Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Liam Hendriks Inspirational Return Is Bigger Than Baseball


On a Memorial Day weekend that had a long list of epic sporting moments, including a last lap pass at the Indy 500, the Miami Heat winning a Game 7 in Boston, and the Vegas Golden Knights punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup, Liam Hendrick may have had the coolest of them all. 

Just 80 days after announcing on social media that he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the White Sox closer was back pitching on an MLB mound. 

The anticipation on Monday night was palpable, and everyone inside the stadium seemed to appreciate the moment. 

Hendriks received a standing ovation during the pregame when he was joined by his wife, Kristi, to present a check of over $100,000 raised by “Close Out Cancer” T-shirt sales. 

The crowd cheered as he walked out to the bullpen, then again in the seventh inning when it was announced, “Liam Hendriks is warming in the White Sox bullpen.”

Things reached a fevered pitch when the bullpen gate swung open in the eighth inning, and Hendricks trotted out to his usual light show and “We Will Rock You” by DJ’s From Mars blaring over the speakers. 

After his final warmup pitch, Angels batter Matt Thaiss stepped out of the batter’s box to give the crowd extra time to acknowledge Hendriks. 

Fans chanted, “Liam! Liam!” as both dugouts stood up to give him a round of applause. Even the 34-year-old closer who is usually all business on the mound, took a moment to soak it all in.

It set up a perfect Hollywood script. Unfortunately, this is real life, and things don’t always go as planned. Hendriks allowed two runs on two hits and a walk before escaping the inning. But after firing a first-pitch strike, the box score seemed insignificant. 

Cancer is something that touches everyone. The national cancer institute estimates 609,820 people will die of cancer in the United States in 2023. Instead of becoming another statistic, Hendriks became an inspiration to the millions of people around the world fighting this disease.

However, in typical Hendriks fashion, he was critical of his performance. 

“Yeah, it was great being back out there,” said Hendriks during his postgame press conference. “Getting back, putting cleats on, running out, doing all that. I felt good, I felt strong, I felt comfortable out there.

“Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to get the two-strike pitch where I wanted to. It was get ahead, generally, and then struggle to put them away. There were some positives from a purely baseball aspect, but there were definitely some things to work on. Get back, be available and be ready to go tomorrow.”

Hendriks threw 16 of his 27 pitches for strikes and reached 96.6 mph with his fastball. Rust was to be expected but it was nice to see his velocity was back to where it was before undergoing treatment. 

After missing the first few months of the season, he acknowledged that he needed to earn his job back. 

“I’ll never be OK with mediocrity. I’ll never be OK with not being at the back end of the bullpen,” Hendriks said. “But in saying that, I need to earn it. I don’t want handouts. I need to work.

“Our guys have been throwing well out there. At the end of the day, that’s mine. But as I said, I need to earn it. There’s no freebies. I will get there, and I will earn it myself.”

While Hendriks may not have been in All-Star form his presence provided a big boost to the locker room and the fans in the midst of an otherwise rough start to the year. 

“What he’s done has motivated everybody,” White Sox starting and losing pitcher Michael Kopech said of Hendriks. “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’s nothing but good vibes in the clubhouse from there.”


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Kam Hilda
Kam Hilda
May 30, 2023 11:37 am

good vibes in the clubhouse from there

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