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What you need to know...

WHY: Baseball owners decided to go ahead with interleague play in hopes it spurs fan interest. The players union agreed to go along on a two-year experimental basis.

WHEN: This season, all interleague games will be played during three periods _ June 12-18, June 30-July 3 and Aug. 28-Sept. 3.

HOW MANY: Each East and Central division team will play 15 interleague games _ one three-game series against each team in the corresponding geographic division. Each West team will play 16 interleague games _ a home-and-home two-game series against the teams in the other West division.

DH SITUATION: Home-field rules apply, just like the World Series. Both teams will use the DH in the AL parks and neither will in the NL parks.

UMPIRES: AL umpires will work games at AL parks, NL umps at NL parks. There will be no split crews.

STATISTICS: Everything counts as usual. Ken Griffey Jr. could win the AL home run title _ or even break Roger Maris' record _ with home runs hit against the Rockies at Coors Field.

FIRST PITCH: About 8:35 p.m. June 12, when the San Francisco Giants visit the Texas Rangers.

WHAT ABOUT NEXT YEAR: Details are still being worked out, but the number of games may increase to about 20. With 15 teams in each league, interleague play will be spread over the entire season. There also is talk of rotating the interleague matchups by divisions, or setting them up to emphasize natural rivalries. Tampa Bay managing general partner Vince Naimoli says there is an agreement for the Devil Rays to play interleague games against the Braves and Marlins along with the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres.

- MARC TOPKIN

Up next:BATTER UP!

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