Opinion

Lorenzo Cain returns to Houston, site of his center-field stumble on Tal’s Hill

Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain tossed a ball back from near the mound in center field during Saturday’s ALDS workout at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain tossed a ball back from near the mound in center field during Saturday’s ALDS workout at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. jsleezer@kcstar.com

If he was designing an outfield, Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain would not include a hill.

“Wouldn’t even cross my mind,” Cain said.

But he has two more games to negotiate the 30 percent incline beyond the warning track at Minute Maid Park as the Royals and Astros prepare for Game 3 of their American League Division Series on Sunday.

In a regular-season game between the teams on June 30, the Astros’ Evan Gattis tripled with one out in the fourth inning. The fly ball sailed just out of Cain’s reach. He crashed to the ground and into the padded wall.

“Nice little slip and slide,” Cain said. “It didn’t hurt. It was actually kind of fun. It wasn’t a hard landing.”

Except for the no-catch part.

[ From July 1: Lorenzo Cain falls victim to Tal’s Hill ]

Center fielders have to account for what’s known as Tal’s Hill, named for former Astros president Tal Smith. The feature was tribute to older ballparks, such as Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, which had an incline in left. A flag pole is based inside the fence at Minute Maid, near the 436 foot sign.

The hill is expected to be removed next season as part of a renovation. Until then, Cain and others who play the position have to account for it.

“You running out there and you ask, ‘When is it coming, when is it coming?’ ” Cain said. “You’re thinking of that when you’re running.

“When I ran up there, I got the first two steps. I was good. The third one, I went down. The hill won.”

The Star's Andy McCullough and Blair Kerkhoff preview Game 3 of the AL Division Series between the Royals and Astros at 3 p.m. Sunday in Houston (TV: MLB Network). The series is tied 1-1.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

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