The All-Star Game wasn’t the Coors Field hitting expo fans expected, but Liam Hendriks provided unexpected fireworks in the ninth inning.
Hendriks closed out the American League’s 5-2 win over the National League on Tuesday night with a flurry of pitches and colorful metaphors that fit his personality. The Chicago White Sox pitcher was mic’d up by FOX Sports and he threw nearly as many swear words as fastballs in his one inning of work.
It was nothing new for Hendriks.
“My wife likes to call it ‘white line fever,'” Hendriks said. “So, I’m jovial and tend to be a little more go-with-the-flow and joking around off the field. On the field she likes to call it me being closer to a psychopath than a normal person. I have to kind of agree with her. I tend to get a little animated out there and throw some expletives around. I have fun out there, that’s the biggest thing.”
Hendriks said he didn’t think he was on a hot mic and told Mike Zunino that when the catcher came to the mound. But he was coming through loud and clear — and he embraced what might have been an embarrassing moment for many other people.
“The fact I was able to throw the ninth and have a relatively eventful ninth, kind of plays into my personality a little bit,” Hendriks said. “And not realizing the mic was hot and I couldn’t hear them and they could hear me was a lot of fun.
“I would have been a little more conscious of (my word choice) if I had heard them back. It turned out the volume was too low. Probably my fault. Probably user error. Makes for some interesting TV, I’m sure. Hopefully the bleeping guy was on point.”
Hendriks’ oh-well attitude makes sense after his journey from Western Australia to the back end of the Chicago White Sox bullpen. His 23 saves lead the AL at the break, but he wasn’t always destined to close out games in Major League Baseball.
When he was young, he saw his future in Australian Rules Football but found a path to professional baseball instead.
“As a kid I was guaranteed I was going to play football. It didn’t come to fruition,” he said.
At 18 he signed with the Minnesota Twins as a free agent and worked his way through the system before making his debut Sept. 6, 2011. He was sent down and called up four times before the Twins designated him for assignment Dec. 5, 2013.
He was claimed off waivers two more times and traded twice before finding some stability with Oakland — his fourth organization — in 2016. He spent five years with the A’s and became the team’s closer before entering free agency after the 2020 season.
Chicago signed him this past January and he has anchored the bullpen for the AL Central-leading White Sox. He became the first Australian to be a multiple All-Star pick, and he hopes his experiences can inspire young Australians to pursue baseball.
“I’m hoping they can see what I’m able to accomplish and take it and (think), ‘This is available, I am capable of doing this,'” Hendriks said. “‘Look at what he’s overcome. Look at the fact that he’s gone through the ringer, he wasn’t ever a top prospect and he bounced around. He grounded out and the universe rewarded him.'”
Chances are he is well-known in his home continent, but after his improvisational outing on Tuesday he is quickly becoming a household name here, too.
–Michael Kelly, Field Level Media