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HardballTimes: The Flattening of Local Baseball


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I'll put it here and move it with breadcrumbs so that those who want to read it today get to see it.


At the end of the season, The Astros are finally going to remove Tal?s Hill from center field at Minute Maid Park. The death of Tal's Hill was inevitable; it is a combination of an easily mocked gimmick and a looming injury risk, and the only real issue keeping it from being removed as soon as Jim Crane bought the club is that somebody has to pay for the park's makeoverr.
(The local character of the game at my high school - and throughout most of my area, unfortunately, was largely, We're just waiting for football season to start - These schools regularly used the same area for the baseball outfield and the football field. Our fence was an ugly plastic, blaze orange snow fence right in front of our football bleachers, and a number of area schools spent too little on baseball to even plant grass in the infields. The pre-game conversation on the ground rules surrounding the goalpost in left field was always an adventure. If a struck ball hit it on the fly, it was ruled foul, a rule that definitely cost my team a home run once when I was a sophomore. And if an outfielder hit the goal post on the fly with a throw, all baserunners were given two free bases, something that once turned a simple ground ball down the left field line into one of the most unlikely and hilarious little league home runs I've ever seen.)
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"looming injury risk"? How many people have been hurt fielding balls on the hill? Any? How many balls go out there? One every five games? Ten? Did anyone ever get hurt on the hill at Crosley they modeled this one on?

Did anyone ever get hurt at Sulphur Dell?

Yes, it was a gimmick. But so are all fence asymmetries that aren't defined by property boundaries - which in modern $billion mallparks is all of them, since nobody has built a park on a strangely shaped 1.5 acre plot since before WWII.

I'm kind of torn here. Baseball parks have character largely because of their varying field dimensions. But there's an awful lot of gimmickry, a lot of new stadiums with features that try to be cool by mimicking things in old parks that were there because of actual constraints that don't apply to the new places. At Ebbets Field it was 296 to right because there was a street at about 305, and the stands had to fit so you weren't moving the plate. It's 318 to right at OPACY because the architects wanted it to be 318, they could have made it symmetrical. Ebbets had to be that way.

There are fine lines between cool and kitschy and silly.

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