You’ve met “South Slydah.” Now say hello to “LEGO Liam.”
Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks has already captured the attention of fans and media members alike with his big personality, whether on the field with his profane in-game screaming or off it with his chipper chats about a wide range of topics including Tarot cards and Dr. Pepper.
The latest hobby the quirky reliever has taken up? Masonry. Well, plastic masonry, at least.
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“I've been doing LEGOs a lot,” he revealed Thursday.
Hendriks’ construction projects have been focused around some of his favorite pop-culture productions, with “Friends” and “Star Wars” making up the majority of what he refers to as a budding collection.
“I have to show off my little collection,” he said. “I've built the 'Friends' set, I've got an R2-D2 that I'm about to build, I finished Baby Yoda, I finished a bust of Darth Vader, I've done some stuff like that.
“Chicago has a very nice LEGO store, so I went down there one day and picked up a 'Friends' set. And since then, it's evolved into the 'Friends' set, anything to do with 'Star Wars.' I got a gift from one of our friends, Joey, he actually bought the cityscape of Chicago, which I did initially.
“Today, I'm starting the 'Friends' apartment. The first one was Central Perk. Now we're going Monica and Rachel and Joey and Chandler, their housing, apartment setups, with a little bit of cheesecake in the middle. Anyone who knows the story, they'll understand that.
“I'm mixing between that and some 'Star Wars' stuff. I try to get through one set per home stand. Now it's just a matter of trying to put it on display somewhere in my locker so I can have at least some people gawking at it a little bit.”
Hendriks is showing himself to be a real yin and yang type of player, someone who can gain the focus he needs to do his work by yelling, screaming and pumping his fist, as well as by doing soothing activities like reading and playing with LEGOs. He’s dedicated to both the physical and mental aspects of his work, and building a bust of Darth Vader out of plastic bricks can have a positive effect on his pitching just like all the mechanical stuff he also talked about Thursday.
“Tim Anderson has been calling me ‘LEGO Liam’ a little,” Hendriks said. “Everybody is really relieved I put headphones on and do my LEGOs so they don’t have to hear me talk anymore. It’s a bit of a break for everybody, not just for me.
“If I finish the set before the home stand (is over), I’ll read the last few days. But I need that time away from the game when I’m at the field to lock me back in, and this is an outlet I can do.”
It sure seems to be working.
Though he had a bumpy start to his White Sox tenure at the beginning of the season, he was practically perfect in May, earning American League Reliever of the Month honors thanks to a spotless 0.00 ERA and eight saves.
All of a sudden, Hendriks is delivering on the promise of his big free-agent contract, mowing down opposing hitters and turning in dominating ninth-inning performances. He even recorded three saves in two days last weekend against the Baltimore Orioles.
"I think I'm definitely a little more cognizant of the way my body's moving than I was at the start of the year,” he said. “At the start of the year, I was concentrating a little too much on velocity and stuff like that.
“It's just a little bit more of getting behind the ball and worrying less about velocity, worrying less about trying to throw as hard as I can and more about going through the mechanics the right way before the game so when I get on the mound I don't have to think about anything."
So the swearing, the Tarot cards, the “Friends” LEGO sets — it’s all part of the Hendriks package.
Fun for us, effective for him and a peek into the mind of arguably the best closer in baseball.
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