I'm thinking of getting one but pricing and opinions are hugely variable.
I'm more than happy with my current F3v2 mask as my daily driver, so to speak, but I'm still concerned about broken bats and other flying objects that could hit me in the side of the head, so I've been contemplating biting the bullet and grabbing a HSM to use in higher-level wood bat leagues.
So far the ones in contention are (in order of preference) the F3v2 Defender HSM, the All-Star MVP4000, and the Wilson MLB Pro Stock.
From my perspective, the F3v2 still has the upper hand because of the springs and the extra bit of steel that extends over the forehead area, à la Gary Cederstrom's custom Wilson cage, not to mention it's over $100 cheaper than the All-Star. I'm not terribly concerned about more weight from the HSM as I didn't find the extra weight much of an issue when I switched from my +POS Zero-G to the F3v2 so I suspect I'll be fine going to the heavier HSM-style anyway.
Anyone have experience with any of these masks? Things I should know that I might have missed or might not have thought about?
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!
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?
This past year, Wilson ended production of the Shock FX line of Hockey Style masks. While technically progressive, the unit represented a customer service headache for Wilson and a marketing dud when put up against the more sculpted, more rugged, and yet less expensive All-Star System7 series and Easton M series. With cages being bent by impacts, or the shocks becoming fouled up by constant frequent tossings or hurlings to the ground by catchers, more than a few were being sent back to be replaced by all-new units. At one time, Wilson did offer a replacement cage alone, but that option was quickly exhausted. Then, with a substantial portion of their production run going to replace returned units, the Shock FX wasn't generating a sufficient profit margin. Thus, last year, Wilson debuted the Pro Stock HSM, which is a great catchers HSM, as it is very sleek and looks like an even more sculpted and tapered All-Star System7.
But where does that leave Shock FX users? As far as umpires were concerned, the Shock FX was a rather well-designed and accommodating HSM, offering very good viewing space and the critical stand-off distance – supplemented by the shock suspension – necessary for good forward protection. It wasn't too heavy of a unit either, all things considered, but did have some shortcomings that could have been addressed and remedied in subsequent versions. The leather pads would unfortunately retain oils and grime, and made laundering and cleaning a challenge; to their credit, Wilson did offer a replacement pad set (still may, but supplies are likely limited). Then, of course, no cage is impervious to the tremendous energy that a ball potentially carries, and the cages would get bent. Compounding this was Wilson's dalliance into titanium which, while lighter and thinner than steel, cost a substantial amount more and were "impossible" for Wilson and the average user to repair. So while Wilson was closing the line down, and supplies of replacement parts dwindled, the response back to users became, "Sorry, you'll have to purchase another one".
Frustrating, to say the least. Especially when a retail Shock FX was $150 - $200 and a retail All-Star System7 was $115 - $150.
Well good folks, that bent-up Shock FX can get a new lease on life. Mask-It can make repairs on the cages of the Shock FX, as the cage does remove rather easily. Two screws – one at the forehead, one at the chin – hold the cage in place, then the cage merely slides forward and free of its shock-&-spring suspension. Take note of how the parts are arranged, put them in a zip-lock bag or a jar, and then send the cage alone to Tony and his crew at Mask-It. The one they just did for @KenBAZ had a fairly large dent in the eyebrow region, and the paint was long gone to corrosion. Mask-It not only trued the mask back up, but filed the bar ends smooth (before, they were blunt and sharp) and gave it a powdercoat job in Liquid Gunmetal – one of the sexiest colors in their palette.
Looks good as new, doesn't it? It came to $40, but it sure does beat trying to find and purchase a new one!
Oh, I do recommend wrapping the four mounting posts in masking tape. I forgot to, and suddenly remembered an episode of American Chopper wherein powdercoat was applied to the sleeve mountings of the front fork, and they had to file and grind it off to get the fork struts in. Same thing here, I had to file the powdercoat off the four mounting posts so the springs and bushings would fit.