Thrill Hill no more…

An article in this week’s Albuquerque Journal announced that the iconic slope in the center outfield of Isotopes Park was being removed.

‘Topes Slope will be removed at the Albuquerque Isotopes Ballpark

It was a unique feature that was installed when the park was completely redesigned in 2003 in an apparent nod toward eliminating the “cookie cutter” approach to baseball parks that had been panned in the previous decade. And although there were never any recorded injuries to players, the “thrill hill” feature is being eliminated in the interest of safety.

The slope was a tricky challenge for center fielders who had to gauge the edge of the outfield with a warning track then negotiate the 20 to 30 degree upslope when looking up at the sky to try to snag a long ball. I think I can recall a few stumbles when players caught near home runs on the slope, but nothing dangerous.

For the Isotopes pitchers, it became a boon when they gave up a long blast to center field and forced opposing outfielders to stumble with the change in terrain and miss the ball. For Isotopes outfielders, it became a familiar challenge and friend that they mastered better than their opponents.

In one way, it reminded me of a section of a street in my home town of Ruidoso where a sharp rise between two small valleys created an exciting experience in a car for teen-aged drivers. If you were driving about 40 miles per hour on the street, you’d experience momentary weightlessness and shrieks from passengers as you went over what became known as “Thrill Hill.” Eventually the local traffic engineers and cops figured out what was going on with the local kids and knocked off the top 15 feet or so of the hill and smoothed out the approach to it so there was no more “thrill.”

I particularly remember an incident when my sister was at the wheel of our ’63 Chevy station wagon and drove over the crest at what was probably an irresponsible rate of speed. When she got to the top of the hill and the lumbering Chevy briefly became airborne, she apparently became afraid she would be tossed so far up that she would no longer be able to reach the brakes. She responsively put her right hand up to the headliner to keep her planted in her seat, but unintentionally jerked the steering wheel about a quarter of a turn to the left. When we landed, the mushy two-ply Goodyear whitewall tires on the Bel Air wagon howled and pitched us into the opposing lane before she could correct our trajectory. Luckily no one else was approaching from the other direction and we all survived. The only damage to the vehicle might have been a wet spot on the seat.

I’ve attached a link to the Albuquerque Journal story in case you missed it, along with a video produced by the Isotopes about the end of the “‘Tope Slope.”

Albuquerque Journal link:

Video link:

Albuquerque Isotopes on Twitter: “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.✌️” / Twitter

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