From early struggles to Home Run Hitting Contest Champion; James Tibbs has reinvented himself and carried the Whitecaps with him

Tibbs throwing his bat after recording a walk in Brewster’s 15-8 win over the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. Photo credit: Sadie Parker

By Mark Rappaport

BREWSTER—-On the last day of June, the weather was cold, and the Whitecaps were not much better. James Tibbs, the highly touted outfielder out of Florida State, was struggling at the plate, along with his team.

Fast forward to the All-Star break, and Tibbs has turned his season on its head, thanks to an outstanding July, and has become an absolute force at the plate.

Statistics tell the story perfectly.

On June 30, Tibbs was batting .211 with a .303 on-base percentage and a .671 OPS, all stats well below average at the time.

Just three weeks later, as of July 26, Tibbs has raised his batting average to .290, along with a .378 OBP and a team-leading .862 OPS among qualified batters.

Tibbs’ bread and butter—his power—has also exploded onto the scene in July, as he has crushed four home runs alongside 15 RBI in just 18 games. Despite a subpar June, Tibbs has six blasts and 23 RBI on the season, good for third among all players in Cape League.

Tibbs celebrating along with his teammates after a blast in Brewster’s matchup at Wareham on July 7. Photo credit: Sadie Parker

Tibbs’ transformation is remarkable because he stands out in stark contrast to most players who struggled at one point in their Cape League career, including many future Major Leaguers.

When many players struggle in the Cape League, they are unable to turn around their seasons, and some even give up altogether. However, Tibbs was hyper-focused on turning his season around, even when his prospects at one point looked bleak.

“Definition of overcoming adversity…he’s a kid that, you know, struggled in the beginning of the year, and instead of quitting and going home and running and hiding, he decided to stick it out and figure out a way to get better,” Whitecaps manager Jamie Shevchik said. “I respect that more than anything else.”

Shevchik and Brewster’s coaching staff never gave up on Tibbs, either. Shevchik always believed in him from before the season and throughout his struggles and many successes since.

“They’ve really helped me and just have been really easy going with me, which has been a huge blessing,” Tibbs said. “They’ve allowed me to go out there and be myself and go through the growing pains in hopes that it would make me a better player, and it has.”

Tibbs’ blast on June 19 at home against the Wareham Gatemen. Video credit: Mark Mincolelli

Tibbs also credits his struggles with adjusting from college ball to summer ball. Athletes primarily use metal bats in college and only play a few days a week. However, players transition to strictly wooden bats in summer and professional baseball and play six or even seven days a week.

“Trying to get comfortable with the season and the daily grind is something that I think a lot of us have to, you know, get used to and figure out,” Tibbs said. “Now it’s trying to figure out how to be mentally and physically prepared to go every single day.”

Shevchik also credits Tibbs’ turnaround at the plate because of Brewster’s offensive makeup. Josh Pearson (LSU) has made a considerable difference in the third spot of Brewster’s order. Tibbs has consistently hit in the second spot, ahead of Pearson, and has prospered ever since.

“In the beginning, you know, maybe Tibbs felt that he had to do everything on his own…he had to be the number one RBI guy, had to lead every offensive category,” Shevchik said. “When a guy like Pearson arrived, Tibbs became better because of that, because he didn’t have to do everything.”

However, Tibbs has gone a long way at the plate on his own. As Tibbs has improved, the team has followed his lead.

Although Tibbs is not the traditional “leader” and is not the most outspoken, he has influenced his club and commands the respect of his teammates.

“He’s not the big vocal guy. He’s not the yeller,” Whitecaps hitting coach Scott Grimes said. “His leadership shows through his hard work. The guy is always at work. He’s always doing extra stuff, always wanting to talk and to figure out what he can adjust or be better at.”

Tibbs along with teammate Michael Robertson (Florida) in Brewster’s win over Harwich on July 6. Photo credit: Sadie Parker

After an outstanding month of June, Tibbs represented the Whitecaps in the All-Star Game in Harwich and the Cape League’s Home Run Hitting Contest, which Tibbs won. He beat out many bats, including Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox slugger Hunter Hines (Mississippi State), who leads the league in homers, as well as Whitecaps teammate Jared Jones and Hyannis’ Cameron Smith, a teammate of Tibbs from Florida State.

“It was really cool. I definitely didn’t expect to win,” Tibbs said. “There’s so much talent there and so much power and so, to be asked to do that and to come out victorious was a super cool experience.”

The Whitecaps are entering the final stretch of the regular season and are looking to make a push at the playoffs. Tibbs is central to that effort and is embracing the grind.

“Just continuing to grow and continuing to try to improve on what I’m trying to do consistently,” Tibbs said. “Regardless of what happens, you know, I feel really good about where I’m at”

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