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Rock Bottom

Question re: Plate Shoes and Schutt HSM

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Hi, long time reader, but I just joined this page.  I'm just starting umpiring at the HS level this coming spring (previously I've just done little league as an adult volunteer) and I'm investing in equipment.  I got the Schutt/Adams XV-HDX chest protector for Christmas, and I'm pretty set on the F3 shin guards, but for the plate shoes do you all recommend mid or low cut?  For basketball shoes I like low cut, but I don't know if the mid cut provide better protection (other than just being a higher shoe).  And how much does the cut affect which size to get on the F3s?

Re: the masks, I'm torn between the HSM and traditional, but I'm leaning towards HSM.  My son played high level HS ball, and loved the All-Star, so I'm considering getting the MVP2500 (games I'm umping will have pitchers throwing upwards 80-90, with the rare kid above that), but I'm wondering if anyone has any familiarity with the Schutt HSM, either the Air Maxx 2966 or 2966 OS (which has a very "interesting" cage on it). https://www.schuttsports.com/baseball/officials-gear/protective-gear.html

Thanks for your help!!

 

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I'm sure @MadMax will chime in soon, but I recommend the mid's on plate shoes.  JUST a PERSONAL preference.  Gives a little more support and protection (padding) to the ankle.  On that note, I suggest the New Balance V3 plate shoe.  The plate provides more coverage of the instep.  The mask too, would be a personal preference. 

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I've got the mid cut version of the latest New Balance plate shoes, and I'm not sure if there's a big difference in terms of mating up with your shin guards. I'm currently wearing WIlson Platinums. 

But every combination is different, as is every person. If you can't try them in advance, order both low and mid from ump-attire, and then send one back. Hell, they even encourage that. 

To me, the Achilles heal of every HSM is the lack of forehead protection. F3 has finally addressed this, with a cage that extends over it. If I went that route, that would be on the only one I'd consider. 

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Actually, Schutt has had a forehead cage for awhile now too.  One could actually argue that it even covers more of the entire top of the mask than F3 does.  I think Schutt actually had this prior to F3's new design.

image.png.b48cbb8187b8ef856baee9c575881791.png

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1 hour ago, kylejt said:

I've got the mid cut version of the latest New Balance plate shoes, and I'm not sure if there's a big difference in terms of mating up with your shin guards. I'm currently wearing WIlson Platinums. 

But every combination is different, as is every person. If you can't try them in advance, order both low and mid from ump-attire, and then send one back. Hell, they even encourage that. 

To me, the Achilles heal of every HSM is the lack of forehead protection. F3 has finally addressed this, with a cage that extends over it. If I went that route, that would be on the only one I'd consider. 

Yeah, this is a good call - order both, try both on, walk around in them, etc. Send the one you don't want back, and you're out zero dollars. Totally risk free. You can even do that with masks...

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@Rock Bottom

I have the 16.5 F3s with low-cut plate shoes and they only overlap a bit, but the F3s don't catch my poly-spandex pants much.

As to the HSM mask question, I would recommend the F3v2 HSM over the Allstar, simply because of the forehead protection. Now, I actually currently use the Allstar HSM while catching for HS, and it works really well for me, but I have definitely felt some shots to the forehead. I can only imagine this would be compounded from an umpire stance. The F3v2 is far superior due to the fact that it offers an extended forehead cage to solve this problem. I have no firsthand knowledge of the Schutt HSM.

-BR

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So let me ask you... what are your reasons for wanting HSM?

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4 hours ago, BlueRanger said:

@Rock Bottom

I have the 16.5 F3s with low-cut plate shoes and they only overlap a bit, but the F3s don't catch my poly-spandex pants much.

As to the HSM mask question, I would recommend the F3v2 HSM over the Allstar, simply because of the forehead protection. Now, I actually currently use the Allstar HSM while catching for HS, and it works really well for me, but I have definitely felt some shots to the forehead. I can only imagine this would be compounded from an umpire stance. The F3v2 is far superior due to the fact that it offers an extended forehead cage to solve this problem. I have no firsthand knowledge of the Schutt HSM.

-BR

Why dont you move to the F3v2 for catching as well?

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On 12/31/2018 at 6:42 AM, Aging_Arbiter said:

I’m sure @MadMax will chime in soon,

You rang?

The Force3 Ultimate shinguards will interface very nicely with either the NB 460V3’s in Mid or Low. I myself use and prefer the Lows, but I can see the benefits for some by using the Mids. The “soft” wings of the Ultimates really show their advantage by laying neatly over the Mids and not causing an awkward fit.

By contrast, the Wilson shinguards almost necessitate you to remove the superfluous metatarsal plates, consider using a jigsaw to carve into the ABS of the shin and create a higher arch, and accept a very awkward joint between the shoe and the hard-plate side wings of the shinguard.

And that’s even after the sofa-cushion foam and equivalent price tag?? That’s the “Big League thing”? Uh, no thanks.

Now to the masks... I ask this of anybody considering a Hockey-Style Mask – why? ( @JSam21 beat me to it while I was writing this) What trait or characteristic are you trying to find or address in a HSM? You did point out that you’ll be seeing 80-90mph pitching. Well, it’s crucial to point out that there is no protective advantage to a HSM over a TM in regards to frontal impact. In fact, because we can choose the specific pads on a TM, we have a measure of control over that factor. Also, when you consider the progressive, active-suspension mask in the Force3 Defender, you’ve got yourself the best current option for frontal-impact protection on the market.

In my “professional” opinion, current HSM’s on the market are predominantly designed and intended for catchers. The bulk of that has to do with the NFHS rules prohibiting headgear that does not meet NOCSAE approval, and NOCSAE subsequently refusing to test or approve 2-piece systems. Most often, an umpire who opts for a HSM is doing so out of either personal preference, or from concern stemming from broken bats, or turning (or worse, dropping) the head. There are a few HSMs that, unintentionally, have features that appeal to umpires. The All-Star MVP is the most well-known example, since All-Star has poured a tremendous amount of time and development in balancing geometry, weight, materials, and costs. Wilson had, without intending it, an ideal HSM for umpires in the Shock FX; it was light, reasonably easy to take on and off, well-ventilated, and featured an active-spring suspension. However, Wilson terminated production in it because catchers were heavily favoring the All-Star, Easton, and Mizuno models, which were less hindering on throwing and less prone to breaking of the suspension when the mask invariably hit the ground. An umpire’s mask (should) never hits the ground – so by cancelling the Shock FX, is Wilson serving catchers or umpires?

It was Gary Cederstrom’s use of the Shock FX that inspired implementation of a “crest extension”. Why Wilson didn’t adopt this into their entire model line beggars belief, but this found its way into Mizuno (in an Asian market release), Force3, and Schutt. Schutt is known for making custom, specific faceguard masks for football, ala LaDanian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, or Justin Tuck.

The other thing working in Schutt’s favor is that they are using the exact same technology of their NFL-worthy football helmets – highly advanced D3O foam and spaced-suspension – in their baseball helmets. It’s economically efficient for Schutt to do so, despite not having a significant portion of the baseball market. The challenge is for the other schmucks (companies), who are still locked in to making hundreds, if not thousands, of conventional HSMs simply to stock them on retail shelves at a price point.

12 hours ago, BT_Blue said:

Why dont you move to the F3v2 for catching as well?

I have a hunch it may be a budget issue, or a familiarity / style issue. The Defender-II HSM is brand-spanking new, and commands a justifiable premium price point. @BlueRanger may have had his trusty All-Star MVP for the past 2-3 years, it’s still intact, and it matches / complements his school or team colors. All-Star does offer the MVP in a dizzying array of color and style combinations, while Force3 is just introducing it; I do heartily applaud Force3 to debuting it in matte grey, which looks super-swank. But notice, there isn’t a black-on-black version out in adult sizes yet... why’s that? Because umpires are the most lazy, tight-fisted misers in the market!!! 

16 hours ago, BlueRanger said:

I can only imagine this would be compounded from an umpire stance. 

Not so much the case. Forehead shots are a valid concern of @kylejt‘s, but catchers take far more at-the-eyes-and-above shots than we do, simply due to location. No, the ones that really smoke us are the chin shots – it’s like an uppercut to the jaw delivered by a heavyweight boxer. BlueRanger should know this – what are catchers taught to do at the reception of a pitch, or in blocking one? Drop the chin. What is it umpires are directed to do? Lock in, and keep the chin jutted out, like Mount Rushmore or the Old Man of the Mountain at Franconia Notch.

I’m not saying either practice has to end... but why hasn’t headgear been yet designed to address these traits individually and separately? Why do we keep expecting catcher gear to suffice for umpires?

In summary, @Rock Bottom, if you’re just starting out in umpiring, I’m not going to dissuade you from using a HSM. However, it’s worth noting that a great deal of your training, evaluations (from “higher” umpires), and perceptions (from coaches) will hinge around getting the mask off as quickly and cleanly as possible, so you have an unencumbered view of the play (or ball). A TM is just so much easier and lighter in that regard, and what I encourage many umpires to do, especially HSM wearers, is to have a TM – even a cheap one – with them for use at clinics, camps, or “known” evaluation games. 

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2 hours ago, MadMax said:

I have a hunch it may be a budget issue, or a familiarity / style issue. The Defender-II HSM is brand-spanking new, and commands a justifiable premium price point. @BlueRanger may have had his trusty All-Star MVP for the past 2-3 years, it’s still intact, and it matches / complements his school or team colors. All-Star does offer the MVP in a dizzying array of color and style combinations, while Force3 is just introducing it; I do heartily applaud Force3 to debuting it in matte grey, which looks super-swank. But notice, there isn’t a black-on-black version out in adult sizes yet... why’s that? Because umpires are the most lazy, tight-fisted misers in the market!!! 

Not so much the case. Forehead shots are a valid concern of @kylejt‘s, but catchers take far more at-the-eyes-and-above shots than we do, simply due to location. No, the ones that really smoke us are the chin shots – it’s like an uppercut to the jaw delivered by a heavyweight boxer. BlueRanger should know this – what are catchers taught to do at the reception of a pitch, or in blocking one? Drop the chin. What is it umpires are directed to do? Lock in, and keep the chin jutted out, like Mount Rushmore or the Old Man of the Mountain at Franconia Notch.

I see what you @MadMax are talking about with the forehead shots for umpires, but I guess what I was thinking was that given OP is a newer umpire, he may be more susceptible to ducking or having too low of a head height, but neither here nor there, your point still stands.

As far as the AllStar vs F3 question, you pretty much hit it on the head. My AllStar is comfortable, fits my giant head well, keeps it cool, can fit my sunglasses if need be, has great vision, and keeps me pretty well protected from most stuff I get at the HS level. The F3 looks pretty good, but I have to question if its worth dropping big $$$ on to fix something that isnt broken. 

-BR

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Thank you all so much for the detailed replies!  @JSam21 and @MadMax , one of the main reasons I'm looking at the HSM is that I'm just more familiar with it, as I used a Shock fx  HSM to catch my son when he was younger (the pads are falling off now and I can't find replacements) and also since he's now in college and not using it, I was thinking about maybe getting replacement pads for his MVP2500 and just use that.  Then I came across the Schutt HSMs when I was researching the CPs, so thought I'd ask about them since they were a little cheaper.  I'm doing this as a side job to help pay for the 3 kids I have in college, and I'm sure like all of you can't afford to get injured so I thought HSM might provide a little higher level of safety.  (Most of the fields I'll be on have open backstops, but a couple do have closer fences were ricochet shots off the top of the cage can catch you.)  I caught through HS as well, but that was a LONG time ago, so we were still using the FM/skullcap combo, but I definitely was concerned too about top-of-the-head protection.

Mike (Rock Bottom) 

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Anyone else think that MadMax had a high school girlfriend, with the last name of Wilson,  that left him for the varsity quarterback?  

 

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5 hours ago, Rock Bottom said:

Thank you all so much for the detailed replies!  @JSam21 and @MadMax , one of the main reasons I'm looking at the HSM is that I'm just more familiar with it, as I used a Shock fx  HSM to catch my son when he was younger (the pads are falling off now and I can't find replacements) and also since he's now in college and not using it, I was thinking about maybe getting replacement pads for his MVP2500 and just use that.  Then I came across the Schutt HSMs when I was researching the CPs, so thought I'd ask about them since they were a little cheaper.  I'm doing this as a side job to help pay for the 3 kids I have in college, and I'm sure like all of you can't afford to get injured so I thought HSM might provide a little higher level of safety.  (Most of the fields I'll be on have open backstops, but a couple do have closer fences were ricochet shots off the top of the cage can catch you.)  I caught through HS as well, but that was a LONG time ago, so we were still using the FM/skullcap combo, but I definitely was concerned too about top-of-the-head protection.

Mike (Rock Bottom) 

Mike... I would suggest just getting a traditional style mask. A ball coming off a back stop isn’t going to hurt you. 

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2 hours ago, kylejt said:

Anyone else think that MadMax had a high school girlfriend, with the last name of Wilson,  that left him for the varsity quarterback?  

 

That and an unnatural aversion to the color combo of black and gold or yellow.

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41 minutes ago, JSam21 said:

Mike... I would suggest just getting a traditional style mask. A ball coming off a back stop isn’t going to hurt you. 

I was working under an old clam shell type back stop, that went completely over the plate. I had a foul ball go straight up, hit a bar, fire straight back down and smash that little metal button on my hat. *E#Y@W# did that hurt. So even though I still don't wear a bucket (although I have one just in case I encounter one of those style backstops again), I respectfully disagree about getting hurt. 

 

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8 hours ago, kylejt said:

I was working under an old clam shell type back stop, that went completely over the plate. I had a foul ball go straight up, hit a bar, fire straight back down and smash that little metal button on my hat. *E#Y@W# did that hurt. So even though I still don't wear a bucket (although I have one just in case I encounter one of those style backstops again), I respectfully disagree about getting hurt. 

 

Ok... maybe I should have worded it differently. A ball off the backstop isn’t going to injure you. In fact there is research out there that suggests that you’re more likely to be concussed wearing a HSM than a TSM. When the TSM flies off it is taking energy with it. The HSM just directs it into your head and neck. 

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15 hours ago, kylejt said:

Anyone else think that MadMax had a high school girlfriend, with the last name of Wilson,  that left him for the varsity quarterback?  

 

The HS Quarterback/Home Coming King/Girlfriend Stealer was named Wilson and drove a black and yellow Camaro is my guess. 

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23 hours ago, JSam21 said:

Ok... maybe I should have worded it differently. A ball off the backstop isn’t going to injure you. In fact there is research out there that suggests that you’re more likely to be concussed wearing a HSM than a TSM. When the TSM flies off it is taking energy with it. The HSM just directs it into your head and neck. 

I too have been boinked on the back by a short backstop, and it didn't injure but it hurt for a bit. For years I had both a TM and an All-Star MVP4000, for those situations (and on hot windy days when it was actually better ventilated). Would probably wear it 20% of the time, less so last few years as the # of games on those older fields has lessened. Now, I have an F3 TM and love it, selling the HSM last year for a deal too good to pass up, but wouldn't wear any TM other than the F3 in place of the All-Star.

With all due respect, I have heard on occasion of this research but have never once seen a citation or summary of an actual study. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but I simply do not believe it's anywhere near definitive. There's also research on the other side - Brad from All-Star himself posted on these very pages years ago about some of their research. There are some angles and scenarios where a traditional mask is as good or slightly better, according to them, many where the more angular HSM is better. Yes, they were a manufacturer and worthy of a grain of salt, but he at least put his name and rep on it. And the All-Star and F3 HSM are the only ones I'd ever use - very low opinion of the Shock F/X due to durability concerns, the multiple stories of woeful warranty service, not to mention that big ole flat forehead area on it.

Frankly, I think the idea of a TM spinning being protective is - well, far more old wives tale than physics. If it spins the wider, flatter TM, it may be a tangential shot that would have either missed a high quality (All Star or F3) HSM altogether or harmlessly glanced off. If it's more frontal, even if there's some spin, the direct force is already transferred to you in either case. I just don' t buy it as a material advantage. I would love for more research - on either side - to be more publicly avail, but I doubt the differences for either (caveat: a high quality example of either, not some cheapie plastic bargain rack helmet or budget TM with light foam) to overcome what someone feels comfortable using.

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7 hours ago, scrounge said:

I too have been boinked on the back by a short backstop, and it didn't injure but it hurt for a bit. For years I had both a TM and an All-Star MVP4000, for those situations (and on hot windy days when it was actually better ventilated). Would probably wear it 20% of the time, less so last few years as the # of games on those older fields has lessened. Now, I have an F3 TM and love it, selling the HSM last year for a deal too good to pass up, but wouldn't wear any TM other than the F3 in place of the All-Star.

With all due respect, I have heard on occasion of this research but have never once seen a citation or summary of an actual study. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but I simply do not believe it's anywhere near definitive. There's also research on the other side - Brad from All-Star himself posted on these very pages years ago about some of their research. There are some angles and scenarios where a traditional mask is as good or slightly better, according to them, many where the more angular HSM is better. Yes, they were a manufacturer and worthy of a grain of salt, but he at least put his name and rep on it. And the All-Star and F3 HSM are the only ones I'd ever use - very low opinion of the Shock F/X due to durability concerns, the multiple stories of woeful warranty service, not to mention that big ole flat forehead area on it.

Frankly, I think the idea of a TM spinning being protective is - well, far more old wives tale than physics. If it spins the wider, flatter TM, it may be a tangential shot that would have either missed a high quality (All Star or F3) HSM altogether or harmlessly glanced off. If it's more frontal, even if there's some spin, the direct force is already transferred to you in either case. I just don' t buy it as a material advantage. I would love for more research - on either side - to be more publicly avail, but I doubt the differences for either (caveat: a high quality example of either, not some cheapie plastic bargain rack helmet or budget TM with light foam) to overcome what someone feels comfortable using.

I'm a F3 TM guy, but I've also never bought this line of thinking. The front impact on a shot is just that, frontal. The spin isn't helping much with that. 

On another note, I haven't worked with many guys that have the F3 mask, but everyone is sure interested in checking it out, putting it on, etc. And 90% of the time it's "this is too heavy" and/or "that's unnecessary, when the mask spins it lessens the impact". The #1 goal for those 90%: weight. To each their own, obviously, but choosing protective equipment based solely on weight strikes me as an ignorant endeavor. 

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On 1/1/2019 at 5:11 PM, Rock Bottom said:

I'm doing this as a side job to help pay for the 3 kids I have in college

Same here - It's a fun ride, though, and I plan to keep doing it long after they're all on their own.

8 hours ago, scrounge said:

There are some angles and scenarios where a traditional mask is as good or slightly better, according to them, many where the more angular HSM is better.

Great, now I have to pull out my old, mostly-unused engineering degree..

This part makes perfect sense, and I doubt anybody can argue with this (well, maybe to the degree "many" vs "some")

8 hours ago, scrounge said:

There are some angles and scenarios where a traditional mask is as good or slightly better, according to them, many where the more angular HSM is better.

The goal of any mask is to dissipate energy to reduce the impact to your face. There are different ways this can happen, in order from the best to the worst.

1) Don't get hit. This sounds silly, but the truly best mask would be so close to your face it wouldn't get hit unless the ball was going to hit you. The bigger the mask, the more it gets hit. TM's are better than HSM's on this principle, with the low-profile ones being best.

2) Ball gets deflected, going at a slightly different angle than it started with - the smaller the angle of deflection, the less is absorbed by the mask, and subsequently, by your face. When it works, this method is best, because the ball dissipates its own kinetic energy. The best design for this would be a long, narrow angle wedge, except that would violate #1. Straight-on shorts really can't do this well, and we have to plan for that. HSM's tend to have less straight-on spots than TM's, so they would be better for this.

3) The energy gets transferred to the mask as the mask is knocked off. If your mask goes straight off the back of your head, the energy was not transferred to your face, and that's what we want. *Some* of that energy can go into spinning, but merely spinning a mask doesn't keep that energy from going back to your face. We can look at it in terms of XYZ coordinates, but faces aren't perfectly flat, and neither are masks, so that makes the math quite complicated, but any energy that is transferred toward "something besides your face" is a good thing. TM's can do this, HSM's can't.

4) The one we all dread - the one that's straight to the face, and the energy *will* go to your face in some way or another. Then it becomes a matter of pads (and in the case of F3, springs along with the pads), which will dissipate the energy over a greater surface area and a greater amount of time. In exactly the opposite as #1, we want more space and more padding when this happens. Create a mask that will instantly materialize 6" of a sofa cushion in front of your face, and you're perfect for this one. I've never used a HSM, but my understanding is that most of them are fairly bad in this area. TM's vary a LOT, and can even change with time as pads get worn out, and perform differently in heat or cold or wet.

5) The X-factor - balls coming from other fields, bouncing off backstops, bats breaking, or anything else coming from not-in-front-of-you. They're rare, but do happen on occasion. HSM's with the obvious advantage on these.

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On 1/3/2019 at 3:35 PM, kylehutson said:

The goal of any mask is to dissipate energy to reduce the impact to your face. There are different ways this can happen, in order from the best to the worst.

Reasons 1) thru 5) ...

Kyle, this has to be one of the most succinct explanations regarding this topic we've had yet.

There hasn't been anything beyond token research and testing on the merits, or demerits, of the two systems. Indeed, the HSM as we know it today grew out of the need to progress beyond this: 
-2521121334655196826.jpg

s-l640.jpg DCH-MAXX_large.png

Because youth catchers could not be trusted to properly wear masks and helmets, and stemming from Little League's push to champion their two-ear-flap development (they're the ones that started it), they took a twin-flap batting helmet, sawed off the front, and bolt-and-strapped an otherwise conventional mask to it. Kids hated it (I know! I was one of them!). It was hot, heavy, stuffy, had very limited sightlines, and was painful and problematic to take on and off. Also, kid catchers looked nowhere as cool as their pro idols. And let's face it, lookin' cool sells.
little-league-catcher-wearing-protective

Meanwhile, in the pros, the conventional solid-steel-wire mask may have been teamed up an ear-flap-less batting helmet (the visor'ed skullcap), but they too were heavy, cumbersome, and useless to wear during collision plays, because you really couldn't see anything out of them. That changed in 1996, when Charlie O'Brien had a moment of inspiration and approached Van Velden Mask Inc. (of Hamilton, ONT... @Razzer might know of this) to develop the archetype "hockey style mask". Their efforts became the All-Star MVP, which debuted on September 13, 1997. O'Brien maintained that the HSM afforded him better distribution of impacting force because of "vectoring", and that because a baseball, being spherical and naturally deforming, wouldn't strike with any more full-frontal-force than a hockey puck. Here's the complete article: 
http://puckjunk.com/2018/03/29/the-evolution-of-baseballs-goalie-mask/

The first All-Star MVP's construction borrowed the same laminate matrix – of fiberglass, Kevlar, and other plastics – and used the same planform (shell shape), complete with its own appropriate wire cage. The problem became mass production: hockey is a rather specialized sport, with a limited quantity of goalies needing such a premium-quality produced mask. Junior / amateur goalies were still utilizing conventional mask constructions like this:
f7910cf7321fce0ee163e9606e3eaf5c.jpg  5cd89c6df1c53afe70c1d41d9684331c.jpg

There's also a very on-point forum discussion about this here:
https://hfboards.mandatory.com/threads/why-dont-goalies-wear-the-hasek-style-mask-anymore.1899293/
... with three poignant, relevant (to baseball) posts...
 

Quote

One of the reason Hasek's mask wasn't attractive for a lot of other goalie was because it was too difficult to take on and off. It's why Hasek never took off his mask during the national anthems.

Quote

Cages are simply attached to a regular helmet, and thus were generally poorly designed and angled. Because of that it wasn't as effective for protecting against pucks compared to full-on goalie masks.

Goalie masks are designed to take pucks to the head as shots can come from anywhere, hence the smooth design you see on the store shelves. It's like a jet wing where rather than taking the full force of air/a puck flat, it's supposed to slide around it or ricochet.

The old masks blocked the puck rather than deflect it, which causes more force to a goalie's head.

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More youth goalies used to start with skater helmets than they do today.

So the NFHS, at some point, recognized that the HSM gave the amateur ballplayer the best of all worlds – it gave total head coverage, it did a better job at deflecting impacts, and it could be taken off and put on reasonably well without compromising safety. Remember how I mentioned the problem with mass production? There are significantly more amateur catchers & ballplayers than goalies & hockey players. So, in order to get ease- and cost-of-production down, the manufacturers were allowed to use ABS and injection-molded plastics (instead of fiberglass and kevlar), and to ease the cost of engineering development, they all used the same planform. Sure, a few companies here and there (All-Star, Easton, Mizuno, etc.) have forked off onto other planforms based on feature testing, not so much to develop better protection, but to create a better shape for vision, ventilation, and for throwing while leaving the mask on. Most companies (Worth, Louisville Slugger, etc.) have stuck with the same planform, though, and there has been no further development or enhancement. Since NOCSAE is not truly independent, but is instead made up as a consortium of representatives from all the vested manufacturers, if a planform is greenlit (approved), it tends to stay as such year-to-year, and gets circulated to all the manufacturers, unless a patent is applied. Point is, there's been no incentive to improve the HSM because to do so would mean that you'd have to have that new planform tested by NOCSAE (thus, by your peers and competitors) and approved, which is financial risk. Most companies, aside from the likes of All-Star (who has their own independent testing apparatus), Easton, Mizuno and Wilson (who has a very staunch copyright and patent law team employed), don't have the capital to invest in further developments, and are, at best, treading water, banking on youth baseball organizations needing to buy "anything approved" each and every year at the lowest bargain price point.

Through all this, though, there hasn't been a definitive, exhaustive study of the forces involved. All that anyone's really cared about is whether or not a particular HSM model has the NOCSAE approval mark on it, and all that NOCSAE really cares about is the HSM's integrity, not the performance. To NOCSAE and NFHS's credit, though, the forces involved are contextually relative, and there is more concern about a bat slipping out of a batter's grip and smacking a catcher in the side of the head, or that same catcher turning his head in (improper) avoidance of a skipping pitch. Of course, as the skill level increases, so do the velocities and forces involved. NOCSAE and NFHS only has responsibility and focus on amateurs at 18 or younger, and for the most part, they have been able to survive at that relative status quo.

However, there is one glaring absence in this entire topic: the Plate Umpire. To this day, nothing in the realm of helmets or masks has been designed for the Plate Umpire specifically. The majority of protective need for the plate umpire is frontal. Whereas catchers are taught or conditioned to drop their chins to block and deflect a pitched baseball, Plate Umpires are conditioned to keep their heads as stock-still as possible. A great deal of a catcher's HSM construction is designed from shell-inward, since an impact with the ground or the dugout bench is far more frequent and repetitive than a pitch, batted ball, or a bat itself striking the HSM's shell. Thus, the manufacturers have to devote a considerable amount of weight and balancing production cost into making a durable external shell. By contrast, a Plate Umpire's mask should never touch the ground, let alone be dropped on the ground, unless it has been knocked off his face by a ball impact. Therefore, there is a sparkling opportunity to devote more absorptive materials and structures to dispersing, absorbing, and deadening impact force for those rare events when it does occur... but not one manufacturer has approached it (yet) because in their view, Plate Umpires are too few and too specialized to be financially attractive to their profit margins. Wilson's termination of the Shock-FX HSM in favor of the Pro Stock is an ugly, itchy, festering sore-of-an-example of how a corporation regards catchers versus Umpires. I wouldn't vilify Wilson as much as I do had they streamlined the Shock-FX's production, limited or revamped it to be a for-Umpires model, and produced it and the Pro Stock concurrently. Instead, they ended it, full stop.

To date, only one company has actively endeavoured to address frontal impacts, and that is Force3 with the Defender spring-suspension system. Is it perfect? No. Is it the best option going right now? Yes. Their HSM version unfortunately fell into the same pitfall that other HSMs fall into – because of how NOCSAE conducts their test and grants approval, the Defender V1's shell planform had to be an existing planform, and the spring suspension shoehorned and bolted into it in a less-than-ideal manner. Once the Defender "technology" has been submitted to patent, and the unit has received the all-too-valuable NOCSAE approval, now we are seeing drastic improvements in the Defender V2 HSM. Its design (and its cost) encourages a more refined use by catchers at all levels, such that the catcher should leave it on the majority of the time. Indeed, the "high-end" models from All-Star, Easton, Rawlings – and now Wilson with their Pro Stock – encourage leaving the HSM on as much as possible, due to their improved sightlines and optimized construction. The Force3 Defender takes it one step further and puts an active spring-suspension on it, further absorbing the impact before it reaches the shell.

There's just one problem with this, when it comes to the Plate Umpire: We are scrutinized regarding taking the mask off for (all) calls and post-pitch / post-hit plays. Even if we are in ideal position, with "perfect" sightlines through the minimal cage of the best-of-market HSM, we still are going to catch flak from someone (coach, player... or evaluator) regarding our wearing of the HSM during the making of the call.

https://www.mlb.com/news/lindsay-berra-old-school-catchers-masks-help-protect-from-concussions/c-62938052

 

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On 12/31/2018 at 9:42 AM, wolfe_man said:

Actually, Schutt has had a forehead cage for awhile now too.  One could actually argue that it even covers more of the entire top of the mask than F3 does.  I think Schutt actually had this prior to F3's new design.

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Among even the football equipment manufacturers, Schutt has the kingpin position on wire cages / masks (which shocks me that they haven't developed a killer TM for baseball). You'll note from even their latest football helmets have extended wire mask shaping away from the face; what Schutt acknowledges that if you can redirect impact away from the shell, you're changing the vector of the impact, thereby reducing the concussive force the shell has to take.

Schutt also has one huge ace up their sleeve, though, compared to other HSM manufacturers. They have D3O, which is the same magical, modern foam material that is in their XV chest protector, and has also been used extensively in their football helmets to great success. How is it that this HSM of theirs, and the XV CP, featuring such advanced, cutting-edge foam as D3O, be less than $100 each??!! Simple: Football is footin' the bill for it. It doesn't faze Schutt to allocate a rather tiny percentage of their D3O and other raw materials budget to a short run of baseball equipment when the vast majority of it is already paid for by football margins. A far more insidious topic is starting to appear, though, and it is perhaps indicated by Schutt's "sharing" of the XV (and other protective gear and apparel for baseball) with their partner, Adams – tariffs. Yes, tariffs. All these tariffs being placed on China are likely hamstringing volume imports for companies like Schutt, such that they have to find ways of getting an ever-increasing catalog imported with as few fees as possible. So, instead of affecting their highly lucrative football imports, they place the baseball gear under Adams' name and account.

Each of the Japanese auto makers do the same thing with their "subsidiary" marks: Honda has Acura, Nissan has Infiniti, Toyota has Lexus and Scion, etc.

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Thanks all - great info!  I ended up ordering both the All-Star FM4000 and the Schutt 2966 HSM (although not the one with the extended cage).  I'll decide which one to keep once I can try them on (or maybe I'll just keep both anyway).  

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