The Gwinnett Stripers will return to the field April 6.

Minor league baseball, retooled and back after a one-year absence from the pandemic, will return for 2021 with new alignments and fewer teams. But one thing that doesn’t change is the Stripers’ tie with the Atlanta Braves. The longest running affiliation in the sport will continue through a 10-year contract announced last week.

The Stripers announced their 2021 schedule Thursday. It includes an April 6 opening day at Durham and a home opener a week later against Memphis, a new opponent.

A complete realignment of minor league baseball means the end of the old International League. The Stripers will compete in the Triple-A East League, which includes 14 teams previously in the IL, four teams from the Pacific Coast League, Jacksonville from the Double-A Southern League and independent St. Paul.

Gwinnett will face eight of the 19 other teams in the league this year, mostly teams within 600 miles of Lawrenceville. The Stripers will play 118 games against their six Southeast Division rivals: Charlotte (a Chicago White Sox affiliate), Durham (Tampa Bay Rays), Jacksonville (Miami Marlins), Memphis (St. Louis Cardinals), Nashville (Milwaukee Brewers) and Norfolk (Baltimore Orioles).

The remaining 24 games will be against Columbus (Cleveland Indians) and Louisville (Cincinnati Reds) of the Midwest Division.

The Stripers will have 12 home weekends this year, including Memorial Day weekend (May 28-30), Father’s Day (June 20) and Labor Day weekend (Sept. 3-5).

The schedule includes six-game series this year with Monday off days between them. Instead of the season wrapping up on Labor Day, it will continue until Sept. 19.

The team said it will use contactless, mobile-only ticketing, socially distanced seating and other safety protocols to protect fans in the age of COVID-19.

Season tickets remain on sale, and a limited number of individual game tickets will be available to the public closer to opening day.

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