In viewing clips of pitches and hits on mlb.tv, I have noticed a trend – MLB umpires are opting to a wider variety of masks rather than the default, formerly supplied Wilson DynaLite. We’re still seeing guys use the Wilson DynAlum and the occasional Wilson Titanium (Way Too) Low Profile, and there are those still relying on their Nike Icon Titaniums, but we’re also seeing increased numbers of Mizunos, Force3 Defenders, and All-Star FM4000MAGs.
I’m sincerely wondering when that “paradigm shift” or “break point” is going to occur, when it is open season on branding gear with attributed logos instead of hiding, obscuring, or flat-out lying so as to appease a company that lethargically refuses to progressively protect their “sponsored” representatives. Because a knocked-off mask is viewed as a “failed mask”, MLB umpires – wearing Wilson -marked masks especially – are directed to wear their masks far too tight. Well, coincidentally, this plays right into Force3’s strengths, as the reactive spring suspension functions best when the mask is worn snugly. It’s just a shame that Force3 doesn’t receive due credit!
Amidst all the hubbub surrounding the debut of the Champro CM83/84 Rampage die-cast Magnesium mask, there’s another mask that appeared in Champro’s catalog that is just as intriguing and likely at a great price point.
This mask, my friends, is aluminum. It is the CM81/82, based on Champro’s CM71/72 Ultralight hollow steel mask, but this time done in aluminum, so it doesn’t bend! I know from experience of using it and supplying to my junior umpires, it has excellent sightlines, a squared chin guard with forward rake, and a broad extended crown guard. Now in aluminum, Champro really did think of everything!
Here’s the big value, though... Wilson’s DynaLite Aluminum starts at $110. The famous Diamond DFM-iX3 is at $70, but could really use the thicker, better pads of the BL (Big League) version at $90. Well fellows, this here Champro is $70. I love the idea of taking that extra $40 I just saved and getting... well, just about anything else of quality to complete my umpire gear needs.
Just arrived this afternoon:
Yup, that’s a Diamond DFM-iX3-Pro. For catchers. In aluminum.
It weighs nothing.
I gotta say, the pads on this thing, as simple as they are, are better than the default pads on the Umpire version (not the DFM-UMP-BL)! In any case, it’s strong, light, and offers a rather generous eyeport. It won’t bend.
The only reason this didn’t really gain traction with catchers is because it’s not an All-Star or UnderArmour, or Nike, or Easton (who all use titanium or steel), and the NFHS codes prohibit them. Without them carried on retail shelves, they’re only order-able online, where they get undercut by insanely cheap steel masks (Rawlings, Wilsons and MacGregors) or overlooked in favor of the name-brand starlets (Easton, UnderArmour, All-Star).
I ordered this mask in for one of my fellow umpires who is using an old TAG -brand steel, bent like a coat hanger would be to be used as a TV antenna. I have a black harness for it, and we’ll be teaming this up with +POS tan leather pads... which should be arriving any day now.
Oh yeah, the price? Ordered direct from Diamond, $30.
I have been seeing more guys in the pros wearing the All-Star FM4000. I have heard many good things i.e lightweight, durable, comfortable to wear. However, I have also heard many negative things about the mask i.e sparks fly when you get hit, the upper bar does not extend far enough out leaving umpires vulnerable. I know I have seen some guys wearing a matte skull cap with it. I like many of the positives but am concerned about some of the negatives.
I am interested to hear what everyone's thoughts are about the mask
Have you found anything that backs up or disputes the cons of the mask?