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In the effort to minimize the risks of concussions and head impacts, Major League Baseball Umpires advises changing out mask pads every year. Now, keep in mind, this is for near-constant use in "high-impact" environments (the speeds of Minor and Major -league baseballs). Also, this does not include the advanced, spring-suspension mask from Force3, the Defender, since the pads are specially designed for the mask, and the mask's springs and struts are taking a significant share of the impacting force. Mask pads themselves vary greatly, and it is equal parts construction, performance and feel (against your face). The two that are the most noteworthy are the Zorbium© pads from Team Wendy and the MemoryFoam pads from Wilson. Other pad sets that work very well are the All-Star LUC pads, Wilson doeskins, Wilson wrap-a-rounds (which are being phased out, IIRC), or any of the "boutique outfitter shops" (such as +POS or Honig's). In fact, the lighter the mask – by using materials such as Magnesium, Aluminum, and Titanium – the more supple and energy absorbent the pads have to be. The "show ponies" from Nike, Wilson, and Rawlings1 (the Titaniums) and the "experimentals" from +POS, Champro and Diamond (two Magnesiums and an Aluminum) are heavily reliant on more-than-adequate pad sets. Diamond skimped by with woeful, paltry pads for 2-3 years, until finally forced encouraged to dramatically improve their stock pads on their aluminum mask, even though one should strongly consider using one of the premier pad sets if using a mask like that frequently. Does that mean get a whole new mask? Not exactly! Most of these pads are available individually. Since the pads are sold separate from the mask, then... well... naturally there are mask frames that are sold bereft of any pathetic sub-optimum pads. Three great outfitters offering bare mask frames, ready to take pads and harness of your choosing are: +POS – Offering its light-as-a-feather-strong-as-an-ox hollow steel ZRO-G mask frame, in silver. Lightweight, great sight lines , rounded chin guard, classic look evocative of the Nike and older Wilson frames (perhaps there's substance to the myth that Nike used the ZRO-G planform when designing their Titanium & Steel iconic masks).Ump-Attire – The Emporium Co-Op of All Things Umpire offers Diamond's DFM-UMP-iX3 mask frame, in black. Aluminum, light but unyielding, with great sight lines, squared chin guard and extended crown guard. And with it sold through Ump-Attire, it has nearly the entire array of pads and harnesses to outfit it, as well as U-A's outstanding customer support.Honig's – The Outfitter keeps their trademark K4 mask frame out there, in black. Hollow plugged-end steel affording excellent, resilient protection, with a brief chin guard (ideally suited for any of a number of dangling throat protectors), "blowback" ear guards and an extended crown guard contributing to a sophisticated look. Nice feature of Honig's site, the frame can be ordered bare, or outfitted with any of the pads Honig's has in stock directly on the online page.1- All-Star is, unfortunately, not listed as their titanium show pony, the FM25Ti with its dual-wire eye slot and huge, radar-tower-like ear guards, is intended for catchers.
... But Will Be Again Soon. I made the move to get the shinguards that will (likely) be the last pair I ever purchase. With @UmpJeff's facilitation, we ordered in the set (UnEqual CP for him, shinguards for me), and he routed them to me hastily. I opened the box, and... Wow. Wowwwwwwwwwwwww. For as large-coverage as they are, they are featherweight. I currently use All-Star LGU313-17's primarily because they are low profile and rather minimal, yet do provide a patella plate. I didn't exactly bust the scale out, but they are likely lighter than the All-Stars. They look formidable too, with a huge patella plate and lots of shape-conforming syn-leather. But they are as light as can be. I am (was) looking forward to putting them right to work with games this week and a massive tournament this MDW. But... alas... I cannot... ... because I ordered. the. wrong. size. Reading some of these threads over, the advice for someone of my height is to get the Large, 18.5" size. Well, after putting these on, within 2 seconds, you can tell they are too tall (probably best for our @BigUmpire friend). I checked Force3's webpage on the guards, and the sizing guide details measuring from the top of the ankle to the center of the knee while seated. I did, and I measured... 17.5". Dead-on between the L 18.5" and the M 16.5". So I called up Force3 (which has a mightily cheerful and friendly staff working their phones), and got an exchange underway. When he heard my plight, he acknowledged that it is personal preference on which size to take when you're dead-smack between sizes, and that the 16.5" is probably the way to go. So, back to Connecticut these go (today), and next week, I'll have new shinguards to wax ecstatic about. Beware, Wilson owners! Your time of wearing sofa cushions is about to meet its reckoning!
I need to ask for a no-nonsense assessment of the New Balance 950 Turf umpire shoes, please. Yes, the ones they use in the Major Leagues. My UnderArmour turf-trainers have called one game too many, and never did have the greatest arch support. They were durable and presentable, but not too cushioned either. I have always worn Nikes, but when I needed a shoe for CDP two years ago, I chose the UnderArmours because they could be easily cleaned and polished. Most Nikes have mesh, or fabric, or nubuck, or Flyknit on their uppers, which just get destroyed by the red brick dust CDP uses. However, this year, I am considering the Nike Lunar MVP Pregame 2, which has synthetic leather, and looks like can be endlessly washed, as well as having the Nike fit I am accustomed to. After checking out the landscape, though, I could go "all out" and get the official MLB umpires' shoe, the New Balance 950. It is very difficult to find in stock in my size (11 D), but I can still track it down, and I need to know (or at least have enough encouragement) before I pull the trigger. Is it a really good shoe? How's the arch support? How's the cushioning? How's the fit? How's the clean-ability? How's the durability? Please give me whatever opinions and sentiments and feedback you have about them, straight up. I've worked in retail far too long to have an item pitched to me, but I would value your feedback and impressions and experience with it. Thanks, gang!