LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Less than one year removed from a successful two-sport career at suburban Dallas' McKinney High School, Matt Lipka took advantage of an opportunity to get his first taste of competing with and against Major Leaguers.
Designated an extra for Saturday's split-squad game against the Mets at Champion Stadium, Lipka was inserted as part of a fifth-inning double switch. Just a few minutes after the 18-year-old shortstop took the field, he dove to his right and prevented a sharp grounder from reaching the outfield grass.
Less than five minutes later, Lipka opened the bottom of the fifth by sending a Pat Misch pitch down the right-field line for a leadoff double, showing Braves fans some of the speed that helped him become an All-State wide receiver in Texas.
"He threw me two changeups, and then I just waited back on the last one and just kind of did a defensive swing and sprayed it out to right," Lipka said. "Any time you can play with these guys and hang out with all the big guys, it's going to improve your game and increase your desire to get there a little sooner."
After crossing the plate on a Nate McLouth sacrifice fly, Lipka slapped hands with Chipper Jones as the veteran third baseman was strolling to the plate. Jones had played at least 180 professional games before Lipka was born.
Lipka, who was selected in the first round of last summer's First-Year Player Draft, was designated as an extra in one previous split-squad game earlier this month, but didn't play. His parents arrived in the Orlando, Fla., area two days ago and were in the stands to see their son make his entrance.
"I'm sure they were thrilled," Lipka said. "They timed it perfectly."