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Astros president continues ballpark tour

Reid Ryan seeking upgrade ideas for outfield area at Minute Maid

OAKLAND -- Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan arrived in Denver on Sunday to take a tour of Coors Field, the latest stop on the ballpark tours he and senior vice president of business operations Marcel Braithwaite have been doing the past two seasons.

Ryan, who will be in Cincinnati on Monday and Kansas City on Tuesday, and Braithwaite have toured more than 20 ballparks in an effort to examine the amenities other stadiums offer as they look to continue upgrades at Minute Maid Park.

Specifically, Ryan is checking out the center-field renovations at Coors Field because the Astros are planning to reshape the spaces beyond the outfield walls at Minute Maid Park prior to the 2016 season, with hopes of perhaps adding a Hall of Fame area.

"Between Marcel and I, we're trying to get some ideas and work with architects and come up with good ideas and think about the next 15 years at Minute Maid Park," Ryan said.

Minute Maid Park has already undergone some fan-friendly renovations since Jim Crane purchased the club, including the improved concessions in the lower seating areas last offseason. Fans who have tickets on the club level and in the upper deck will see similar improvements next year.

The Astros are approaching their outfield as a blank slate from foul pole to foul pole as they consider how to make those areas more fan-friendly.

"If you look at what's happened from the Diamond Club redo to the main concourse last year, we've continued to put money back into this facility," Ryan said. "Right now, when you talk about the outfield, that excites a lot of people because there's a lot of ballparks that have a lot of different aspects. When we got into this, our thought has been we need some type of gathering point areas, something that has some type of concession, retail, bar element to it, and maybe some unique seating areas.

"If we can come out of these tours and look at practices across the industry, when we finally roll out whatever plans we decide to firm up, I think people are going to see this is one of the best stadiums in baseball, and we're going to make it that much better."

Tal's Hill, the incline in center field, will remain at least for another season, but the team hasn't ruled out changing the configuration in center field in the future. Some players aren't wild about the 436-foot distance to center field, which occasionally costs players what would have been home runs in most parks.

"The Hill is one of those points that either people really love it or they always ask, 'Why is that Hill there?'" Ryan said. "I think the attitude that we take into this process is let's look at what everybody has in the game, let's look at our spaces in the ballpark, and let's look at the ways to best utilize our space.

"We're more about seeing what's out there, and if fans have ideas, people have ideas or stuff they see in other ballparks, we're looking to take those ideas other teams have made successful and try to make them our own and make them unique and grow them here at Minute Maid."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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