CHICAGO -- Liam Hendriks has been honored twice with the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award. He also has been selected three times as an AL All-Star and has the most career saves of any Australian-born pitcher.
But nothing in his mind compares to being the White Sox nominee for the 2022 Roberto Clemente Award. The award is the annual recognition of a Major Leaguer who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
“You talk to anybody who has ever been nominated, and this is more important to them than a lot of other things they’ve done,” Hendriks said. “That’s talking about MVPs and World Series winners and all this sort of stuff.”
Hendriks, 33, also was the 2021 White Sox nominee and began giving back to the Chicago area almost immediately after joining the team as a coveted free-agent closer. His wife, Kristi, deserves a great deal of credit for the work they’ve been able to do through their South Slydah Society.
In Hendriks’ mind, there’s no special skill involved in helping people out, viewing it along similar lines of throwing a 98 mph fastball past an opposing cleanup hitter with the game on the line. There is a high level of commitment to doing the right thing.
“It’s about getting the mind into that sort of giving and philanthropic place,” Hendriks said. “It’s obviously pretty special. It means we are doing the right things off the field. It’s just about kind of going through and making sure that you do whatever you can off the field, and it’s always nice being recognized by the team.
“They’ve helped us out a lot with everything with the amount of activities we’ve had throughout the course of the season. It’s always nice being acknowledged for something [that], as I said, takes no skill, takes no talent. It’s going out there and being a good person.”
Programs for the Hendriks focused on three key pillars, according to the White Sox writeup for Liam’s nomination. They are championing individuals facing extreme hardship, including children and families battling cancer and those seeking medical treatment at nearby hospitals; giving back to frontline workers, including first responders, Chicago police and fire departments and emergency dispatchers; and empowering underrepresented community groups by addressing social justice issues, including discrimination, prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community, gun violence and animal rights.
Examples of the Hendriks’ largesse ranged from donating nearly 1,400 meals from dozens of family-owned small businesses, to planning 22 community events or in-person visits with organizations such as Howard Brown Health, Jesse Brown VA Medical Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, the USO of Illinois and more. Hendriks also made “remarkable financial and in-kind contributions to those in need of a helping hand,” according to the White Sox.
Jake Diekman, currently a White Sox reliever, received the Red Sox 2022 Robert Clemente nomination for work done through his Gut it Out Foundation before he was traded to Chicago. Hendriks has gotten to know Roberto Clemente Jr. through programs over the years and comes away even more impressed at his father’s total dedication and devotion to others.
“He brought a lot of joy to a lot of people and that act of selflessness and making sure he put other people ahead of him. It’s unbelievable watching the impact he had,” Hendriks said. “Now you look around and every team has a Roberto Clemente nominee, every team has players who are actively in the community. A lot of it started with what he was trying to do in making sure other people who weren’t in the game were kind of being taken care of and the ability to go about and follow your passions in a philanthropic way.
“It’s not like a physical goal or a personal achievement thing as a statistic. It’s something you just go about and do what you can. I feel we have a lot of guys who do a lot of things off the field, and to be nominated in part with that is such an honor. It’s definitely humbling because no matter how much I do, I’ll never be able to live up to what he was able to do and that’s just that lasting impact they are able to bring to this field every single year.”