It's a sad day in Astros history, as the club announced today they plan to remove Tal's Hill from center field. For me personally, it's always been a source of great highlights, a great ice breaker to talk about with out of town fans, and something we can call our own as Astros fan. Is it the end of the world to see the Hill removed? Certainly not, but it does hurt to see it go. It won't matter as much if the improvement make a better use of the space in center and we see more home runs to center field from the Astros.
Now let's talk to the TCB writers about their feelings:
I am dead inside. Truly dead. I cannot express my lack of crap-giving when it comes to Tal's Hill one way or another. That in itself is a strong argument in favor of removal. If you have something pointless, soulless, but still noteworthy in your hometown team's ballpark. It's a reason enough to make it go away. As long as it isn't replaced by a Marlins-esque sculptrocity, I am in favor of this.
I blame Terri. (Editors' note: Terri recently wrote about Tal's Hill.)
Okay, you probably want more. I'd be overreacting if I said I was devastated, but I don't like it. I like the hill, I like having the deepest center field in the Majors. The hill has provided for some great memories, from Berkman, to Bourn, to Marisnick just this year. It's something we have that other parks don't. It's something non-standard, and I like non-standard features in a ballpark, even if they're manufactured or whatever label you want to put on them. There's also a personal and admittedly silly/unimportant factor to me; I'm fairly OCD, and the hill serves as a sort of safety edge visually. Like the lip of a plate or bowl. You have a completely flat flat plate, what keeps the food from falling off? It would be like if my computer desktop suddenly didn't have the taskbar at the bottom, like the rug is suddenly pulled out! My OCD brain does not like that.
Yeah, dumb reason, but you asked. Also, I still want them to replace the train with some kind of rocket/shuttle/space craft, but they're removing the hill instead. So yeah. Blah.
The only benefit to this is that I can stop listening to people whining about that stupid hill in center field. I like the hill. I need the hill. The hill is life. The hills is Minute Maid Park. The hill is the Astros. We've been climbing that hill all our lives. The hill is the purest, truest representation of this team. So near a precipice. So near a goal. But one final obstacle to overcome. Always that one... final... obstacle to overcome. The Astros were a team over the hill. Now they're not. They're young. So just get rid of the hill. We no longer need it to support us. We're not over it any more. The hill. The hill, you guys, the hill! A team with no real history adopts a ballpark feature with no real history - cobbled together with vague pieces of logic and justification stolen from other hills, other parks, other teams, other cities. That hill is Houston. That hill is the Astros. That hill is you. That hill is me.
But alas, finally, the whiny masses will be silenced, as the whiny masses in the national media are silenced by the Astros' play on the field. So congratulations, hill haters. You've won. I hope this helps you find warmth and comfort in the vast, cold, deep, dark pit where you may or may not once have held a soul.
I'm in favor of it. Not only is the hill pretty meaningless for the average fan (what percentage of Astros fans know who Tal Smith is?), it doesn't serve much of a purpose. Seriously, it's dumb when your can pull a ball 330 feet down the LF line for homer at MMP, but if you crush one to straighaway center you're more likely to make an out than to get on base. I know the hill makes MMP's park factor pretty neutral, but moving the fence in in CF shouldn't affect it too much either.
Also, instead of having centerfielder's flail around on the hill trying to make a circus catch, they'll have a chance to rob homers out there. That is also cool.
I'll say this; worse than losing the hill is going to be seeing the Astros patting themselves on the back for doing it "for the fans! You asked, we listened! We love you! Season tickets are now on sale, by the way."
No, if you were getting rid of something for the fan's sake, you'd be getting rid of the universally-loathed Chick-fil-A Fowl Pole ads, or that gargantuan view-blocking Citgo sign. I've literally heard not one person who likes those things, and I've heard far more hate for them than the hill. At least be honest about it, Astros; you're doing this so you can fit more people in and try to make more money.
If they bulldozed the hill and kept the centerfield fence where it is, I wouldn't think twice about it, but I do have a problem with bringing in the fence. We have the deepest centerfield in baseball. That's cool. I like that you have to be Richie Sexson to muscle the ball out of the park to dead center. The hill is a gimmick, sure, but the deepest centerfield in the game is an awesome feature of the park.
The hill has never bothered me at all. I always thought it was a little gimmicky and fake, but I just ignored it. There aren't that many plays out there so to me it is a non-issue. So keep the hill, level the hill, move the fence in front of the hill, whatever. Just quit talking about the hill.
Now the flagpole, that's another story...
I have to echo the sentiments above. Remove the hill and pole, but keep the wall at 436. Reid Ryan just said on the broadcast that they only expect about 3-4 more home runs a year, but I think there will be more than that. I enjoyed having the super huge super deep outfield. I was completely indifferent to the hill. I hated the flag pole.
This makes a ton of sense from an economical standpoint. I was personally indifferent about Tal's Hill (and even the flagpole, although I found it weird that it was in play). But Reid Ryan mentioned that they polled a ton of fans, and the results were surprisingly close to 50/50. Since the fans were split about it, then you essentially have wasted real estate in dead center (I don't this happens if 3/4 or even 2/3 of the fans felt strongly about keeping it). With that being said, I see no problem with tearing it down and adding a revenue-creating space there, via either seats or additional concession spaces. We need to start saving up for Correa's big contract, and if this helps get us there, I will certainly not oppose it.
I'm kind of sad. It's fun, it's interesting and it's certainly challenging, albeit a nuisance. But, it's so quintessentially Houston Astros. I will miss you, Tal's Hill.
I obviously have magical powers. I whined about it yesterday and it's announced today that they are removing it. Anything else I want, I'm asking for on TCB.
Seriously though, change can be good and getting the flagpole removed from play is more important to me than the hill itself. I'll be interested to see how it looks when they are done, but so far, since Reid Ryan's arrival, all the changes around the park have been outstanding. I hope with this change that trend continues.