Until 2016 anyway, playing centerfield at Minute Maid Park in Houston might be the trickiest position to play in all of Major League Baseball. That’s because of the obstacle known as Tal’s Hill, which most in the game would agree is an unnecessary gimmick and potential hazard.
That’s at least a small part of the reason why Houston acquired centerfielder Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers this season. He possesses the athleticism and fearlessness required to survive and conquer the challenge. It’s also the main reason why Tal’s Hill will be completely removed this offseason as part of a $15-million renovation to Minute Maid Park, which will also involve relocating the flag poles that are in play in centerfield.
Those are good things, especially for future Astros like prospect Andrew Aplin, who currently mans centerfield for Triple-A Fresno. Then again, as we saw on Tuesday, Aplin is also capable of conquering hills in the outfield, making an incredible tumbling catch atop the hill at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.
Aplin made the catch in the ninth inning, robbing Albuquerque’s Christian Adames of certain extra bases. The ball was obviously hit well, but kept carrying and carrying and carrying as it so often does at Isotopes Park. It was also slicing away from Aplin as he retreated and finally reached the base of the hill about 415 feet from home plate. Aplin then stumbled up the hill and tumbled to the ground, yet somehow made the catch without losing possession or crashing into the wall.
It’s as good a catch as you’ll see, with several degrees of difficulty added due to the hill’s slope. Of course, it’s also a pretty good reminder of how dangerous these types of ballpark features can be. A lot could have gone wrong, but Aplin navigated it safely to record the out.
That out, by the way, was the second in the inning and likely critical to the outcome. Fresno was holding a 5-4 lead and held on to win by that score. If that ball drops and gets away, it’s obviously a very different situation.
To sum it up, very well played, Andrew Aplin.
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