Hendriks: Clemente nomination 'huge honor'

September 16th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Being the White Sox nominee for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award is really an honor can share with his wife, Kristi.

Liam and Kristi have been giving back pretty much since Day 1, after the All-Star closer agreed to a three-year, $54 million free-agent deal to come to Chicago. But in a conversation with reporters Wednesday, Hendriks explained how this giving spirit took root, in part, from a dinner years back at what he remembers as a PF Chang’s in Rochester, N.Y.

“The table next to us actually was a father and his daughter who had just gone to a father-daughter dance, and we happened to hear some of that conversation, and it was something that really reverberated with us. And I had just been sent down, actually,” Hendriks said. “It was one of those things where we were going out to dinner just to commiserate [over] me being sent down again.

“We ended up paying for their bill and getting a letter in the mail from them later on, and that was something that was really, really cool to us because we never even thought about it, we never gave it a second thought. We were like, ‘No, we just do something for someone else, and hopefully, it spreads.’ Hopefully, either more players or more people around the game or more people that have benefited from something like this can go out and do the same thing to the next person.”

In a short time with the White Sox, Hendriks already has become a fan favorite and a vital part of the American League Central leaders. The right-hander entered Thursday’s contest against the Angels leading the AL with 34 saves to go with a 2.86 ERA in 61 games and 98 strikeouts against seven walks in 63 innings.

Hendriks' energetic demeanor fires up the fans. But his family also has meant a great deal to those in the Chicago area who aren’t necessarily coming to the ballpark regularly, as with the help of the White Sox, it has been giving back through events approximately twice per month. Those events include donating nearly 1,000 meals from local minority- and family-owned business to frontline workers across Chicagoland through his South Slydah Society program.

Recipients included three platoons at Engine 29 Firehouse, healthcare workers at Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, volunteers at St. James Food Pantry, the local post office and staff from One Tail at a Time Chicago. The Australia native also continued his long-standing support of the LGBTQ+ community, providing lunch and White Sox-branded gifts to staff at Center on Halsted, the Midwest’s most comprehensive community center dedicated to the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community; and Howard Brown Health, one of the nation’s largest organizations committed to eliminating the disparities in health care experienced by this community.

“Obviously, it's nothing that you do claiming recognition,” Hendriks said. “You don't need everyone to know that it was you or anything like that.

“We do it because we honestly want to make sure that these people, especially the frontline workers this year, feel appreciated, because the last couple of years have been extremely tough on a lot of people. We want to make sure that everyone knows that there are people out there that thank them for just going out there and doing their jobs on a day-to-day basis through the struggling time.

“As a kid, it was always that thing where you just be nice to others. And then it turns into, if you have the ability to have the small sacrifices yourself to give back to someone else … it would be something you just did. That was something both my parents and my wife's parents ingrained into both of us.”

Oakland nominated Hendriks for the Clemente Award in 2017 and '19. This community connection was a crucial focus for Liam and Kristi during their free-agent Zooms, and it was an area where the White Sox stood out.

“This is a team that really focuses on the community,” Hendriks said. “It's just such a cool thing, being able to kind of bounce ideas off of each other, seeing what they've been able to do and seeing if there's anything we can do along those lines as well, and helping each other out as much as possible.

“It's definitely a huge honor knowing that what we're doing in the community's been taking notice of. It's something that my wife and I are both are passionate about, is making sure we give back to the community, whatever community we're in. … If I can even just be a speck of sand on the Clemente legacy of what he was able to do for a long time, I mean, that's a win in my book.”