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Triple-A Braves starting early

The debut of the Gwinnett Braves will involve more than one "first" next year.

Charlotte, which tweaked its schedule, has seen to that. Instead of an opening night, the Knights will have an opening morning.

Gwinnett's International League opener April 9 at Charlotte will begin at 11:15 a.m., making it the first game of the 2009 minor league baseball season.

The Knights, who actually play in Fort Mill, S.C., picked the early start to make the Thursday game part of their student outreach program. More than 20 middle schools will send students to the game to participate in a math day.

The rest of the four-game opening series at Charlotte will have conventional start times, with night games on Friday and Saturday and a day game on Sunday.

The Braves will then play four games in Durham before coming home to begin a 10-game homestand at their new stadium under construction on Buford Drive north of Lawrenceville.

The Braves' Class AAA home opener is scheduled for April 17 against Norfolk. The Friday game will begin at 7 p.m.

Gwinnett is scheduled to play the Tides again on Saturday and Sunday, then conclude their opening homestand with three games against Durham and four against Charlotte.

Charlotte is affiliated with the Chicago White Sox, Durham with Tampa Bay and Norfolk with Baltimore.

The Braves haven't officially announced their schedule yet, but many other International League teams have.

Each team plays 144 games, with the regular season concluding on Sept. 7. The three division winners and a wild-card team advance to the Governors' Cup playoffs.

The Braves, who are moving to Gwinnett after 43 seasons in Richmond, will be in the four-team South Division with Charlotte, Durham and Norfolk. Gwinnett will play each of those teams 16 times. The 14-team International League also has a six-team North Division and four-team West Division. Buffalo, Lehigh Valley, Pawtucket, Rochester, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse are in the North. The West is made up of Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville and Toledo.

Gwinnett will play the West teams 12 times each and the North teams eight times each.

The International League takes a three-day break in July for the AAA All-Star Game. It will be hosted by the Pacific Coast League on July 15 in Portland, Ore.

SideBar: Gwinnett Braves

The Gwinnett Braves will begin their inaugural season in the Class AAA International League with an eight-game road trip, then play 10 games at home. All will be against South Division rivals Charlotte, Durham and Norfolk.

First Game

April 9 at Charlotte, 11:15 a.m.

Home Opener

April 17 vs. Norfolk, 7 p.m.