It's Been a Roller-Coaster Time for Athletics' Closer Liam Hendriks

John Hickey

The period between late March and early April was always going to be an eventful time for Liam Hendriks.

The A’s veteran closer needed nine days to qualify for free agency for the first time. That would have occurred this week, but of course the COVID-19 coronavirus-induced baseball shutdown put a temporary hold on it.

It’s hardly a matter for much major consideration these days where self-isolation is the order of the day and staying healthy has become a full-time job.

Hendriks, who received word over the weekend that a deal between players and owners would secure him free agency this fall/winter whether or not a season is played in 2020, isn’t alone in his concerns over the pandemic. He made a video for the A’s website in which he offers thanks the overworked medical community.

“I just want to thank all the doctors, nurses and medical staff out there battling on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hendriks said. “We, as an Oakland Athletics organization, want to say ~Thank you’ for everything you’re doing. Please stay safe.”

That came shortly after he and his wife, Kristi, got the news that a longtime friend, musician Conrad Buchanan, who went by the stage name of “Griff Gotti,” had died at age 39, a victim of coronavirus.

“An incredibly talented, loyal and amazing friend was taken by COVID-19 today,” Hendriks wrote in an Instagram post. “It all happened so quickly. Our hearts are absolutely breaking right now.”

Then came the news that longtime A’s minor league coach and manager Webster Garrison had been hospitalized, attached to a ventilator as he fought for his life against coronavirus.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Hendriks said of the Garrison news, “That was kind of shocking to me.”

“You run into him in the clubhouse and he’s always smiling. That’s who he is. He’s always happy. … It hits so close to home.”

He told the newspaper that while he’s trying to live up to the guidelines for safety established by medical authorities, it will be a difficult transition when it finally becomes time to begin throwing a baseball for a living once again.

“I lick my fingers a lot when I’m on the mound. I go back and forth to my hat a lot. I run my fingers through my hair,” Hendriks said. “I’ve got some tics I do subconsciously now, and that’s going to be hard to get over. Right now, I’m holding a baseball in my hand and the first thing I did was lick my fingers because it gives you that little bit of tack.”