- Seismic Shift In Baseball: Astros’ Chris Devenski Re-Defines Bullpen Roles
- Chicago Blackhawks Swept By Nashville Predators – A Series Recap
- Warren Gatland Hard On Scots In Lions Selection
- The Problem That Managers Ignore About The Shift
- Johnny Sexton And Leinster Ready To Take On French Giants
- NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Calgary Flames vs Anaheim Ducks
- Salute To 42: Willie Wells, Rev. Downs, And The Texas Influence On Jackie Robinson
- Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
- NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues
- NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Requiem Mound: Astros Ditch Tal’s Hill, Bring In Wall
- Updated: September 28, 2016
Wednesday not only marked the imminent death of the Houston Astros’ Wild Card hopes, but doomed, too, is the landmark Tal’s Hill, the 30-yard wide center field bump that has confounded outfielders for 17 years. The Seattle Mariners clobbered Houston, 12-4, in the last game the hill will see use, September 28.
The Astros ultimately got eliminated from playoff contention on their Thursday off day, when Baltimore shut out Toronto, 4-0.
Boot the Butte
On Columbus Day, Tal’s Hill (and its 30-degree incline) began its reduction to just another pile of dirt. The flag pole (and attendant star spangled banner) will have to find another place to yet wave, and the wall will inch glacially closer to the infield of Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston. Tal’s Hill was named after former Astros president Tal Smith.
“We are very pleased to be moving forward with our plans to renovate the center field area of our ballpark, and continue to improve the fan experience,” Houston Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan pronounced in August.
Burying the Shovel
Groundbreaking for the leveling of Tal’s Hill, and the commencement of the new renovations began October 10. At a cost of just short of $19 million, the project will be funded by the Astros. The 436-foot mark wall segment will go into the Astros’ archives.
Loam Field Advantage
Delayed since its original date of demise a year ago due to the Astros’ abbreviated playoff run, fans got a chance to selfie with the consequent sack of soil (30 bucks for a group of four) following Wednesday’s loss to Seattle.
Taking the place of the grassy, knee-buckling protuberance will be a $15 million renovation project that had no use for a flag-bearing hill lacking a revenue stream.
So, come Opening Day 2017, improved seating, new food and beverage options, plus additional escalators will take the place of the unique ballpark feature that echoed Cincinnati’s old Crosley Field, and its 15-degree left field “terrace.”
With the renovation, the once-distant 436-foot center field wall will be moved to a more tolerable (for hitters, anyway) 409 feet from home plate. What was once the deepest center field in the American League will now be the sixth-farthest center field.
According to the team, the design of the new center field area incorporated ideas from consultants, as well as feedback from fans. Current and former players and front office brass weighed in, as well. Astro execs also visited nearly two dozen MLB parks as part of the planning and visualization process.
Ryan also explained that, “This project is our latest effort to make Minute Maid Park one of the most modern and comfortable venues in Houston. Whether fans are taking in an Astros game, or attending one of our many special events, we are confident the updated center field area will provide a new and unique view of the action.”
As well as adding three new bar locations and four additional food locations, the first field-level seating area in the ballpark will be available.
In an interview last winter, the hill’s namesake added his own reflection on the changes looming on the horizon: “I’m over that, because for four years now, I’ve expected it’s going to go. It’s inevitable.”
Smith mentioned that he thought bringing in the wall will affect Minute Maid’s power alleys. “It’s going to play like a bandbox,” he said. “You’ve got very good defensive outfielders. I think that’s a big asset, but if they can’t get to a ball because it’s up against a fence or over a fence, you sort of negate that.”
The Dome’s Future
Plus, enjoy this TRS article from last year, which celebrated the Astrodome’s 50th Anniversary, and includes personal memories (including Nolan Ryan’s) of the venerable stadium, as well as several wild ideas about her future that were freely bandied about:
Brad was born and raised in the shadow of what eventually became Colt Stadium, and then, in '65, the Astrodome.
Brad's a semi-retired entertainer, having been lead singer (and flautist) of high school rock cover band Brimstone (Houston, early '70s).
He currently sings karaoke nightly, and also performs at nursing homes and private parties.
Join Brad at TRS for full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and surprises!
Latest posts by Brad Kyle (see all)
- Seismic Shift In Baseball: Astros’ Chris Devenski Re-Defines Bullpen Roles - April 22, 2017
- What If Astros’ Dickie Thon Avoids ’84 Beaning? Plus, Cards Await Rise Of AA 2B Dickie Joe Thon - April 20, 2017
- Break Up The Astros! Kyle Tucker Leads New A+ Buies Creek To Top Of Carolina Lg. - April 16, 2017