OAKLAND – Liam Hendriks entered the A’s clubhouse Tuesday afternoon wearing gray shorts and the sleeveless white jersey of the North Melbourne Kangaroos.
That’s the Australian rules football team that Hendriks grew up rooting for. And the daily routine for Oakland’s new reliever is to take the field – usually by himself and before the pitchers stretch – and kick the football around just to get the blood flowing.
“It gets me outside, gets me running around,” Hendriks said. “If I sit inside too long, I get lethargic. I also use it to get a bit of a tan on my shoulders. The sun doesn’t hit there very often.”
Hendriks, a native of Perth, Australia, was a good enough Aussie Rules football player to make the national All-Australia under-15 team. He certainly had the pedigree for the sport. His father, Geoff, enjoyed a long career in the Western Australian Football League and also coached on the national level and is now a scout.
Eventually baseball won out over football for Liam and he signed with the Minnesota Twins when he was 18. His original sport is still in his blood though, which is why Hendriks hits the field everyday with an Australian Rules football under his arm.
“I kick it by myself, run after it. I try to get the aim back,” Hendriks said. “It’s been a while now.”
The routine must work. On Tuesday, the hard-throwing right-hander enjoyed a strong debut with the A’s, going 2 2/3 innings and retiring all seven batters he faced in a 5-4 loss to the White Sox.
Hendriks’ goal is to get more of his A’s teammates to join him for his afternoon workout and learn the finer points of Australian Rules football.
Said Hendriks: “I need to get it through their heads that it’s not rugby first.”
A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie, who has four RBI in the A’s first two games, is a career .312 hitter in April (138-for-443), his highest average for any month.
After striking out five times in his first six at-bats of the season, left fielder Khris Davis connected for a sixth-inning double Tuesday for his first hit with the A’s. First baseman Yonder Alonso also got his first hit with Oakland and it was a big one – a two-run single that tied the game in the eighth 4-4.