July 22nd, 2024

Thibodeau an early force for Mavs

By JAMES TUBB on June 21, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Mavericks' catcher Nick Thibodeau admires his two-run home run in the Mavs' 13-12 10th inning win Saturday at Athletic Park over the Moose Jaw Miller Express.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

Self described ‘city boy’ Nick Thibodeau is warming up to the smaller Medicine Hat.

The Medicine Hat Mavericks catcher is from Burlington, Ont., a city one hour from Toronto with a 2021 population of 125,435. He joined the Mavs from the University of West Alabama, located in the heart of Livingston, AL.

While his school’s city doesn’t have a large population, recorded at 3,205 in 2022, he says it’s felt different playing in the Gas City and he is warming up to the change of pace.

“It’s like two different places, it’s just something I’ve never experienced before,” Thibodeau said. “Being out here, just being in a town, like, I would say, is almost in the middle of nowhere. It’s different, but over time it’s starting to grow on me and I’m starting to like the town, the people, the fans and everybody here.”

While it’s taken some adjustment for him from Burlington to Medicine Hat, his game on the field has shown no sign of alteration.

Thibodeau has been a quiet leader of the Mavs offence to start the season. His 26 RBIs and six doubles lead the team, and his RBI total has him third in the WCBL. He’s tied with Jordan Phillips in home runs (5) and is one back of Phillips in hits with 31. He’s also second in batting average at .388, Tyler Vanneste leads with a .400 average in four fewer games played.

Thibodeau has suited up in all 19 games the Mavs have played this season entering Thursday, and he credits his offence to a mindset of just being prepared.

“It’s feeling pretty good so far, just going out there and just doing what I can, every single day, just try my best,” Thibodeau said. “Whatever happens, happens, is just all that I do. I don’t really force much, I don’t really try to do too much. If I go 3-for-4 one night, or if I go 0-for-4 one night, I just go out there, just do my best.”

He’s been held hitless only three times this season. Thibodeau says when the big moments come at the plate he just tries to stay in his own lane.

“I try not to let big moments change me because I know for some people, big moments get too big for them and it causes a lot of problems,” Thibodeau said.

It’s a presence head coach Kevin Mitchell has appreciated having in the lineup. He says Thibodeau has been a constant for them early in the season, stemming from his approach.

“He’s come through for us in some really big spots,” Mitchell said. “He’s obviously got the power numbers and he’s driving in runs, which obviously you need those guys. But I think what Tib has done really well is remain really composed. He’s avoided any major lulls throughout his start of the season and he’s obviously had a ton of success.

“He’ll have a game or two where he looks like he’s searching for it a little bit, but even then, there’s some really good swings and the approach stays the same. He does not seem to waver from what he knows he does well, and that’s what’s allowed him to have success.”

On top of his control at the plate, Thibodeau enjoys the nuances of being a catcher and the ability to be at the forefront of the game behind the dish. He enjoys every time he gets to strap up the shin guards and call a game.

“It’s probably one of the hardest positions to play out there and we get beat up and all that, but it’s still great being able to see everything that happens, controlling the game, calling pitches, it’s just the best position to play,” Thibodeau said.

He seemingly wears a foul ball once a game, taking a couple of seconds to acknowledge the pain before he moves onto the next pitch. Thibodeau says he doesn’t worry about getting hit while behind the plate, seeing it as a necessary evil of the job.

Growing up outside Toronto, Thibodeau says he was a Blue Jays fan but hasn’t followed the team as of late. He doesn’t have any MLB catchers he models his game around, instead looking up to his older brother Johnathan who played the same position.

Thibodeau wouldn’t answer who is better at the position between himself and his brother but was all smiles talking about where Johnathan excelled and what he tried to learn from his catching idol.

“He was really good at catching, he’s a pretty good painter, but, like, he’s well known for being a really good defensive catcher,” Thibodeau said.

“When I was younger back in high school, and even in elementary school when he was older than me, I would ask him a couple of things and he would tell me a couple things,” Thibodeau said.

He had two hits, two runs scored and an RBI in the Mavs’ 15-7 win Wednesday at Moose Jaw over the Miller Express.

The Mavs were back at Moose Jaw on Thursday to face the Millers. That game was not complete by press time, visit medicinehatnews.com/sports for a full game story.

The Mavs (12-7) are back at Athletic Park on Friday, hosting the Swift Current 57’s.

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