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Why I hate Minute Maid

No, I am not talking about juice products. They’re just fine. It’s that idiotic amusement park that is pawned off as a baseball stadium in Houston.

Minute Maid Park may have been the difference Monday night as the visiting St. Louis Cardinals fell 3-2 to the Astros. After Houston went up in the fourth on a three-run home run by Carlos Lee that traveled over the silly Crawford Boxes, the Cards lost a golden opportunity against Brian Moehler in the fifth, victimized by the park.

With two on and two out, Ryan Ludwick blasted a baseball well over 400 feet onto that sideshow curiosity called “Tal’s Hill” in center field. Speedy Astros centerfielder Michael Bourn put on his hiking boots long enough to run down the ball, or should I say up the hill, ending St. Louis’ threat.

The new Busch Stadium gets positive marks around the league because “it plays fair”. One key aspect is no architectural tweaks that cheapen the game.

No one can say that about Minute Maid. Here are the top five things I dislike about that park.

1) Tal’s Hill, a 90-foot-wide grassy incline rises at a 30-degree slope from the outfield warning track to the wall in center field, 436-feet away from home plate. A flag pole adorns the hill – in fair territory. The cheesy gimmick was devised by former team president Tal Smith in homage to Cincinnati’s old Crosley Field.

All I know is that Cincinnati has built two new ballparks since Crosley and they didn’t see any reason to keep that hill. It isn’t a cool landmark like Boston’s Green Monster. It is just stupid, contrived and potentially dangerous. Some intelligent Houston fans hated Tal’s Hill badly enough they initiated a failed petition drive to try to get it removed.

2) The Crawford Boxes in left field provide one of the shortest porches in the game and therefore allow some of the cheapest home runs anywhere in baseball. They are only 315 feet away from home plate down the line to hit a home run, with a 19 foot tall wall. As a result, the bullpens are indoors – even when the roof is open! Go figure.

3) The Home Run Porch is located on a concourse in left-center field above Tal’s Hill that actually sits over the playing field in fair territory. Why should the outfielders have to play under the stands?

4) The roof. Building a retractable roof in humid Houston made a lot of sense, but my gripe is with the process of deciding whether to open or close it for any given game. The umpires, who should make the call, are not involved. Instead local management keeps the roof closed even on beautiful days when they want to try to intimidate their opponent by the piped-in noise.

5) The choo-choo train sits across the top of the left and left-center field wall. Why a train would be way up there, let alone one that is filled with fake oranges instead of coal is totally beyond me. Oh yeah, the train moves when the homeys hit a homer. Hard to believe, but this is even lamer than Bernie Brewer’s slide.

Call it sour grapes if you want since the park played into Monday’s result, but I was critical of this joke of a ballpark from the day it was initially christened Enron Field.

‘Nuff said about that.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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