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Prep finals right for
G-Braves' stadium

The land being cleared on Buford Drive, a 12-acre site between Old Peachtree Road and Rock Springs Road, could become the mecca for Georgia high school baseball.

Gwinnett's new baseball stadium, which will house the Atlanta Braves' Class AAA affiliate in 2009, will be a success for its initial purpose as a must-see for minor-league fans. But it also offers great potential for other levels of baseball, including the state's high school baseball playoffs.

The new venue could be the goal for high school kids hopeful of reaching the state championship series.

It could be similar to football, where high-schoolers talk often about reaching the Georgia Dome for the state semifinals (or in this year's case, the finals). Or high school basketball, where the state's largest teams aim to make the Final Four at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Even some lesser-known high school sports have attractive playoff destinations. Take fastpitch softball, which plays its finals at the park in Columbus that hosted the 1996 Olympic Games, as a prime example.

What does baseball have in the playoffs? High school games at high school ball parks. I like that ambience, too. For the first four rounds.

In the finals, I'd love to see baseball get something special with championship games played at a first-class facility used by professionals.

The area, near Atlanta and the sprawling Mall of Georgia, is certainly attractive for the high school tourney. Most of Georgia's bigger high school programs are in metro Atlanta, and the ones that aren't surely would enjoy a trip to the city for games in a AAA park.

The high schoolers would get to play a stadium with nearly 8,000 permanent seats that will seem like a small-scale version of Turner Field. The field would be plush. Neither team would have a huge home-field edge (like knowing which way the ball bounces on a lumpy field or what areas are in and out of play).

There are certainly road blocks to this happening. Finding open dates in busy late May or early June and getting the Braves' cooperation aren't guarantees. The interest of high school programs would have to be gauged.

But there's plenty of time to research the idea - the stadium's still nearly a year from completion.

Why pass up a chance to be the hub for Georgia high school baseball?

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.