing the word 'Cancer' came as a shock to my wife and I, as it does to millions of families each year. However, I am resolved to embrace the fight and overcome this new challenge with the same determination I have used when facing other obstacles in my life. “My treatment begins tomorrow, and I am confident that I will make a full recovery and be back on the mound as soon as possible. I know with the support of my wife, my family, my teammates, and the Chicago White Sox organization, along with the treatment and care from my doctors, I will get through this.”
Hendriks joined the White Sox via free agency prior to the 2021 season and has been a force in the organization since his arrival, which has less to do with the right-hander being one of the best closers in the game and much more to do with how Liam and his wife, Kristi, began giving back to the people of Chicago and its surrounding areas as soon as they arrived. In fact, that question of giving back became an integral part of the Hendriks’ interview process with potential teams as the family went through his free agency process.
“On all of the Zoom meetings we had with all of the teams we met with, we said it’s extremely important for us to be able to immerse ourselves in the community,” Kristi Hendriks told MLB.com during an interview in 2021. “We find the best way is by volunteering and giving back.
“We like to bring attention to things that are happening in the community via Liam’s platform. If we don’t use the platform he is given when he has it, I feel like we totally missed the mark. And for us, it was just very easy.” Hendriks was selected as the White Sox nominee for the 2022 Roberto Clemente Award, an honor as rewarding as anything he had won previously. He’s an intense competitor but also a leading voice in the White Sox clubhouse with the ability to keep his teammates loose.
White Sox senior vice president and general manager Rick Hahn made the following statement after Hendriks' announcement:
“Our thoughts and reactions at this time are for Liam the person, not Liam the baseball player. I know the entire Chicago White Sox organization, our staff, his teammates, and certainly White Sox fans, will rally in support of Liam and Kristi during the coming months.
"Knowing everyone involved, especially Liam, we are optimistic he will pitch again for the White Sox as soon as viable. In the meantime, we all will do everything in our power to support our teammate and his family as they face this challenge, while also respecting their privacy.
“We do not expect to have any updates on Liam’s playing status prior to Opening Day at the very earliest." (S Merkin - MLB.com - Jan 8, 2022)
Hendriks, 34, has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the last four seasons, making three All-Star teams, recording 114 saves, and compiling a 2.26 ERA. He has 359 strikeouts in 239 innings. He announced his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis in January 2023.
Liam Hendriks rang the victory bell to signal he completed the final round of chemotherapy to treat his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He posted a video of the moment on social media Wednesday in early April 2023. Hendriks is not currently playing with the White Sox, but the team didn’t put him on the 60-day injured list to start the 2023 season. Hendriks said in a video on social media Monday in April 2023 that he was starting his last round of chemo that day and “I’ll see you guys on the South Side soon.” He did not provide a timeline for his return. In the social media caption posted, he thanked his medical team, wife, family, friends and fans: “These past 5 months have been both the quickest and slowest of my life. Being able to ring this victory bell has been one of the most emotional things I’ve ever done.”
The White Sox are talking like they expect to have Hendriks back this season — even in the first half.
“We very much miss Liam, there’s no doubt,” White Sox general manager RIck Hahn said. “He’s one of the finest closers in the modern era. His absence, one small silver lining, is it does sort of free up the pen to be used in different roles and learn about what guys can handle without having a set closer, per se.” (Fegan - Apr 3, 2023 - The Athletic)
Hendriks is both one of the best closers in baseball and a bit bananas. Every story about him is tinged with the outrageous. He is wildly entertaining, endlessly philanthropic and wonderfully profane, a madman with a mitt who builds Lego sets at his locker and drops F-bombs at himself on the mound.
He is relentless. The way people describe Hendriks tends to be the same whether they’re talking about his larger-than-life personality, his mentality on the mound, his transformation from failed starter to three-time All-Star closer, or how he’s spent this year throwing bullpen sessions between chemotherapy treatments while staring down Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“The first thing that comes to mind with Liam: He’s a fighter,” former A’s catcher Stephen Vogt said.
“That MFer in him, man,” former A’s utility man Chad Pinder said.
“He’s just such a force to be reckoned with,” Padres outfielder Adam Engel said.
In late March, Hendriks went to see “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” with former reliever Marc Rzepczynski. Their friendship was forged in Oakland in 2016 when they bickered so much they had to be separated in the bullpen. “We fought like brothers,” Rzepczynski said. Over the years teammates nicknamed Rzepczynski “Scrabble.” Hendriks instead calls him “the clueless lefty.” Now they go to the theater together once a month in the offseason.
They sat halfway up, on the aisle, in an otherwise empty theater in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a 2:00 p.m. weekday showing and ordered popcorn, pretzels, Milk Duds and chicken fingers. As previews rolled, Rzepczynski asked Hendriks how he was feeling after three rounds of chemotherapy. Hendriks smiled.
“If this next round goes well,” he said, “I’ll be cleared.”
“I knew he was going to beat it,” Rzepczynski said. “I just didn’t know it was going to be this quick.”
When Hendriks arrived in Oakland in 2016, he had neither the edge nor the confidence that are his trademarks today. He’d been designated for assignment four times, claimed on waivers three times, traded three times and relegated to fringe-of-the-roster flotsam. A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso noticed Hendriks had nasty stuff but no confidence in it. So Alonso created a gimmick: Every time Hendriks struck out a batter, Alonso would give him an old ticket stub.
“The word on it was: ‘I need tickets. I need tickets out of you,’” Alonso said. “So every day I would see him, we would look at each other, do our handshake and both shout, ‘Tickets!’”
Every mound visit, every bullpen entrance Alonso reminded Hendriks of his obligation: It’s tickets time.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” Alonso said. “We were just feeding a beast and then he turned into a monster.”
Before the ass kicking, though, there are Legos to build, teammates to chirp and Red Bulls to down. Hendriks’ pregame presence in the clubhouse is unmissable. He is notoriously loud, to the amusement of some teammates and the annoyance of others. “Loves to sit in his locker, read his books and talk s— to people,” Chapman said. His voice booms. His Legos and history books clutter his corner locker. His energy thrums with the aid of far, far too much coffee.
“The amount of caffeine that guy puts in his body is legendary,” Vogt said.
Hendriks has a childlike obsession with Lego and $52 million in career earnings. His love language is Lego. Upon joining the White Sox in 2021, he ingratiated himself with his new teammates by buying and building a Lego version of Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet and beginning a ritual passing ownership of the gauntlet to whichever member of the bullpen had most recently struck out the side. In 2022, the gauntlet was replaced by Thor’s (Lego) hammer.
At his locker, Hendriks puts on headphones, downs his third or fourth coffee of the afternoon and gets to work on his latest creation.
“I like doing Legos with my kids,” White Sox reliever Joe Kelly said, “and I’ll say, ‘Hey did you see this new one?’ and he’ll be like, ‘Yup, already got it!’”
Lego time is interrupted only when it’s s—talking time. Hendriks chirps teammates. He chirps the opposition. When a pitcher on the other team throws a truly awful pitch, Hendriks will yell from the bullpen: “HOW DID YOU HOLD THAT?” The first time Hendriks faced hitters in live at-bats at spring training after signing with the White Sox in 2021, shortstop Tim Anderson scorched a line drive to the outfield and said, “Oh, so this the dude we gave the money to?” Hendriks beamed.A friendship was born.In Oakland, Alonso loved Red Bull, so Hendriks would take shots before games despite a distaste for the energy drink. “Liam is all game for everything,” Alonso said. Once, after one too many coffees, Hendriks became so upset during a contentious clubhouse cribbage game with teammates that he screamed his usual obscenities and stormed off for 20 minutes. “Over cribbage,” Vogt said. Other times Alonso would dare Hendriks to take his 18 vitamins in one gulp, to which Hendriks would oblige. “Then we’d scream out ‘Tickets!’” Alonso said.
When the bullpen door swings open in Chicago, Hendriks is like a wrestler making his entrance. The ballpark lights strobe. A “We Will Rock You” remix thunders through the speakers. Hendriks walks onto the warning track, slaps his thigh with his mitt, jogs to the mound and delivers his first pitch — all timed to the second.
The broader baseball world was introduced to Hendriks’ in-game intensity in the ninth inning of the 2021 All-Star Game, when Hendriks’ various vulgarities were aired on the national broadcast because he believed his microphone wasn’t working. “I’m sure that made for some interesting TV,” he said afterward. “I hope the bleep-er guy was on point.” The bleep-er guy was not.
“He demands greatness from himself,” Vogt said, “and it comes out in expletives.”
The closer’s corner locker in the home clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field sat perfectly preserved while he completed his rehab assignment. There were completed Lego sets — a miniature Infinity Gauntlet, several Star Wars ships, a TIE fighter pilot helmet and a tiny Groot — and multiple dinosaur skeleton models.
Outfielder Gavin Sheets has sat three lockers down from Hendriks since being called up two years ago. He’s looking forward to the entirety of the Liam Hendriks experience returning: the Legos, the loudness, the laughing, and the way Hendriks locks in when the bullpen phone rings and Aussie accented curse words start flying through the air. It hasn’t been the same without Hendriks.
“A lot quieter,” Sheets said, “but it’s going to get back to normal here soon.” (Jenks/Nesbitt - May 26, 2023 - The Athletic)
In 2022, Kristi Hendriks asked her husband why she could see bumps on his neck when he looked to the catcher for signs. Earlier this calendar year, Hendriks opened his months with two straight days of chemotherapy for his Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma, two straight days of being wiped out by exhaustion, then forcing himself to throw baseballs on the weekend. On Memorial Day, less than six months after his initial diagnosis and less than two months since his last round of treatment, Hendriks hit 96.6 mph with a fastball while pitching in the eighth inning of a major-league game.
“Baseball, really, was Liam’s saving grace,” Kristi Hendriks said. “It was his motivating factor to get up again, to feel really good, to feel like he’s doing something normal. When you are having all this poison pumped into your body, the last thing you feel is normal.”
“It’s impressive, it’s heartwarming, it’s motivating,” teammate Michael Kopech said after watching Hendriks stride into a game to a standing ovation that included his opponents. “We know who Liam is as a person. And he sets high standards for himself. He treated this the same way: attacked it head-on and came back and was able to get back to the mound faster than a lot of people probably would.”
“It was humbling going out there and walking out there and seeing the amount of people wearing my shirts and the amount of people having signs or flags,” Hendriks said. “The amount of people that were chanting when I came into the game — it was a very humbling and sobering moment.”
Seeing the opposing players standing at the top of their dugout applauding him as he entered, Hendriks quickly looked away, hoping to retain the edge that rocketed him from seemingly the end of his major-league career to an elite closer.
“I didn’t have the killer instinct that I’m used to with two strikes,” Hendriks said. “Usually when I get two strikes, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that I’m punching them out — in my eyes, at least. I didn’t quite have that today. It’ll come.”
That would be a disturbing comment any time over the past two seasons with Hendriks, who would readily tell you of the hate he pitched with and how much he tried to channel the concept of being a jerk inside the lines. There was an outpouring of admiration that will follow him across baseball, for a story that’s transcended it.
“You are going to have to find aggression in a different way,” said Kristi, before suggesting what his new rallying cry should be. “‘Eff Cancer.’ People shouldn’t have to go through this anymore. We should find a cure. I think he’s going to find his hunger there.” (Fegan - May 30, 2023 - The Athletic)
July 2023: After being able to bounce back from cancer, Hendriks was presented with the Jimmy V Award at the ESPYs.
Sept 15, 2023: Liam Hendriks is no stranger to the idea of giving back.
As has been documented numerous times previously, Hendriks and his wife, Kristi, engaged in numerous charitable efforts throughout the Chicagoland area from the time they arrived with the White Sox via free agency prior to the 2021 season. So, the White Sox choice of Hendriks as their 2023 Roberto Clemente Award nominee comes as no surprise, with no offense meant to any of the other giving players on the roster.
But Hendriks’ third Clemente Award nomination with the White Sox and fifth overall has a different feel, because it’s been a highly unexpected, challenging and emotional sort of year for the closer. Hendriks currently is in remission after battling Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and now, he is trying to get others afflicted by this insidious illness to have normal conversations about the disease.
Hendriks has made a point to meet with people similarly affected by cancer at every home series and almost every road series since his return to the mound on May 29 in Chicago. There’s a special focus placed upon adolescent and young adult patients at his meet and greets.
“Talk about it with your friends. Say the word cancer. Say the word chemotherapy,” Hendriks said. “We need to remove that initial shudder once someone mentions the word cancer.
“We had one kid who I think was 15. He got diagnosed with cancer and all his friends thought he was going to die. That’s what you think of when you think of cancer. We need to change that perception.”
Hendriks missed the White Sox trip to Cleveland from Aug. 4-6 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, didn’t travel with the team recently to Colorado and there was one other city where his pregame meetup fell through. Otherwise, opposing teams have been great facilitators since this process began at Dodger Stadium from July 13-15. The Dodgers went above and beyond, according to Hendriks, and he tips his hat to all of the opposing teams.
These conversations also benefit Hendriks.
“You talk to people who have gone through it, and you have a similar story. It’s refreshing. It takes a load off your shoulders. It’s always nice,” Hendriks said. “One of the kids in Chicago had a tumor in his knee and showed me where they cut off the bone and cut the bone in half and showed me the tumor inside the bone. And then I was showing him my TJ scar, all the photos from that.
“It’s getting a little bit of rapport and talking normally and not treating them as something different. It’s a normal conversation but you’ve been through something similar.”
Hendriks will team up with DJ Pauly D for a Be The Match tailgate event outside Guaranteed Rate Field prior to a contest against the Twins. The Be The Match organization is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, which manages the most diverse marrow registry in the world and works every day to save lives through transplant.
Pauly D, the Jersey Shore star, earned major plaudits from Hendriks for his immediate commitment to help.
Even the most trying of times haven’t kept Hendriks from appreciating not just the importance of the Clemente Award nomination, but the positive attention foisted upon the topics he’s addressing.
“I know Roberto Clemente Jr.,” Hendriks said. “We’ve done some work with him in the past. It’s a great family and the legacy Roberto Clemente has left behind, it’s enduring. It’s something that I think everyone can strive toward.
“This is one of those awards where it has nothing to do with talent. It has a lot to do with compassion and giving and making sure you use your platform for good. I still get a little run down every now and then because of a lack of an immune system.
“For the most part it’s all good,” Hendriks added. “Going to have the random little freakouts when you think you feel a lump and stuff like that. That’s somewhat to be expected. … Having those conversations, I went through this for a reason. I want to make sure I use any sort of reason I can to impart anything that can help on the next guy.” (S Merkin - MLB.com - Sept 15, 2023)
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 Hendriks 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.
Oct 28, 2020: Liam elected free agency.
- Jan. 12, 2021: The White Sox signed Hendriks to a three-year deal with a club option for a fourth year. Hendriks is guaranteed $54 million over the life of the uniquely structured contract, which includes a $15 million club option for a fourth season in 2024 or a $15 million buyout that would be paid out over time.