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I'm sitting in a Texas Roadhouse after calling 9 baseball games over the past 3 days in 117°+ Arizona heat, watching the Mets get shellacked yet again by the Dodgers, when I notice the camera zoom way, way, waaaaaayyyyy in on Travis d'Arnaud and the Force3 Defender mask he's wearing. Travis is new to the Defender TM, having previously used the Mizuno Samurai HSM. The Samurai is one of the most thoroughly padded HSMs on the market, but doesn't get enough play besides the sleeker, more sculpted All-Star System 7's and Easton M-series. With the camera zoomed in on the telltale, trademark springs of the Defender, I begin reading the closed captioning of the two ESPN broadcasters discussing the details of the mask, and how it is progressively suited to reducing impact force and the likelihood of concussions. The camera pans to show all three spring points, and even shows the profile shape, with the broadcasters pointing out the standoff distance. They go on to say several catchers in the league are now using it, and there is now a hockey-style version on the market (the Defender HSM). In a move of directorial brilliance (the guy in the truck should get an Emmy nomination), the camera then pans to zoom in on Lance Barksdale as PU for tonight's game... wearing a Wilson Titanium Low Profile... with Wilson leather wraparound pads... Sigh. Facepalm. The broadcasters then contrast the Defender TM against the Wilson TiLP, and how little protection it affords the umpire. Barksdale's nose is on the verge of poking out of the eyeport, and the mask is nearly flat on his face. One of the broadcasters laments, "I never saw the point of that mask". #TimeForChange #GetWiseOffWilson #OtherOptionsExist #HeadInTheGame
It seems my modifications to the Schutt XV chest protector have popularized a trend, and inspired several others to join in. I now have 4 CP's here that I'll be making a variety of modifications to so as to extend and improve their usefulness. Schutt XV – This will be using a ULFH from @Razzer (which I've taken to nicknaming RayFlex or, in this case StingRay) in the 3-strap variant. Instead of utilizing the existing yoke – as we did with @D62 blue http://umpire-empire.com/index.php?/topic/65283-ump-life-delta-flex-style-harness/&do=findComment&comment=303927 – I got my hands on a few of these yoke-point parts, and we'll be using one of them instead. Douglas WestVest – This will be using either a DeltaFlex or a Force3 NRH. The wearer has a slim body frame, so I might go with a DeltaFlex, but the NRH might be the better route with its longer straps and less cost. This has also been cleaned (needed it), received new hardware (black T-hooks, nylon buckles and tri-glides instead of corroded metal), and some rivets are being replaced with aluminum Chicago screws. Honig's K-1 CP – A new harness will be a massive improvement, and will be getting one of the three Flex-style harnesses, depending on cost, of course. It will also see its shoulder plates bent and shaped to arch much truer and more conforming. The primary task will be determine a means of fastening the straps to the harness; the current method uses not much more than velcro and is annoying and ineffective. Schutt AiR Flex I – Instead of using the TPU-EVA foam bricks the XV relies on, the AiR Flex uses Brock Beads (which I'll explain during my rebuild of the unit). This aside, the two are are nearly the same, using virtually the same parts. I would truthfully take an XV into any level of baseball, but the thinner AiR Flex might give me pause at the adult-level stuff. That's not to say that it's still not a viable CP, as I've witnessed umpires do adult-level ball with softshells and Davishields. On the AiR Flex, we'll be cutting away the yoke and employing a 4-strap Flex harness once again. I'll also be repositioning the ailettes from "on top" the shoulder – where they bely their football pad origins – down to somewhere more forward. If I had my druthers, I would actually try to put together a closet/garage service on refitting CP pads ala what Team Wendy's offered. I'll update this thread as work progresses!
... 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'm not fishing for replies on this posting. In fact, if we don't post much on this thread other than the occasional Discount or Sale or Promotion as they come up, and notify the rest of the community, that would be ideal and appreciated. With that said... Better Baseball is running a 15%-off Catcher's Gear Weekend, this includes traditional masks and HSM's. May apply to certain CP's and shinguards too. Sale runs 9/5/14 - 9/7/14 at www.betterbaseball.com and use the promo code: "CATCH15" when checking out.