The Houston Astros are having a terrific 2015 season, sporting the best record in baseball. Still, many expect them to eventually come back to earth. If that happens, it will be disappointing, but their season will still be an unqualified success if only because of the news today that Tal’s Hill is finally going to be removed. Via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:
The Astros have received preliminary approval from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority their plans for a $15-million renovation to Minute Maid Park that would include the removal Tal’s Hill in center field and moving the flag poles so they’re no longer in play.
Astros owner Jim Crane thanked the Sports Authority for their support at a meeting Thursday morning and said the renovation project would begin as soon as the season ends and would be finished in time for the 2016 season. The renovations would include more fan-friendly areas in center field.
Bravo, Astros! The idea of having a ponderously deep straight away center field that has an abrupt incline and multiple flag poles in the field of play was, well, let’s be nice and just call it ill-advised. Tal’s Hill and the flagpoles are one of the remnants the new ballpark boom that started in the 1990’s when each new stadium had to have its own unique quirk. This went well beyond quirk though and was quickly recognized as nothing more than an abomination.
Frankly, it is a miracle that no center fielder ever shredded their knee or broke their ankle on Tal’s Hill. Some certainly came close to suffering major injuries, but it really seemed only like a matter of time before one actually happened. In fact, just about any player ever questioned about Tal’s Hill voiced concern, much like former Astros outfielder Jordan Schafer did a few years ago:
“I just think it’s a matter of time before someone gets hurt,” Schafer said. “For me, it would be a shame to see somebody tear an ACL and be out for the year because they’re running up a hill. It’s something unique about our park, but I’d rather be healthy all year instead of run up a hill and tear an ACL.”
So long, Tal’s Hill. You won’t be missed even a little bit, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention one of the few good highlights that you ever helped create, which is Carlos Beltran’s excellent catch running up the hill:
Nice catch, but not at all worth keeping the hill around for.