I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2010 has to offer each Sunday and Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.
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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I’ve seen you listed at 6’0” and 6’1”, and around 185-192 lbs. Where are you currently?
Matt Lipka: Right now I am 6’1”, around 188-190 lbs. During football I’ll get up to 195, maybe 200 lbs, just to make sure I’m not getting hurt out there.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Speaking of football, you are an all-state WR in Texas, correct?
Matt Lipka: Yes sir, I am.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What exactly does that mean? I know a lot of people back east don’t understand how the different divisions of Texas high school football work, 5A, 4A, etc, so can you explain what specifically it is that you were selected for?
Matt Lipka: Yeah, McKinney High School is 4A, and the selection is based on the whole state of Texas. You get picked from your district first, and then the all-state selections go through an approving process. This year I ended up with a little under 1,400 yards and had 22 receiving touchdowns and two kickoff return touchdowns. I ended up getting first-team all-state which is based on a lot of different polls, the most important one being the AP poll. I was voted first-team in that, but also in all of the other ones, too.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I speak to a lot of guys in Texas and football often plays a big role. Last year Shelby Miller told me that he just couldn’t stay away from the gridiron even though he knew there was potentially millions of dollars on the line. Where does football stand in your life?
Matt Lipka: You know, I’d say my passion has always been baseball. I grew up in Georgia and we moved out here to Texas when I was about ten. I played Georgia football one year and it wasn’t really that big, but then I came to Texas and they’ve got football turf fields and stuff, and we were just like “oh my gosh, high school looks like a college!” So Football is definitely the powerhouse here in Texas and it’s hard to get away from it if you’re an athlete, so I gave it a shot when I moved. It’s funny because I played center in Georgia and had never played receiver until middle school here, but my freshman year I got called up to play the last four games on varsity. After that I got all-state my sophomore year, all-state honorable mention my junior year, and then this year first-team all-state. I’d definitely say that football is fun and all for me, getting out there and strapping on the pads, but I love baseball.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Wait, so you were all-state your sophomore year, honorable mention your junior year, and then all-state again your senior year?
Matt Lipka: Yes, sir.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What drew you to Alabama? Was it being from the Georgia area and heading back in that direction?
Matt Lipka: I have family in Georgia, my sister was actually a kicker for West Alabama, she was the first girl to get a football scholarship, and my brother played at Georgia Southern as a linebacker. They still all live in Georgia and have families and stuff, so I don’t want to say it didn’t weigh into my decision because it definitely did, but the big thing was we went to the campus and we loved it. The coaches were so nice, and a big thing was that Mitch Gaspard was the recruiter at the time when Jim Wells retired, and now Gaspard got the head coach job, so I had done all my dealing and talking with Coach Gaspard and him getting the job was big for me. He’s just such a nice guy, such a good coach, and I think him, Dax, and Kyle Bunn as the new pitching coach from Clemson are a young, fiery staff that is going to put the program on a national championship run. I’m just excited for it and have nothing but good things to say.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Will you be playing football there?
Matt Lipka: You know, it was something that we took into consideration – we had talked to the football recruiters and stuff – but the big thing was what I wanted to do in the long run. It’s amusing to think about, but what I want to do is play baseball for a living, so I want to go there and focus on that so I can give Major League Baseball my best shot.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How about two-way?
Matt Lipka: We haven’t done a lot of talking about it. I do pitch, but I’ll be doing a lot more shortstop, I think.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft?
Matt Lipka: The way I look at it is that if it’s meant to be then it’s going to happen. The last thing I want to do is put pressure on myself and try and perform for those guys. They’re all great guys and I love talking to them – the process has been great for me – but the thing is you have to keep the game fun, just let your tools fly, and go out and enjoy playing your senior year. Yeah, it goes through your mind, but it’s got to be one of those things that you’ve got to get used to because even in minor league ball you’ll have guys coming to look at you, so it definitely shouldn’t make anybody press. I just want to go out there, have fun, and play.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What’s your dream when you think about playing professional ball?
Matt Lipka: Oh man, I mean, ever since you’re a kid you have your friends in the backyard and pretend it’s the bottom of the 9th, you’re playing in front of a full park, and you get the winning hit and feel like the hero. That’s the way I look at it, to be in that glorified scene is where I want to be, and where I’m striving to be every day I put on a uniform or go and work out. It would be a dream come true, and with that thought in mind I want to work harder and get after it.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?
Matt Lipka: With Zach Lee and me being at the same school a lot of them have gone up to our baseball facility and killed two birds with one stone by meeting with us at the same time. I think I’ve had around 25 in-home visits and have met with four or five other teams at our facility.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Any contact from the Yankees?
Matt Lipka: Yes, sir. Mark Batchko is our area guy, very nice guy. He signed Heathcott last year, right?
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: He sure did. Do you know Slade at all?
Matt Lipka: I watched him in, I want to say it was a game to go to the state semis, and he was wobbling around – he’s got that big fat brace on his knee - and then he hit two JACKS so he didn’t even have to run [laughs]. It was awesome.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How would you describe yourself as a hitter?
Matt Lipka: I have a slightly open stance and I like to let my speed play, which means I like to hit gap-to-gap. I think opposite field, especially late in the count. I don’t necessarily look for certain pitches early in the count because I can hit a curveball very well, instead I look for certain zones where I can get my hands extended and drive the ball. I try not to think too much – a lot of guys will go up there and get really technical – I like to go up there, relax, see the ball, hit the ball, and hustle on the basepaths.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: In terms of your approach, are you more patient or aggressive?
Matt Lipka: I definitely say I’m an aggressive hitter, I do like swinging at that first pitch, especially if I’m in the leadoff spot because some guys like to start the game off with a fastball. I am patient, I don’t chase balls out of the zone and I’m a disciplined hitter, but I’d definitely say I’m a more aggressive hitter.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is it like playing with Zach? Baseball America has you guys ranked as the 51st and 55th high school players in the country. What is it like being on the same team with someone who is in the same talent level as you?
Matt Lipka: It’s awesome. The funny thing is that ever since I came to Texas we’ve been playing together. I think I played on a different team for two years maybe, but then we played together on Team Kelly when I was 12 or 13, I think. I’m actually zoned to go to a different district, but my mom works for the McKinney district and so does his mom, so because of the travel I ended up going to McKinney, which is where Zach was, too. We ended up playing football and baseball together all four years, played varsity baseball together as freshmen, and even got called up to varsity football at the same time. Not only is he a great quarterback, but he’s a great pitcher too, so we’ve kind of got a nice tandem going on. To share thoughts with a big pitcher like him helps me hitting, and for him to be able to ask me about hitting helps him with pitching, so I think we help each other out, feed off of each other’s success, and definitely root for each other.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: He’s going to LSU on a football scholarship, right?
Matt Lipka: Yes, he is.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So you’re hitting leadoff? Has that been that way for your entire high school career?
Matt Lipka: I’m the leadoff hitter, yes sir. Freshman year I hit three, sophomore year I hit three and a little leadoff, last year I hit three in preseason tournaments but then went back to leadoff, and this year I’ve been leadoff. The reason for that is that I’ve gotten a lot faster in the last few years and my power numbers have improved, too, so I’ll get more pitches to hit out of the leadoff spot. I think last year I was second in DFW in homeruns behind Colton Cain, I had nine, so it’s been fluctuating some between one and three.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you know what you run your 60 in?
Matt Lipka: I think the last one was at the Texas Scouts Association, and it was a 6.3 flat.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I know a lot of the football guys get hyped up on the diamond, but what is your personality on the field?
Matt Lipka: I’m not really emotional, I’m not much of a “football guy” on the baseball field. I’d definitely say the hustle part, the toughness, and just being a grinder are the things I bring over. I always hustle on and off the field, and I think Pete Rose played the game the way it needs to get back to. Running out every ball, hustling on every play, putting pressure on the fielders, and going out there and giving it your all. That’s the way I like to play.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it like playing at Petco for the Aflac game?
Matt Lipka: Oh it was awesome. Not only are you playing with the best guys, which is crazy, but you’re playing at an amazing stadium and you get to see the locker room and stuff. That whole Aflac week was really special, we even got to visit a children’s hospital, which was good. I work with the Special Olympics so that was pretty special to me, and then the game itself was great with me and Tony Wolters turning the Rawlings Play of the Game, which was just icing on top.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Which MLB team are you a fan of?
Matt Lipka: I would say the Rangers, I’m a big Ian Kinsler fan. Brian Ragira and I actually went to a Texas game and that’s where the Aflac stuff was announced. I’ve gone to a few of those games, I’m definitely a big fan of those guys, and I’ve read the Josh Hamilton book, so it’s kind of surreal being out there and watching those guys play. I’ve done a workout at the Ballpark at Arlington, so seeing the behind-the-scenes stuff makes it all a lot cooler.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the players that you look up to in terms of their skills or the way they play?
Matt Lipka: Being a shortstop I’d definitely say my favorite player is Jeter. To be able to play that position for as long as he has is crazy, he’s such a leader on and off the field, you never see anything bad written about him, and he’s always a positive guy. He’s a grinder and a hustler, and I think he’s the ideal guy to look up to because of the examples he sets. I try as much as I can to be like him, but it’s obviously next to impossible to do that [laughs].
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal one skill from anybody else you’ve met in your draft class, whose would it be, and why?
Matt Lipka: I’d probably say Bryce Harper’s homerun hacks. I met him with Team USA and he’s an awesome guy and a close friend. He’s an extraordinary athlete and a special baseball player, but an even better kid, so he deserves everything he’s getting.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who’s the toughest pitcher you’ve faced?
Matt Lipka: I’d probably say Jameson Taillon. I’ve seen him three times this year and he’s filthy. You’ve got to respect his fastball that he’s pumping up there, but then you’ve also got to respect that curveball he’ll drop on you. It’s a nasty combination.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, what’s this whole process like for you?
Matt Lipka: It’s one of those things where you count your blessings and are just very grateful that God gave you these skills. You’ve just got to go out there, work for it, and prove everybody wrong. There’s a sense of security knowing that you’re at least going to college at Alabama, so it’s a great opportunity that’s a win-win. The big thing for me is that I just want to go out there and play, let the chips fall where they may, have fun with my senior year, give 110%, and things will happen the way they should.