The closing paragraph of today.s “Astros Report” on page C8 of the Friday, August 17, 2012 Houston Chronicle sports section pretty much says it all. Astros owner Jim Crane is reported saying that the club has been busy soliciting fans’ opinions on the future of Tal’s Hill in center field.
According to the article, Crane reports that fans have said “they don’t see a lot of sense in having that 436 (-foot fence) in center. We”re looking at a design that would incorporate some other things out there. We would use that space for a lot of different things.”
Other things like what, Mr. Crane? More seats that are too small to sit in without getting married to the two people on either side of you? Two or three more aisles that are so narrow that everyone has to stand when one person in the middle leaves to buy a hot dog? Another over-priced restaurant that everyone quickly learns to avoid? More advertising space, or perhaps, a center field corral of Chick Filet cattle? And, hey, bringing center field back to something like 390 feet and a better match for the short porches in left and right?
OK, I’ll back off this much to say: Please take anything i say on this subject with a huge grain of salt, Mr. Crane. It’s your ball club and money at risk here, not mine. I’m just one of those people who like liked the idea of Tal’s Hill in the first place and also the fact that it is one of the traditional and characteristic quirky features of our unique venue in Houston. I also liked the guy it was named for. Tal Smith will always be the real father of Houston major league baseball and I will always believe that he and the Hill are both very much deserving of more respect than they have been getting from this transitional period.
Boston Fenway has the Green Monster. Chicago Wrigley has the ivy wall. Both are traditions – something that rarely, if ever, gets fed in Houston, but we had the makings of it in Tal’s Hill and that deep center field dimension. Those fans who haven’t been around baseball long enough to see it need to take another look at the rationale for that deep and spacious middle pasture. The “436″ in center takes away almost all of the band box taunts we get from out-of-towners because of the Crawford Boxes – or the almost as short wall in right. The current distances make MMP like a modern-day Polo Grounds – one that just awaits only time and circumstance some day to bring us a play that will stand up in history as a memory rival to Willie’s famous “The Catch” in the World Series of 1954.
Just don’t tell us that Tal’s Hill will be coming out because most of the real Houston fans want it out. You either haven’t talked to enough fans, or you’ve been talking to fans who are ready to tell you what they think you already want to hear. It’s easy to see that happening.
If Tal’s Hill comes out, as it now appears you have already decided it will, just say it’s because that’s the way you want it. We can handle the truth. We just don’t have to like it.
As Tal’s Hill goes, a lot of us will grieve over the latest lost opportunity to preserve a little tradition in Houston. Call off the demolition of Tal’s Hill and give tradition a chance in Houston. If you can’t do that much, then give us the space to grieve its loss and, while you’re at it, if you could give us more comfortable seating room and aisle space in the nosebleed section now, you might even win the eventual battle with HD home TV viewing comfort that is now totally lost to the currently overwhelming attractions of the latter option.
Tags: The Future of Tal's Hill