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When I first started, I used the usual mask-hat combo and for this year I switched to a bucket. I like the bucket but it is cumbersome to take off on plays, and holding while trying to write or talk to coaches is a bit awkward. I'm considering trying a mask with a skull cap/field helmet. Does anyone currently do this or have any advice?

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I've given it some thought.  I'm torn on buying an F3 mask (if I can find one in silver) or doing a skull cap with a traditional mask.  I wish there was a local place (or buddy) that had a F3 mask so I could test one out and see if I'd like it.

But to your point... we're ahead of the curve on this. The masculine thought still seems to be that you wear a hat and a mask. While you see one umpire in the pros with a skull cap, he is the pathfinder/trend-setter and not a follower.   In our ranks, it's seen even less. 

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I recently carried one of my own mask w/me to Academy & tried it with the Wilson Matte Black skull cap they sell.  This was the one w/several ventilation slots.  I didn't like how far away from my eyes the thickness of the mask pushed out the eye guard bars.  Made the whole setup seem like it had poorer vision.  Of course I was standing in a retail store & not looking at pitches.  The standard skull cap seems to have a bill on it equivalent to an 8-stitch cap as well.  I wonder if the one being provided to MLB guys has been modified to address the bill length & additional thickness at forehead vs the regular 4-stitch plate hat or 6-stitch combo hat.

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9 minutes ago, Old Skool said:

I recently carried one of my own mask w/me to Academy & tried it with the Wilson Matte Black skull cap they sell.  This was the one w/several ventilation slots.  I didn't like how far away from my eyes the thickness of the mask pushed out the eye guard bars.  Made the whole setup seem like it had poorer vision.  Of course I was standing in a retail store & not looking at pitches.  The standard skull cap seems to have a bill on it equivalent to an 8-stitch cap as well.  I wonder if the one being provided to MLB guys has been modified to address the bill length & additional thickness at forehead vs the regular 4-stitch plate hat or 6-stitch combo hat.

Good point. I was talking to some one recently about the need of a smaller bill if we're going to try using one for umpires.  I think it'll come eventually, but like everything else we don't represent enough sales for them to do these changes rapidly or on a large enough scale to make it cost-effective for them.

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I would also be interested to know if the model given to the MLB guys is available for purchase. So far, Google isn't helping.

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 I wear a catcher's skull type helmet.  It works really well.  I do not have to worry

about getting hit in the head by baseballs  that bounce off the  close backstop or a low

top screen.  However,  some people do not like that I wear a helmet.  

 

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12 minutes ago, Lefty said:

 I wear a catcher's skull type helmet.  It works really well.  I do not have to worry

about getting hit in the head by baseballs  that bounce off the  close backstop or a low

top screen.  However,  some people do not like that I wear a helmet.  

 

If anyone had an issue with me wearing one, I would tell them to get over it unless they want to cover my medical bills and lost income due to a traumatic brain injury.

Do you wear it with the bill facing forward? If so, do you have problems getting your mask to fit?

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I wear mine with the bill facing forward.  I have the straps that hold the mask on loose.

The mask goes on and comes off with no problem.  If I get hit in the mask, the mask will turn

or come off.  Thus reducing the force that is applied  to my head by the impact.

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Hi, Very new to the forum. My name probably says it all.

My son is umpiring and took a fastball, low 80's, to the temple this week. (ricochet off batter's shoulder, we think) Dropped him for a bit.  

So, Dad is looking for solutions to protect the temples. 

Since I'm not familiar with all the brands, my first challenge is a bucket mask that can fit a 7 & 7/8 to 8 head.

thank you for your time.

umpdad321

 

 

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Read ya, @umpdad321... I’ll write out one of my in-depth articles later tonight. In the meantime, please post what your son’s age, experience level, and current gear setup, especially mask.

 

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23 Years old. Been umpiring since he was 14 and loves it.  6'4" 240 pounds. Strong athletic kid. 

Came out of the MiLB camp this year in FL and assigned to an independent league. 

Believe he has a Rawlings mask with a traditional look. 

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Alright, @umpdad321, here it is, as promised...

And I can already sense 1/3rd of my forum colleagues clicking through to another topic, while another 1/3rd is buckling in for some high word counts and tech-speak.

Let me share as a preface... I feel a bit remorseful about, and now re-motivated to, getting my new hardhat design out in evaluation / production / circulation. I don't have it ready yet (mostly because I have my own personal hinderances and delays). It addresses exactly what you and your umpire son are seeking while still allowing a traditional mask to be used.

With that said, though, I'm trying to determine how a baseball struck your son's temple... unless your son turned his head. Please understand, I'm not saying that your son is at fault or I'm being uncaringly callous. The angles don't work out, though, to get a ball to ricochet off a bat or batter and impact an umpire (especially at 6'4") in the temple. Follow-through of a bat? Busted bat? Sure, I can see that. But a ball? Again, everything changes if the umpire (or catcher, which I'll get to in a moment) turns their head.

Nearly all traditional masks have ear guards, whether they be square or tapered, flat or swept back. Of course, the larger the ear guard, the more protective it will be for the catcher where ricochets, foul balls, and pitches in the dirt are concerned. There is, however, a trade-off. The larger the ear guards, the more likely the guard gets in the way of a catcher's throw. Most often, a catcher springing up to throw knocks a traditional mask off anyway, so it becomes a moot point, but most adult / professional catchers are conditioned not to turn their head while receiving a pitch.

Youth / amateur catchers do not have that conditioning and discipline, nor should they be expected to. Thus, about 20 years ago, it was mandated in High School baseball that catchers had to wear one-piece (or joined two-piece) helmet-masks that provided all-over head protection, including the temples, ears and sides of the head. Youth sports (think LL-age) already had these measures in place in the form of the joined two-piece. Those hard-cast ear flaps and spartanly -designed "snoopy" helmets which otherwise traditional cage masks were lashed to were loathed by teenage, amateur catchers. Not only were they a pain to take on and off, but they were hot and stuffy. And, why were they being forced to wear them when their favorite Big League catcher didn't wear one either?

So, without going into great detail (or the amount of detail I'm known for), the Hockey-Style Mask burst on the scene. Indeed, the first versions were shell planforms that had been shared by ITECH and other hockey companies with their baseball brethren, with redone, baseball-esque cages fastened on. These were much better ventilated than the snoopy helmets, easier to take off and on, easier to prop atop the head, and provided a better field of view. Because hockey goalies and catchers are both conditioned to drop their chin and not turn their head, the mask also protected the chin, jaw and neck (somewhat... some hockey goalies augment their masks with attachable throat guards, or wear a padded "choker").

The origin and purpose of the HSM, though, was for youth and amateur baseball. Keep that in mind.

All this time, these twenty years (and even before this), what was developed for umpires? Absolutely nothing.

Umpires have typically had to "make do" with what was available to catchers. So, traditional catchers masks were used by umpires, with certain "developments" added to them to benefit umpires. Hollow steel and titanium allowed umpires to use single-wire layouts instead of double-wire, as well as being thinner than the vinyl-dipped catchers masks (because catchers masks are thrown to the ground or into a dugout, while an umpire's mask (should) never touch the ground!). Ear guards could be smaller, because at a position further back from the batter and catcher, they were less likely to have a ball hit them at that angle. Chin guards could be squared and raked forward, so as to accommodate dangling throat guards (which umpires favor but catchers hate!) and extended crown guards (to protect the top or button of the hat) could be included. Certainly, they were still very much in-vogue in most levels of umpiring, simply because of how frequently a mask is (or should be) taken on and off.

But then it was realized that youth batters let go of bats on their swings. Or that foul balls can ricochet off clamshell backstops or low-hanging overhead nets and plunk a mere hat covered head. Then, in higher levels of baseball (think wood bat), injuries like what happened to Kerwin Danley occurred – a broken wood bat to the side of the head. Suddenly, a one-piece, all-covering HSM was a vital option. So companies just sold their HSMs in simple black and it was a solution for most baseball participants.

Remember how I directed you to remember that the HSM originates in youth / amateur baseball? Well, how many youth do you know of, playing catcher, have an 8 hat size? Not a whole heckuva lot. And when the measure of success in a HSM as how narrow and slim it is (so as to not impede or hinder a quick throw by a catcher), you're not going to make a lot of units to accommodate a hat size beyond 7 3/4", at the top end! There are only a thimble-full (can't say handful) of HSMs out on the baseball landscape that might fit a 7-7/8" to 8" or larger: 

  • All-Star MVP2500 (System 7)
  • Wilson Shock FX 2.0
  • Force3 Defender HSM

Those last two will be a challenge to find, though, because their level of complexity, weight (in the Force3), and width (in the Shock FX 2.0) warded off most sales to catchers. Their manufacturers ended their production within the past 2 years. Umpires loved them, but again, who (other than Force3) really cares about umpires??

There is another alternative, one that might be a strong candidate for the inspired and initiated. It's something I would even be willing to draw/draft up for you to "shop" around and see if you can find a shop to fabricate it...

Take an existing traditional mask and have welded on a pair of swept-back wings or flank guards. Think oversized ear guards that are bent back and end just beyond the ear. Bar spacing enough to prevent a ball (or bat) from making contact with uncovered head parts. Could even glue on foam pads to absorb any contact energy. It still would be worn with a hat, and still be taken on and off like a traditional mask.

... at least until I have my hardhat design out.

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33 minutes ago, MadMax said:
56 minutes ago, MadMax said:

Alright, @umpdad321, here it is, as promised...

And I can already sense 1/3rd of my forum colleagues clicking through to another topic, while another 1/3rd is buckling in for some high word counts and tech-speak.

Let me share as a preface... I feel a bit remorseful about, and now re-motivated to, getting my new hardhat design out in evaluation / production / circulation. I don't have it ready yet (mostly because I have my own personal hinderances and delays). It addresses exactly what you and your umpire son are seeking while still allowing a traditional mask to be used.

With that said, though, I'm trying to determine how a baseball struck your son's temple... unless your son turned his head. Please understand, I'm not saying that your son is at fault or I'm being uncaringly callous. The angles don't work out, though, to get a ball to ricochet off a bat or batter and impact an umpire (especially at 6'4") in the temple. Follow-through of a bat? Busted bat? Sure, I can see that. But a ball? Again, everything changes if the umpire (or catcher, which I'll get to in a moment) turns their head.

Nearly all traditional masks have ear guards, whether they be square or tapered, flat or swept back. Of course, the larger the ear guard, the more protective it will be for the catcher where ricochets, foul balls, and pitches in the dirt are concerned. There is, however, a trade-off. The larger the ear guards, the more likely the guard gets in the way of a catcher's throw. Most often, a catcher springing up to throw knocks a traditional mask off anyway, so it becomes a moot point, but most adult / professional catchers are conditioned not to turn their head while receiving a pitch.

Youth / amateur catchers do not have that conditioning and discipline, nor should they be expected to. Thus, about 20 years ago, it was mandated in High School baseball that catchers had to wear one-piece (or joined two-piece) helmet-masks that provided all-over head protection, including the temples, ears and sides of the head. Youth sports (think LL-age) already had these measures in place in the form of the joined two-piece. Those hard-cast ear flaps and spartanly -designed "snoopy" helmets which otherwise traditional cage masks were lashed to were loathed by teenage, amateur catchers. Not only were they a pain to take on and off, but they were hot and stuffy. And, why were they being forced to wear them when their favorite Big League catcher didn't wear one either?

So, without going into great detail (or the amount of detail I'm known for), the Hockey-Style Mask burst on the scene. Indeed, the first versions were shell planforms that had been shared by ITECH and other hockey companies with their baseball brethren, with redone, baseball-esque cages fastened on. These were much better ventilated than the snoopy helmets, easier to take off and on, easier to prop atop the head, and provided a better field of view. Because hockey goalies and catchers are both conditioned to drop their chin and not turn their head, the mask also protected the chin, jaw and neck (somewhat... some hockey goalies augment their masks with attachable throat guards, or wear a padded "choker").

The origin and purpose of the HSM, though, was for youth and amateur baseball. Keep that in mind.

All this time, these twenty years (and even before this), what was developed for umpires? Absolutely nothing.

Umpires have typically had to "make do" with what was available to catchers. So, traditional catchers masks were used by umpires, with certain "developments" added to them to benefit umpires. Hollow steel and titanium allowed umpires to use single-wire layouts instead of double-wire, as well as being thinner than the vinyl-dipped catchers masks (because catchers masks are thrown to the ground or into a dugout, while an umpire's mask (should) never touch the ground!). Ear guards could be smaller, because at a position further back from the batter and catcher, they were less likely to have a ball hit them at that angle. Chin guards could be squared and raked forward, so as to accommodate dangling throat guards (which umpires favor but catchers hate!) and extended crown guards (to protect the top or button of the hat) could be included. Certainly, they were still very much in-vogue in most levels of umpiring, simply because of how frequently a mask is (or should be) taken on and off.

But then it was realized that youth batters let go of bats on their swings. Or that foul balls can ricochet off clamshell backstops or low-hanging overhead nets and plunk a mere hat covered head. Then, in higher levels of baseball (think wood bat), injuries like what happened to Kerwin Danley occurred – a broken wood bat to the side of the head. Suddenly, a one-piece, all-covering HSM was a vital option. So companies just sold their HSMs in simple black and it was a solution for most baseball participants.

Remember how I directed you to remember that the HSM originates in youth / amateur baseball? Well, how many youth do you know of, playing catcher, have an 8 hat size? Not a whole heckuva lot. And when the measure of success in a HSM as how narrow and slim it is (so as to not impede or hinder a quick throw by a catcher), you're not going to make a lot of units to accommodate a hat size beyond 7 3/4", at the top end! There are only a thimble-full (can't say handful) of HSMs out on the baseball landscape that might fit a 7-7/8" to 8" or larger: 

  • All-Star MVP2500 (System 7)
  • Wilson Shock FX 2.0
  • Force3 Defender HSM

Those last two will be a challenge to find, though, because their level of complexity, weight (in the Force3), and width (in the Shock FX 2.0) warded off most sales to catchers. Their manufacturers ended their production within the past 2 years. Umpires loved them, but again, who (other than Force3) really cares about umpires??

There is another alternative, one that might be a strong candidate for the inspired and initiated. It's something I would even be willing to draw/draft up for you to "shop" around and see if you can find a shop to fabricate it...

Take an existing traditional mask and have welded on a pair of swept-back wings or flank guards. Think oversized ear guards that are bent back and end just beyond the ear. Bar spacing enough to prevent a ball (or bat) from making contact with uncovered head parts. Could even glue on foam pads to absorb any contact energy. It still would be worn with a hat, and still be taken on and off like a traditional mask.

... at least until I have my hardhat design out.

You sure write purdy.  Love reading this.

 

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MadMax, 

First things first. Thank you for taking the time to dive in and pen your post. I've read every word and will most likely read again.

I've seen my son umpire quite a few games this year, and can't remember a flinch, ever. Although he is 6'4",  his head is usually just over the catcher's shoulder. From what I understood, that was something the MiLB camp drilled into the umpires, keeping their head at a consistent height. He said the shot to the head was a really odd ricochet. Personally, I think his mask is dinky. He has had the mask since he was 16 or 17 and likes it, but it seems much smaller than what I see on the other umps.

 I'll research these:

  • All-Star MVP2500 (System 7)
  • Wilson Shock FX 2.0
  • Force3 Defender HSM

Regarding your solution, sounds like an interesting compromise. If you bring something to market, please add to this post. 

thanks,

umpdad321

 

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Force3 just recently reintroduced their HSM Defender. This time with their Cederstrom (Wilson)/Hedges (F3) extended forehead cage. I'm not sure on the availability of this besides through Force3 themselves.

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Thanks for touching on this topic guys! As always a lot of great information. I’m considering getting the f3 hockey style mask. I have the v2 defender, but this new development of the hsm seems to be a great option. Seems like you can’t go wrong with a skull cap as well.

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