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As the American Association released its schedule Wednesday, it announced the simultaneous loss of a team for the 2012 season and interleague games with the Can-Am League.

The RailCats will open their 2012 home season May 25 at U.S. Steel Yard with a three-game series against Wichita and end at home with a Sept. 3 game against Laredo, the newest addition to the AA. The Gary team will play on the road in St. Paul when the regular season opens May 17.

The 'Cats will host Can-Am opponent Newark from June 7 through 10 and will make a 10-game road trip July 12 through 22 to Can-Am opponents yet to be announced. The two leagues announced that five Can-Am teams will make trips to American Association parks, while five AA teams will travel to play games on the East Coast. The RailCats are the eastern-most AA team and travel to the Can-Am opponents is closer than the trips to Amarillo or Laredo, Texas.

"We were one of the teams willing to travel east," RailCats president and general manager Kevin Spudic said. "When the idea was brought to the teams, we were interested. We were intrigued by interleague play. It's like a mini version of what Major League Baseball does, and we thought it was a good thing."

Starting next season, the Major League Baseball schedule will include one interleague game during each series as there are slated to be an odd number of teams in both the American League and National League.

The Can-Am League teams are centered on the East Coast and play in Brockton, Mass.; Newark, N.J.; Little Falls, N.J.; Quebec, Canada; New City, N.Y., and Worcester, Mass. Brockton, New Jersey and Quebec were all former Northern League teams, leaving after the 2002 season, the first year the RailCats played in the Northern League. Former RailCats manager Joe Calfapietra is the manager of the New Jersey Jackals.

The Laredo Lemurs that joined the American Association on Monday will absorb the Shreveport-Bossier franchise, the league also announced Wednesday, as the Captains and Fort Worth Cats will not play during the 2012 season. That leaves the American Association with 13 teams, necessitating the interleague play. Fort Worth is slated to return in 2013.

With 13 teams, the three American Association divisions next year will include the RailCats, Kansas City T-Bones, Lincoln Saltdogs, Sioux City Explorers and Wichita Wingnuts in the Central Division; the Amarillo Sox, El Paso Diablos, Grand Prairie AirHogs and Laredo Lemurs in the South Division, and the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, St. Paul Saints, Sioux Falls Pheasants and Winnipeg Goldeyes in the North Division.

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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.