Minute Maid Park has always had a few unique features to it, the Crawford Boxes, a train atop the left field wall, a flag pole in the field, and a hill in center field. Tal's Hill slopes at a 30-degree incline and spans 25 feet across the cavernous center field that at it's deepest point is 436 feet away from home plate. Today, the Astros announced they have preliminary approval Harris County-Houston Sports Authority for a $15 million renovation to Minute Maid Park that would remove Tal's Hill.
Tal's Hill was the brainchild of former team president Tal Smith, who wanted to pay homage to Crosley Field. Then Enro Field opened in 2000 with a hill and flag pole in play. It's been the sight of many fantastic catches and was even once hit by the Brewers' Richie Sexson during a game.
MLB.com's Brian McTaggart was first to break the story, he spoke with Astros owner Jim Crane:
"As you know, Tal's Hill, some people love it, some people hate it," Crane said. "We just thought it would be a better ballpark by moving that in. I think the distance will be 409 or 410, so it will still be a very deep center field. There's always been concern with the flag poles in play and danger in that, and also the injuries going up the Hill, so we think this would be better for the players, utilize the space better and be a very pretty ballpark."
Tal's Hill has been a point of emphasis for Astros president Reid Ryan. Ryan talked about the future of the hill before the 2014 season:
"We've pulled people in the past (about removing the hill), and it's about 50-50. There are Tal's Hill lovers and Tal's Hill haters."
Ryan has always talked extensively about creating an Astros Hall of Fame to immortalize players without retiring their numbers. These changes to center field will pave the way for an hall of fame structure. The removal of Tal's Hill will create field level seating, additional food locations, and new bar locations.
The Astros hope to have the construction done in time for the opening of the 2016 season.
McTaggart tweeted out renderings of the final product as currently planned.
Rendering of how the new CF will appear. pic.twitter.com/6zUbEFwQYR— Brian McTaggart ⚾️ (@brianmctaggart) June 4, 2015
Another rendering pic.twitter.com/V1wyiFU7lf— Brian McTaggart ⚾️ (@brianmctaggart) June 4, 2015
It's been a fun 15 year run for the hill, but it's time to pour one out for the old boy.