Rockies minor league team in Albuquerque ditches iconic outfield feature
Crosley Field, Minute Maid Park, and now Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park all have one field oddity in common: hills.
But like the demolished Crosley and re-modeled Minute Maid, Isotopes Park’s hill will be a thing of the past. The Isotopes announced this week that the iconic “Topes Slope” will be scrapped this winter. The change comes as Major League Baseball has gotten more involved with the minors over the past decade, from changing Player Development Contracts to contracting the Minor Leagues significantly. The hill being flattened also comes in the wake of minor league ballplayers joining the Major League Baseball Player Association.
As the games down on the farm have tightened up and development has become more serious, the quirks of the minors are being relegated to away from the field.
The steep hill presented a possible injury risk, so it’s being done away with, but the 127-foot area from left-center to right-center in New Mexico will not be forgotten.
After 19 seasons, it's time to say goodbye to our center field hill.
You produced some of our fondest memories and the most spectacular catches.
After Wednesday's 6:35 pm game, fans are invited to take pictures in front of the hill to say goodbye.
Thanks for the fun times.✌️ pic.twitter.com/C6OK5VLtrC
— Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes) September 26, 2022
The steep slope rises four feet over a 20-foot area before the fence in center field, and it pushes the often homer-friendly park’s deepest wall to 428 feet from home plate.
— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) May 24, 2013
The feature is similar to the one ditched in Houston that used to cover 90 feet, slopping 30% and making straightaway centerfield a league-long 436 feet from the plate. The hill was in ode to Crosley in Cincinnati, sloping 15 degrees in left field, causing greats like Babe Ruth and Willie Mays to stumble. Unlike Houston or Albuquerque, where the hills were created as an unnatural quirk, Cincinnati’s was because their field was below street level, and the ground needed to rise to street level where the wall stood in left field. Before modern building techniques, which leveled fields, this was the compromise. Even Wrigley Field was slopped, peaking at the middle to drain water off to the sides, until about 20 years ago.
The Isotopes say the field will be the same dimensions with the grass extending and the warning track being back on the wall.
The hill’s final day is Wednesday.