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Local baseball community excited by Gwinnett Braves
High school coaches see opportunity for games at venue

Paul Pierce grew up in Macon, which gives him an appreciation for minor league baseball.

The Collins Hill baseball coach lived close enough to attend Atlanta Braves games on occasion, but more often he stayed in town to see the minor leaguers, whether it was the Macon Braves or even the Macon Peaches. He enjoyed the atmosphere and the baseball, in addition to the opportunity to see future stars before they're famous.

He still remembers seeing future St. Louis Cardinal speedster Vince Coleman pass through Macon.

"You get good crowds, a good atmosphere and it's affordable," Pierce said of minor league baseball, which comes to the county in 2009 with the Class AAA Gwinnett Braves. "It's something you can carry your kids to. From a selfish standpoint, I've got three kids under 3. It's affordable and if the kids get antsy, you're close to home."

Peachtree Ridge baseball coach Bubba Wilson shares Pierce's feelings on minor league baseball. He's gone to games, but he also has firsthand experience - he played three seasons of minor league ball in the Cleveland Indians farm system.

"I think it's definitely a good deal (to get a AAA team), it's exciting," Wilson said. "Minor league baseball is a great setting. And I definitely see the chance to play (high school) games over there."

That's a possibility that should excite local players and coaches the most.

The Braves' agreement with Gwinnett states that the county can use the stadium for up to 10 events per year. Those events could be high school games, similar to the ones hosted by Georgia, Georgia Tech and Turner Field in recent seasons.

"I think it would be a great venue (for a high school game)," said Pierce, who played in region championship games as a high-schooler at Macon's minor league park. "I was talking to a sister school yesterday when I heard the (Gwinnett Braves) rumor. It would be great to share (the stadium). Maybe one day we could host a region tournament or a state tournament there."