Tal's Hill, also called "The Grassy Knoll", was a 90 foot wide-30 degree incline in the outfield at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, United States. It was created in 2000 when Enron Field (as Minute Maid Park was named at the time) opened with a flagpole on it. In 2016, Tal's Hill was leveled in order for the Houston Astros to add a new seating area to center field in place of the hill. It was named after former Astros President Tal Smith who proposed its inclusion.
In 1996, when the Astros were designing a new stadium during a meeting at the Astrodome, owner Drayton McLane asked "What can we do to make this ballpark special?" Tal Smith responded by suggesting a hill in center field similar to the Cincinnati Reds' Crosley Field. The project became known as "Tal's Hill" when architects Populous made designs to facilitate the inclusion of the hill.
When Enron Field, opened the first catch on Tal's Hill was made by the Atlanta Braves' Andruw Jones in 2000 after he had previously fallen over running up the hill on the previous play. Catches on the Hill were viewed to be some of the toughest to make and a number of players fall over on it. Lance Berkman once said about it: "If the ball rolls onto the hill, it's not steep enough to roll back, so you have to go get it, then there’s the chance of running into the flagpole that’s on it and getting hurt.”
In 2015, the Houston Astros announced that Tal's Hill would be removed as part of an organizational evaluation requested by owner Jim Crane. It was to be replaced with a new seating area and concession stands. The removal was scheduled for the end of the 2015 Major League Baseball season however, the Astros reached the postseason which delayed the works until after the 2016 season. The groundbreaking on removal took place on 10 October 2016. The removal of Tal's Hill was viewed as another of a number of variations in MLB ballparks being removed for financial gain and also as a creeping attempt at uniformity in MLB ballpark's playing fields.
Under the Minute Maid Park ground rules, both Tal's Hill and the flagpole were considered in play. However if a ball hit the flagpole on the hill, if it stayed in the field of play it was in play. If it went out of the field of play it was a home run. The Hill was criticized numerous times owing to the incline having the potential to cause injury to fielders unused to it. Despite this, there was never an injury to any player in relation to Tal's Hill.
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