It's probably safe to say that Walter Gurbisz is the only Tampa Bay Devil Rays fan in New Jersey, but it's an even safer
bet that he's the state's sole Toby Hall collector.
"The first reaction people have when I tell them I collect Toby is 'who?' Then they ask why," he explains.
But the relative anonymity of his favorite player hasn't stopped him from amassing a huge collection of the gritty catcher's
"I started collecting Toby Hall after watching him in the Major League Baseball Futures Game in 2001 where he was named
MVP," he says.
Judging by the size of the 25-year-old's collection, the Rays' receiver made quite an impression. Showcased in his
den, his collection boasts game-worn jerseys, batting gloves, cleats, a catcher's mitt, bats, cards, and photos.
"I'm still looking for ideas on how to display his catcher's gear," he says.
Most of the game-used equipment was obtained directly from the two companies Hall contracted to sell it: Authentic Sports
Investments (Hall's old company) and Locker Room Memorabilia. Gurbisz also searches eBay on a daily basis for new items.
"I love collecting Toby's game-used gear and autographs but I collect anything of him," says the passionate hobbyist.
And while his favorite player is not a superstar like Griffey or Bonds, Gurbisz is not the only one looking for the gutsy
"His stuff has gotten pretty competitive lately, but I've noticed that it's the same four or five people (buying his stuff),"
When asked what he would consider the prize of his collection, the hardcore Hall enthusiast agonizes over his answer.
"Picking a favorite item is almost impossible . just because each item is sweet," he says. "If I had to say, I would choose
his game-used catcher's mitt or his game-used minor league Durham Bulls jersey."
Rarely does any Hall collectible slip by Gurbisz, but there are some items that he has yet to acquire.
"Other than a couple of one-of-one cards, not much has eluded me, but I'm trying to acquire his 2004 Japan opening series
game-worn jersey from his company who got it from Major League Baseball. It's a little pricey at $1,250, but more than
worth it to me and I think by the end of the year I'll own it."
To view his collection, visit his Web site at www.tobyhall44.com. The online shrine also includes personal information and photos of the up-and-coming catcher.
"My Web site really isn't complete yet and not many people know about it, but I started on it about five months ago," he
says. "There aren't a lot of player collector Web sites like the way I collect Toby and I know a lot of people like looking
at collections like that, so I hope they enjoy seeing my collection."
One of the young hobbyist's goals is to have Hall himself see the site.
"Believe it or not, I get a lot of emails from people who think I'm Toby Hall and ask for autographs," he says.
The ardent fan has seen the object of his collection play at Yankee Stadium, but he has yet to meet him. However, that
could change in the near future; he's in discussions with Locker Room Memorabilia to arrange a lunch with his baseball hero.
In the meantime, the Rays supporter is content to keep adding to his collection.
"The goal of my collection is to build the biggest, best all-around player collection out there," he says.