Wishing Toby the Best in His Post-Baseball Journey
Still not sure when I met him for the first time, but over the many years of knowing him, I always considered him a friend. The last time we spoke at length was February 2011 just after a he had completed a festive round of golf at the Jesse Litsch + Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournament. He came up to me and asked how thing were going, really interested in knowing how I was doing, that was the day I realized Toby Hall and I were friends.
It saddened me today to learn of Hall officially retiring today from the game he loved, and loved him back for so long. I still remember standing in Matt Geiger’s restaurant Courtside Grille hearing the whispers that Hall had signed a contract to possibly play for the Texas Rangers in 2010. Hall was still trying to rehab from a nagging shoulder injury, but was enthusiastic and excited when I asked him about the rumor.
He could have made a big announcement that night during the wrap celebration of the 2010 Toby Hall and Friends Celebrity Golf Tournament, but he did not reveal the exciting news that evening. But that was vintage Toby. Here was a guy who for years would stroll out to my seat in Section 138, even when wearing the Chicago White Sox uniform and shoot the breeze for a few minutes.
Over the years whether it was a post-game appearance at Ferg’s for a few moments, when I volunteered for his golf tournament the past 2 seasons because of the admiration and support I have for the events causes. During each tournament Toby always extended his hand and asked those question “friends ask each other” and that meant the world to me. Honestly I can count on 1 hand the people I consider true baseball friends. Hall is right up there near the old thumb.
I know it was a hard decision and realization to make this decision. I have been there, done it, and it was emotionally draining, physically comforting and most of all, the right thing for himself and his growing family. Baseball has given him so many great things, and maybe it was time now for Hall to devote his energies to family, his foundation and whatever the future has in store for him.
I am not going to quote stats, but I will say he was one of the friendliest Rays ever, and today’s announcement is a somber moment for the Rays Republic. Sure this blog tonight might seem more like a Toby Hall admiration society newsletter, but if you truly know Toby, it was right and fitting to thrust this into the cosmic universe.
One of my cherished possessions is still a game used bat and catching gear worn by Hall at a Rays silent auction. Along with a signed mini helmet in the old D-Rays motif, they have a special corner in my home. Hall played 586 games for the Rays franchise, the most ever by a catcher and the 5th most in club history. He leaves the game with a career .262 batting average with 46 HR and 269 RBIs, but his true legacy is the way he signed for everyone and treated people with utmost respect.
“It’s been a great journey” Hall told Marc Topkin of TampaBay.com, “ I’m going to hang out with family, concentrate on my foundation and have my agents start looking into my next journey.”
And you know that at your annual Spring Golf Tournament this February I will seek you out and shake your hand not only for the game day magic firmly etched into my memory of you playing the great game of baseball, but for being the person you are, and the player we have all grown to respect and wish the best in his time away from the game. I know I can speak for the rest of the Rays Republic and wish you Godspeed, luck and fulfillment in all areas of your life.