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BlueRanger

Apparel n' Equipment Guide v2

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***Edited and restructured for ease of reading and clarity

The New Ump’s Apparel n' Equipment Guide (Vol. 2)

Created By: BlueRanger, July 2018

Note: I want to give a huge thank you to the numerous members of Umpire-Empire.com whose posts have contributed to the creation of this guide, including, but in no way limited to MadMax, BT_Blue, blue32, umpstu, Majordave, tpatience, Warren, and many more!

The Basics

- Quality, quality, quality

- Make sure you order from a site with a good return policy, like UmpAttire.com

- Make sure to properly measure your body for equipment sizing before ordering

- Buy equipment according to the level protection required for the highest level you will call. (Ex: If you call 13u+ tournament ball and high school ball, then purchase equipment that will protect you well from HS pitching.)

- It is better to spend money on quality equipment, and avoid preventable injury, than on medical bills and new equipment every time something breaks or wears down.

- Do not use catchers gear for umpiring!

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I have broken this guide into sections and subsections according to each piece of plate equipment and clothing you can be expected to purchase. 

AND REMEMBER: IF IN DOUBT, ASK!!

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Masks

  • Material
    • Most modern umpire masks are made out of steel, aluminum, magnesium, or titanium.
      • Steel:
        • cheap and replaceable in case of bends
      • Aluminum:
        • won't break or bend, cost-effective
      • Magnesium: 
        • if weld-less, won't break or bend, pricey to very expensive
      • Titanium: 
        • rarely breaks or bends, thinner bars offer improved visibility, expensive
  • Pads
    • Often sorely neglected, pads are what make or break the mask.
      • Stock pads are almost universally garbage and should be replaced with "Tech Pads"
        • Team Wendy Pads: highly advanced pads containing Zorbium, which significantly lowers the force of impacts
        • Wilson Memory Foam Pads: advanced memory foam pads, smoothly compress on impact to reduce force
      • Should you find tech pads not to your liking, make sure that the pads you do choose have enough volume and do not excessively crush on impact
    • You should replace your mask pads every 2 years, regardless of how frequently you umpire
  • Throat Guards
    • I cannot strongly recommend enough the importance of attaching a throat guard to your mask. I have seen too many people get caught in the throat by wild, bouncing pitches, even in my brief time as an umpire, so please don’t add yourself to the ranks.

      • It’s also important to make sure your throat guard is long enough that, when it’s properly attached, it swings and smacks the upper part of your chest protector when you’re in your stance. If in doubt, get the longer one!

      • DO NOT attach it to the bottom of the throat extension, as it is almost completely useless in that position. Instead, imagine your mask with the throat guard cut off, and attach it the lowest bar.

  • Mask Fit

    • Always wear your mask loose on your face, if you wear a traditional mask. This helps to prevent your head from absorbing the full impact of a shot, reducing the chance of injury. A good measure of appropriate looseness is to put on your mask and then bend over as if reaching for a ball on the floor. If your mask hangs off of your face enough that the lower pad is floating in open air a few inches from your face, then you’re good.

Chest Protectors

  • Soft Shell
    • Soft shell CPs are primarily made of foam, though some do contain minor internal plastic plates to dissipate impact. These CPs are best used for lower velocity baseball and most levels of softball. DO NOT attempt to use these CPs at higher (60mph+) baseball, as they will not provide sufficient protection.
  • Hard Shell
    • Hard shell CPs, on the other hand, are mainly made of plastic attached to and/or covered in foam, which allows them to safely dissipate more forceful impacts from higher velocity baseballs and softballs.
  • Chest protectors should entirely cover your ribs and your clavicle, if it doesn't, replace the harness or the chest protector itself.

Shin Guards

  • Shin guards are like cars: they'll all work, just to varying degrees of comfort. If doing lower level ball, any dedicated umpire shin guards will work fine. If doing upper level ball, it's advisable to get shin guards with better padding and/or higher quality plates.

Protective Cups

  • You need one. Period. 
  • Get a good one, like a shock doctor, nutty buddy, or other well-regarded brand.

Plate Shoes

  • Plate shoes should be worn behind the dish at every level of kid-pitch ball, as not doing so is begging for a broken foot. Many new umpires choose to forgo buying plate shoes due to their cost, and the inaccurate belief that the toe caps some shin guards come with are sufficient protection. Not to mention it looks remarkably unprofessional.

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Hats

  • Umpire caps come in three sizes, 4-stitch, 6-stitch, and 8-stitch
    • "Stitch" refers to how many rows of stitching there are on the bill of the cap
  • To start off, you should probably use a 4-stitch or "combo" hat when working the plate to develop good mask-removal technique
    • Once you develop good technique, you may choose to move up to a higher stitch hat, just make sure that the bill stays within your mask
  • You can use any size hat on the bases, though many umpires wear 6-stitch or 8-stitch hats on the bases

Shirts

  • Baseball: Unless your association requires specific colors, it's advisable to, at a minimum, have both light blue and black uniform shirts. I also recommended to have cream for the summer heat.
  • Softball: Again, barring association requirements, you should probably have at least powder blue and navy.* 
    • *I don't umpire softball, so this is based off of what I can glean off the internet

Belts

  • Umpire belts are a staple of your appearance and should not be neglected.
  • Belts come in either regular or patent leather, and should be worn snugly to keep your shirt tucked in, your pants looking good, and your ball bags sharp.

Pants

  • Baseball: Unless your association requires otherwise, you should have charcoal/dark grey pants. You should also have a pair of base and a pair of plate pants, as combo pants generally look like wearing gym sweats. :)
  • Softball: Again, unless otherwise noted, you should purchase heather/light grey pants, have plate and base pairs.
  • Pants come in poly-wool and poly-spandex material. Poly-spandex is more expensive, but is also lighter and more breathable. Poly-wools are usually cheaper, but are heavier and do not have the same ventilation properties.
  • Make sure your pants are pressed to a clean crease
  • Pro Tip: You only need to wash your pants when they smell or are dirty, needlessly washing them too often can cause them to fade quicker.

Ball Bags

  • Equally important not only as apart of your uniform, but also as a practical storage device.
  • Should be of good quality material and have inside pockets for your brush, pen, indicator, etc.
  • DO NOT GET A BALL BAG THAT HAS THREE BELT LOOPS AND OUTSIDE POCKETS
    • These bags immediately make you look like an amatuer when you step on the field, not mention they absolutely suck at holding balls and your brush.
  • Softball umpires often use navy ball bags, while baseball umpires typically use black.
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I think you should add any of the Wilson dynalites to the mask list and add some of the Wilson cp and sg

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4 hours ago, BigRed said:

I think you should add any of the Wilson dynalites to the mask list and add some of the Wilson cp and sg

And the Wilson titanium mask.

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Shin guards are measured from the middle of your knee to the ankle, right? 

In my opinion, which doesn't mean much, the Diamond BL pads aren't that great either. I'd just buy a Diamond iX-3, or just the frame if you can, and put on replacement pads. Pads really make the mask, the frame isn't as important. As I'm sure you know, @MadMax could talk for weeks on end about different materials for masks, but I think he'd agree with me that the pads are most important. 

One last thing, I know clothing wasn't mentioned at all but a 6-stitch cap can be used on plate and base and will fit any mask that isn't low profile or an All-Star FM4000. @Thunderheads will disagree on that part though. 

 

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Shin guards are measured from the middle of your knee to the ankle, right? 
In my opinion, which doesn't mean much, the Diamond BL pads aren't that great either. I'd just buy a Diamond iX-3, or just the frame if you can, and put on replacement pads. Pads really make the mask, the frame isn't as important. As I'm sure you know, [mention=2599]MadMax[/mention] could talk for weeks on end about different materials for masks, but I think he'd agree with me that the pads are most important. 
One last thing, I know clothing wasn't mentioned at all but a 6-stitch cap can be used on plate and base and will fit any mask that isn't low profile or an All-Star FM4000. [mention=969]Thunderheads[/mention] will disagree on that part though. 
 
Fm4000 fits a 6 stitch

Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

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24 minutes ago, Stk004 said:

Shin guards are measured from the middle of your knee to the ankle, right? 

In my opinion, which doesn't mean much, the Diamond BL pads aren't that great either. I'd just buy a Diamond iX-3, or just the frame if you can, and put on replacement pads. Pads really make the mask, the frame isn't as important. As I'm sure you know, @MadMax could talk for weeks on end about different materials for masks, but I think he'd agree with me that the pads are most important. 

One last thing, I know clothing wasn't mentioned at all but a 6-stitch cap can be used on plate and base and will fit any mask that isn't low profile or an All-Star FM4000. @Thunderheads will disagree on that part though. 

 

Ah, what does Thunderheads know?

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2 hours ago, Stk004 said:

Pads really make the mask, the frame isn't as important.

Absolutely true. There really isn’t a need to be model specific in a gear guide for masks, as it’s more critical to explain what to look for, and why certain frames use certain materials, and how those materials will behave when impacted. This understanding will help discernment of pad options. The choosing of proper, effective pads is too often overlooked.

@BlueRanger, I appreciate your thoroughness, and that you do denote that the brands and models you list are examples only. Leaving Wilson off the lists actually helps to encourage our colleagues to investigate gear options because far too often the cop-out excuse of “Well it (Wilson) is what the Big League guys use, so that’s all you need!” is espoused as “advice”.

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6 hours ago, MadMax said:

Absolutely true. There really isn’t a need to be model specific in a gear guide for masks, as it’s more critical to explain what to look for, and why certain frames use certain materials, and how those materials will behave when impacted. This understanding will help discernment of pad options. The choosing of proper, effective pads is too often overlooked.

@BlueRanger, I appreciate your thoroughness, and that you do denote that the brands and models you list are examples only. Leaving Wilson off the lists actually helps to encourage our colleagues to investigate gear options because far too often the cop-out excuse of “Well it (Wilson) is what the Big League guys use, so that’s all you need!” is espoused as “advice”.

Haha, I have been known to be a bit of a Diamond and Champro guy :)

But yeah, looking at it a few days later, it seems like it would be a lot better if I went into greater detail on what to actually look for than just waving my hand in the general direction and hoping for the best. I'll toy around with it a bit later.

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On 7/22/2018 at 8:43 AM, BlueRanger said:

Haha, I have been known to be a bit of a Diamond and Champro guy :)

But yeah, looking at it a few days later, it seems like it would be a lot better if I went into greater detail on what to actually look for than just waving my hand in the general direction and hoping for the best. I'll toy around with it a bit later.

Just a suggestion, try and become a Wilson guy, too.  Although somewhat outdated, their CP's, masks and shinguards are bullet proof.

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4 hours ago, catsbackr said:

Just a suggestion, try and become a Wilson guy, too.  Although somewhat outdated, their CP's, masks and shinguards are bullet proof.

Don't let @MadMax hear you say that!

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On ‎7‎/‎21‎/‎2018 at 3:19 PM, BlueRanger said:

- Shin Guards (SG) are measured from the middle of your knee cap to the top of your foot/plate shoes

Do all vendors use this same logic? 

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34 minutes ago, Aging_Arbiter said:

Do all vendors use this same logic? 

I thought Ump-Attire has you measure from below the knee cap. But can't remember.

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1 hour ago, Aging_Arbiter said:

Do all vendors use this same logic? 

Not sure if all, but most of those that I use recommend that. I'm restructuring this later in the week anyways.

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Where's the cup recommendations?

 

Diamond MMA has protected me so well this year. I haven't felt any of the 6 or so good shots I've taken.

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12 minutes ago, udbrky said:

Where's the cup recommendations?

 

Diamond MMA has protected me so well this year. I haven't felt any of the 6 or so good shots I've taken.

Good idea! I'll include that in the reboot

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12 hours ago, udbrky said:

Where's the cup recommendations?

 

Diamond MMA has protected me so well this year. I haven't felt any of the 6 or so good shots I've taken.

Nutty buddy. Nutty buddy. Nutty buddy.

 

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I have the NB, but I'm thinking of switching to the Diamond or one like it.   I want a 4 point harness - the NB cup cuts into my legs/crotch and I end up being gaulded when it's hot.  It does this even through my compression shorts.   Then, I have to walk like a cowboy after a long ride for a couple of days until it heals. :smachhead:

Is it just me or do others find this problem as well?  I love the NB cup and the floating idea, just the straps cut into my legs.  Perhaps, I'm wearing it wrong.  Compression shorts, jock, cup, another pair of compression shorts, then my pants.

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4 hours ago, wolfe_man said:

I have the NB, but I'm thinking of switching to the Diamond or one like it.   I want a 4 point harness - the NB cup cuts into my legs/crotch and I end up being gaulded when it's hot.  It does this even through my compression shorts.   Then, I have to walk like a cowboy after a long ride for a couple of days until it heals. :smachhead:

Is it just me or do others find this problem as well?  I love the NB cup and the floating idea, just the straps cut into my legs.  Perhaps, I'm wearing it wrong.  Compression shorts, jock, cup, another pair of compression shorts, then my pants.

I haven't had the issue of the straps digging in but I do find that mine rides a little high sometimes. I don't like compression shorts on the plate for this exact reason. I prefer my NB to be closer to my body. Not to get too carried away on this, because there's a lot of personal preference in this piece of equipment. 

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Last year I took one from below that hurt still. I never felt like I had the Nutty Buddy in place right.

 

Combine that with the selling of the company, and I wasn't as sure for the future.

 

I upgraded to the Diamond and it's so much better. It fits better, I don't need a pair of compression shorts on top of it and below, so I cut a layer. I've taken 6 varsity level pitches/fouls to the cup directly and have not felt a thing.

 

It's more comfortable and as protective. It's just a superior cup to the Nutty Buddy.

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6 hours ago, wolfe_man said:

I love the NB cup and the floating idea, just the straps cut into my legs.  Perhaps, I'm wearing it wrong.  Compression shorts, jock, cup, another pair of compression shorts, then my pants

Wait, you have the cup outside the jock?

I do compression shorts, cup, jock, pants. I find the NB to be much more comfortable than my old Shock Doctor.

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On 7/26/2018 at 2:09 PM, kylehutson said:

Wait, you have the cup outside the jock?

I do compression shorts, cup, jock, pants. I find the NB to be much more comfortable than my old Shock Doctor.

I was wondering the same thing! If so, why even have the jock at all?

I do the same as Kyle. Compression, cup, jock, pants. And I second the NB being more comfortable than the SD. Strangely, I misplaced my NB the last few plates of the season. So I had to use my old carbon fiber Shock Doctor in its place. It worked fine. Just not as comfortable.

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OK, I finally have to ask this. Am I missing something, or doesn’t the cup go in the jock, if using one? Whenever I see people list an order, I’m imagining a floating cup with a jock over the top of it - not in it. Which is weird. Technically, if in the jock, it goes compression, jock, cup, jock, pants (or whatever). 

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2 hours ago, Hkepuck said:

OK, I finally have to ask this. Am I missing something, or doesn’t the cup go in the jock, if using one? Whenever I see people list an order, I’m imagining a floating cup with a jock over the top of it - not in it. Which is weird. Technically, if in the jock, it goes compression, jock, cup, jock, pants (or whatever). 

As stated multiple times over the years since its release. The Nutty Buddy protective cup is made to "float" between the jock (even with a pocket) and the garment below it. If you try and place it inside the jock pocket, it will ride to high and be uncomfortable/not protect properly/etc.

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