It lasted 17 seasons, which is perhaps longer than expected, but after the Houston Astros end their home season, the notorious hill in center field, known from Minute Maid Park’s opening day as Tal’s Hill, will be no more. The Astros are done with it.
Tal’s Hill was named after Tal Smith, the club president without whose endorsement it never would have been part of the ballpark design, but the idea came from Convergence Design’s David Greusel, then project designer for the new ballpark with HOK Sport. David gave the team a presentation about his thoughts on the new ballpark before even starting the design, which included a shout-out to Crosley Field in Cincinnati, which had an incline in the outfield. Tal Smith embraced the idea, the league didn’t say no, and Tal’s Hill was born.
Tal’s Hill is what’s great about ballparks: the freedom to innovate with the dimensions and angles of the outfield. Home plate to first base is always 90 feet, but that center field wall can be any distance away, within reason. That freedom allows baseball fields to have something no NFL field does: personality. And Tal’s Hill was definitely part of the personality of Minute Maid Park.
How will the ballpark be different with Tal’s Hill gone? We’ll have to wait and see. But different it will be. Like that relative who got the nose job: they no longer have that prominent snout, but perhaps also lost a bit of themselves in the process.
For the record, we’re sorry to see Tal’s Hill go.