A Major League Baseball reliever returned to the pitchers mound just months after revealing he was battling cancer.
Chicago White Sox pitcher Liam Hendriks received a standing ovation from the home crowd when he took the mound on Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.
Hendriks return to baseball is a shocking feat after he announced that he had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early January.
“Hearing the word ‘cancer’ came as a shock to my wife and I, as it does to millions of families each year,” he posted to Instagram at the beginning of the year.
“However I am resolved to embrace the fight and overcome this new challenge with the same determination I have used when facing other obstacles in my life.”
The reveal came the day before he entered treatment, and at the time the three-time All-Star predicted that he’d “be back on the mound as soon as possible.”
Four months later, he shared another post that revealed he had completed chemotherapy treatments and had gone into remission.
He shared a photo montage of undergoing various therapies, which appeared to involve a few times spent in a hospital bed, and finally building stamina back on a Peloton bike.
“How It Started VS How It’s Going…. REMISSION,” he posted on April 20. “It’s official. I’m cancer free.”
At the time, CBS Sports was unsure if Hendriks would be able to return to the White Sox’s roster, and predicted that getting back into playing shape would require a lengthy ramp-up.
“The White Sox did not place Hendricks on the 60-day injured list to begin the season, which theoretically means he could return before the end of May,” the outlet reported. “That, however, seems unlikely.”
Clearly they were wrong, because the 13 season veteran closer began rehabbing in Triple-A for Charlotte in mid-May.
At a May 3rd press conference, he told reporters that, “As of now I have a clean bill of health.”
Hendriks’ unwaveringly optimistic outlook about his diagnosis undoubtedly impacted his swift recovery.
“I never looked at it as a ‘why me thing?’ I looked at it as ‘why not me?'” He detailed.
“I tend to have a more rosy perspective on life than (most people) so that was my process behind it. ‘I’ve got this. This is my next challenge.'”
He opted to approach the standard length of chemo and other therapies as a obstacle to defeat.
“As soon as I found out the regular treatment timelines, I thought, ‘OK, how can I beat it?'” Hendriks remarked.
“It was those days on the couch, not being able to move much (after chemo), those were the days you needed to dig deep and find that positive mental attitude.”
The pitcher said that he didn’t “quite get” how uplifting his story would be for the fellow cancer suffers, until his wife Kristi explained it to him after his first game back in Triple-A.
“[She said], ‘This is more than about, Oh, you missed six weeks. It’s more about you overcoming something extreme and then that you are getting back on the mound so quickly,” he explained.
“I definitely appreciated that. It’s something that will follow me around for a little bit, I’m sure,” he continued.
Hendriks said that he wanted to have a “positive impact,” and “do right” by the people currently suffering from the same disease.
“I always have to take a step back and realize it’s not about the timeline you are at,” he asserted. “It’s about what you are going through and what you can represent to a lot of people.”
Hendriks was raucously applauded as he jogged to the pitcher’s mound in the eighth inning of Monday night’s game.
He was clearly emotional as he circled around to face every direction in acknowledgement of the cheering fans, before wiping at his eyes and getting down to business.
The veteran player threw a triumphant strike his first pitch of the game.