Hendriks personifies inspiration throughout MLB

June 30th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin’s White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Say the word “cancer,” and a number of words immediately come to mind.

Cruel. Painful. Unfair. Heartbreaking.

But how about “silver linings” -- a rare combination paired with such an awful, insidious disease.

It makes the attitude and focus provided by White Sox closer  and his wife, Kristi, since the start of his battle with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in December, that much more inspirational.

“There’s silver linings to absolutely everything and you take the positives where it comes from,” Hendriks said. “It’s been my motto from Day 1: Move forward and make a positive out of this.”

Hendriks’ battle has resonated with not just the White Sox fan base but across Major League Baseball, and it’s safe to say across the country and outside of sports. As Liam and Kristi have done since arriving in Chicago, they are paying forward that good will.

With the help of opposing teams since his return on May 29, Hendriks has met with fans at various ballparks who might be going through cancer treatment or, like him, are now in remission. It’s the bond immediately formed that is important, and that is very easy to do with Liam.

On Monday in Anaheim, he spoke with an Australian man who was going through something similar, and before Tuesday’s game, it was a 26-year-old woman who has been in remission from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the last six months.

As we were talking in the Angels Stadium clubhouse Tuesday, Hendriks pointed to a sports car LEGO set next to his chair given to him by a random but concerned individual as he got off the team bus Monday.

Details from these conversations are ultimately private. With Liam being himself, they are always positive.

“Is there any other way to be?” Hendriks said with a laugh. “You speak about experiences because, as much as everybody has support, going through something like this, you can get a bond with people who’ve gone through it.

“I couldn’t drink sparkling water at all and that was most of my water intake. [Dodgers manager] Dave Roberts [in 2010] couldn’t eat Chipotle, couldn’t be around his wife’s perfume. [The woman Tuesday] struggled with soda. There are all those little things you can bond over and talk about what helped and didn’t help and hopefully pass it along to the next person or somebody currently going through it.

“Hopefully, I can raise some sort of positive note on me going through this,” Hendriks said. “Hopefully, it can help someone down the line.”

On July 12 at the ESPYS in Los Angeles, Hendriks will be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Hendriks said this moment will not be just for him but for everyone going through the cancer battle, including caretakers, family members and friends who are hit as hard if not harder than the person undergoing chemotherapy.

It’s not a solo fight, as Hendriks tries to show on a daily basis.

“People can see I’m going through something similar: That’s all we are trying to attain,” Hendriks said. “Trying to push forward to raising awareness and potentially funding for research and, hopefully, somebody who is going through it currently can look upon this and say, ‘He’s doing it. Now I can do it.’”