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JimKirk

Help Make Heather Grey Go Away

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Wanted to make everyone aware we’re encouraging 2 things in the marketplace on the uniform end with leagues, associations and groups.

One is to get everyone on the same page with a darker grey pant (no light or heather grey) - that means baseball and softball.

The second is to reduce requirements for an all-black shoe, especially on the plate.

I know someone will chime in on shirt colors, but that will always be something the marketplace wants. Plus, you’ll read further to understand why pants and shoes need to be the main 2.

1 pleated pant in base, plate and combo in one color has over 40 SKUs. Add a flat front, you’re at 80+. That’s a lot of inventory investment and space requirements for one color.

1 NB plate shoe with D, 2E and 4E is also over 40. Add the low-cut, and we’re over 80. Same issues there - just to have no-white on an N logo - actually more-so as shoes cost more and take up more space.

Given that there is a huge need for smaller size plate shoes (for women, youth and others) and given there is a need for better fitting pants for the same demo, by changing these requirements, the industry could free up the large amount of investment in pants and plate shoes to provide these needs.

(Getting rid of say a navy or chartreuse shirt color only takes away 7 SKUs, so I’m going 80/20 rule here with the 2 items.)

This is something the manufacturers and retailers want to move toward, but as long as their is still some marketplace desire here, manufactures and retailers are going to be pressed to continue.

If you have any influence on your side at your level, help press for these 2 changes:

-Make Heather Grey Go Away

-Sack the All-Black

I have already started to press from the industry angle and will continue to do so.

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I understand the notion of reducing skus, a highly recommended move for most retail establishments (too many years in retail, education in business/OD, and some side gig consulting), but there must be “enough of a market” if they still exist and you carry them though.  That or you are trying too hard to be all things to all people.  The rest is just my personal opinion below ... 

It is a personal preference, but I cannot stand white on my shoes.  Not when I am officiating and not even in my everyday life.  As far as officials’ shoes, it’s only purpose is to advertise the manufacturer.  All black looks more professional (even though the professionals don’t wear it).  When I reach the point that I only work on turf, I will reconsider.  As long as I work on dirt, white is blight!  

Even as a primarily softball guy, I don’t have any impassioned plea about Heather Grey pants though.  I would like some consistency across manufacturers though, whether that is charcoal, Heather, or just grey.

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In Ohio, there's a common misconception that we must have all black shoes.   The words instead are "mostly black" which means that you may have some white on your shoe.  Both my plate (Reebok Mags) and base shoes (Nike Air Diamond Trainer) have white on them.

Baseball is already charcoal only for playoffs, but we can wear heather during the season; however no one in my area does except for the guys too cheap to buy a new pair.  But then, the guy that won't buy a new pair of pants normally is also wearing a navy blue shirt that has turned soft purple due to the sun and washing/wearing.

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Everywhere I work allows some white. I still buy the all-black. Like @The Man in Blue, I like them better, especially as long as I'm working on fields with any dirt on them whatsoever.

I don't have a problem spending money on equipment. My day job (computer nerd) is fairly lucrative and officiating is my "fun money", not anything I need to survive. Heck, I just spent money a couple of weeks ago on some Smitty base shoes specifically to wear on dirt because I don't like cleaning the mesh on my NB's (you can find that in your records @JimKirk). And I do understand that the number of SKUs can get ridiculous. But if you're going to eliminate one or the other, why not eliminate the ones with the white logos?

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2 hours ago, JimKirk said:

If you have any influence on your side at your level, help press for these 2 changes:

Interesting. I never really gave the SKU much thought but I now can see how this turns into a large investment.

I don't think I have seen a guy wearing heather in years, and if so the pants were so old they were turning more of a blue color. I didn't realize they still sold new pants in heather. 

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+1 for all-black shoes. I bought new NB plate and base shoes with white trim this spring and I am already regretting the decision. Keeping the white areas white is work I simply would rather not do. Those white areas really look unprofessional when they are not fully cleaned. And when I work a double, I don't usually have time to clean my shoes before the next game which means I am taking the field and making a first impression...with dirty shoes. I will be buying all-blacks next spring and just clean up my white trim shoes for the rare turf field assignment.

+1 for umpiring shoes with no mesh! @kylehutson, nailed this. Keeping those mesh areas clean is difficult. I have been using an old bathroom scrub brush on those areas but, I'm worried I'm eventually going to rip or snag the mesh. If anyone has any tips, please share.

@JimKirk, perhaps a 2 minute complete shoe care video would be helpful to showcase products and techniques?

~Dog

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2 things ......... 1) all black shoes make you look like you have dress shoes on (moreso in the field)

2) as you get older and slower.... white on your base shoes makes you look faster! :D 

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53 minutes ago, SeeingEyeDog said:

+1 for umpiring shoes with no mesh! @kylehutson, nailed this. Keeping those mesh areas clean is difficult. I have been using an old bathroom scrub brush on those areas but, I'm worried I'm eventually going to rip or snag the mesh. If anyone has any tips, please share.

@JimKirk, perhaps a 2 minute complete shoe care video would be helpful to showcase products and techniques?

I have an old MiLB buddy that gave me a tip - he said to use a denture brush.  It helps get in those small cracks and niches where dirt likes to collect.  I use Scrubbing Bubbles and then brush those areas that are stubborn, but normally I can get my shoes clean with just wiping the SB off.

Ray Brownlie offered an excellent tutorial on this FB page on how to clean the NB V3 mesh umpire plate shoes.   He takes the liners out and then soaks the entire shoe in hot water.  Then, he hangs them to dry with newspaper stuffed into them to help dry quicker.  He allows them to air dry before wearing.   I forget all of the nitty gritty details, but he had a whole process.  This was the "deep clean", he offered other tips for between games.

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Thanks, @wolfe_man. I'm also picturing some kind of shoe bath. The "tub" would be about 14" X 6" X 2". You fill that with an inch of water (preferably hot) and then gently step in with each shoe, grab a seat on your bumper and quickly wipe anything left. Kind of like what you see at construction sites where when trucks depart, they go through a tire bath so they don't track stuff out onto the asphalt or concrete roadway.

Denture brush is so obvious...excellent suggestion! :banghead:

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2 hours ago, aaluck said:

Interesting. I never really gave the SKU much thought but I now can see how this turns into a large investment.

I don't think I have seen a guy wearing heather in years, and if so the pants were so old they were turning more of a blue color. I didn't realize they still sold new pants in heather. 


Just as charcoal is the standard for baseball, heather is the standard for softball.   As I said, I don’t really have any preference on color (and double duty out any equipment/uniform is better!) and I understand @JimKirk’s desire to reduce skus ... but it is a little insensitive/narrow minded to tell an entire sport they need to change their standard.

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9 minutes ago, The Man in Blue said:

heather is the standard for softball.

Did not realize that. Now knowing that, thats a tough ask in the OP.

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2 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:


Just as charcoal is the standard for baseball, heather is the standard for softball.   As I said, I don’t really have any preference on color (and double duty out any equipment/uniform is better!) and I understand @JimKirk’s desire to reduce skus ... but it is a little insensitive/narrow minded to tell an entire sport they need to change their standard.

I appreciate your opinion. I look at it from an opportunity cost perspective. When we talk to a shoe mfg about making smaller size shoes, the answer is “it costs too much”. When you ask a uniform mfg to make an investment in a women/youth/smaller frame line, the answer is the same.

However, I see a lot of money being spent on two sets of shoe colors and two sets of pant colors at all levels in the industry.

Seeing things on all sides - retailers, suppliers and customers, I’d like to think I am being open-minded about trying to look out for all parties to make things mutually beneficial.

Right now, usa/ncaa softball is reviewing potential changes to the uniform requirements. Many college softball umpires are pushing for changes. Most dislike the heather and want the option to have some white on their shoes. So, I am just trying to help that push with what they want with a perspective from a different angle.

I definitely do not have the power to make leagues/others change their requirements, but I am looking to steer things a bit for the better when things are up for decisions.

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5 hours ago, kylehutson said:

Everywhere I work allows some white. I still buy the all-black. Like @The Man in Blue, I like them better, especially as long as I'm working on fields with any dirt on them whatsoever.

I don't have a problem spending money on equipment. My day job (computer nerd) is fairly lucrative and officiating is my "fun money", not anything I need to survive. Heck, I just spent money a couple of weeks ago on some Smitty base shoes specifically to wear on dirt because I don't like cleaning the mesh on my NB's (you can find that in your records @JimKirk). And I do understand that the number of SKUs can get ridiculous. But if you're going to eliminate one or the other, why not eliminate the ones with the white logos?

@kylehutson open to that. Maybe the dark grey vs heather is the low-hanging fruit?

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@JimKirk you have an advantage I don’t ... you have data!  I just have anecdotes from a grumpy old umpire.  :cheers:

If orgs are looking at uniform changes, it is a good time to make that case!

Regarding the size/gender issue ... do you see the manufacturers changing their tunes with a changing demographic in umpires?

PS — of course USA is looking at a new uniform change.  2020 was the “deadline“ for umpires to comply with the ASA/USA switch.  Now that guys and gals have caved and bought the generic USA logo gear, it’s time to roll out the enhanced colorful logo!  (I called that one years ago.)

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6 hours ago, JimKirk said:

Right now, usa/ncaa softball is reviewing potential changes to the uniform requirements. Many college softball umpires are pushing for changes. Most dislike the heather and want the option to have some white on their shoes. So, I am just trying to help that push with what they want with a perspective from a different angle.

@JimKirk I'm a NCAA and USA umpire.  I've been told the reason we abide by these uniform spec is SPECIFICALLY to look different than baseball umpires.  When I first started, I had a pair of charcoal Gerry Davis pleated plate pants and boy, were they comfortable.  It almost felt like having nothing on!  Life was great until I umpired a game with a college guy and he said "don't ever wear those pants again".

I would love to go to charcoal, to pleats.  I would love even more going to white on a shoe - I really dislike the all black base shoes currently on the market and would like to have more options.  Alas, it is what it is.  The current SUP (head umpire) I believe would be open to change, however just because it's "allowed" doesn't mean you can really do it.  Take pleats - there's nothing in the official's manual about it.  I've seen people wear them in games, good umpires too.  They won't wear them on TV games though.  If an assignor saw you with pleated pants on TV, they would be on your butt.  If they saw you in them a second time, there wouldn't be a third.

One option for you might be to limit the amount of heather pants you offer.  Looking on your site, there are lots of options.  Unfortunately they are all Smitty pants.  You might sell the Smittys to park ball guys but almost everyone I know uses Fechheimers, Honig's or Gerry Davis.  At higher level softball, the only pants worn are Fechheimers purchased off the USA website.  Plate and Base, no combo BS.  Last time I saw a guy with Smitty pants, they looked terrible.  The pants had an awful silver color to them and the umpire looked ridiculous.  Not sure if you can make inroads with Fechheimer (never seen them sold anywhere else) but you could do us all a favor a kill the silver Smittys.

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4 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

Regarding the size/gender issue ... do you see the manufacturers changing their tunes with a changing demographic in umpires?

I hope so. We recently developed a female umpires committee made up of baseball and softball umpires to help with expertise and awareness for manufacturers.
https://www.ump-attire.com/Company-News/Female-Umpires-Committee-to-Advise-on-Gear-Clothing-Needs

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3 hours ago, AL-Ump said:

@JimKirk I'm a NCAA and USA umpire.  I've been told the reason we abide by these uniform spec is SPECIFICALLY to look different than baseball umpires.  When I first started, I had a pair of charcoal Gerry Davis pleated plate pants and boy, were they comfortable.  It almost felt like having nothing on!  Life was great until I umpired a game with a college guy and he said "don't ever wear those pants again".

I would love to go to charcoal, to pleats.  I would love even more going to white on a shoe - I really dislike the all black base shoes currently on the market and would like to have more options.  Alas, it is what it is.  The current SUP (head umpire) I believe would be open to change, however just because it's "allowed" doesn't mean you can really do it.  Take pleats - there's nothing in the official's manual about it.  I've seen people wear them in games, good umpires too.  They won't wear them on TV games though.  If an assignor saw you with pleated pants on TV, they would be on your butt.  If they saw you in them a second time, there wouldn't be a They wouldn't see you a second time.

One option for you might be to limit the amount of heather pants you offer.  Looking on your site, there are lots of options.  Unfortunately they are all Smitty pants.  You might sell the Smittys to park ball guys but almost everyone I know uses Fechheimers, Honig's or Gerry Davis.  At higher level softball, the only pants worn are Fechheimers purchased off the USA website.  Plate and Base, no combo BS.  Last time I saw a guy with Smitty pants, they looked terrible.  The pants had an awful silver color to them and the umpire looked ridiculous.  Not sure if you can make inroads with Fechheimer (never seen them sold anywhere else) but you could do us all a favor a kill the silver Smittys.

Lots of great insights and recommendations from your experience as a softball umpire. You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks for taking the time to share.

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1 hour ago, JimKirk said:

I forgot to give you high marks @The Man in Blue on the touché word play. Well done! :D


I thought about “If heathers fit, you cannot quit.”  :cheers:

 

1 hour ago, JimKirk said:

I hope so. We recently developed a female umpires committee made up of baseball and softball umpires to help with expertise and awareness for manufacturers.
https://www.ump-attire.com/Company-News/Female-Umpires-Committee-to-Advise-on-Gear-Clothing-Needs

Thank you for the link Jim!  I will have a 10-hour drive ahead of me on Monday ... going to check out Liz Hammerschmidt’s podcast!

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I can really only speak to the three states I have the most experience in. 8 know California, Oregon, and Washington are all charcoal grey for baseball. I also know that black is the standard shirt for all three states. Washington allows white on shoes. Oregon I believe does not (though it has been some time since I last worked there). 

California is another beast all on it's own. The state does have an overall governing body in California Interscholastic Federation (aka CIF). They also have at least 7, if not more, "sections" that govern themselves. So, for instance, CIF Southern Section says white is ok. CIF Los Angeles may say "no white." Northern Section may say no white. While San Francisco and Sacramento Sections might say white is ok.

At least that was how it was when I was last down there.

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I'm in!   Time to hit social media with a peaceful protest.

 

Join in with me.............Come on guys.........you know the words!!

Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......

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On 7/30/2020 at 9:22 AM, Thunderheads said:

2 things ......... 1) all black shoes make you look like you have dress shoes on (moreso in the field)

2) as you get older and slower.... white on your base shoes makes you look faster! :D 

Say it again and louder for the people in the back of the room. 

Seriously I have both all black and white trim. All black gets worn on the dusty fields and white on the better hs/ college/pro fields. I agree the charcoal looks better and fades slower. Not sure what color my GD Poly Wools are but since relocating to AZ only wear them at night when temp drops usually in men’s leagues games. People still order Heather Gray? Why? 

As you can see everything has a place and a purpose with me. 

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9 hours ago, Aging_Arbiter said:

I'm in!   Time to hit social media with a peaceful protest.

 

Join in with me.............Come on guys.........you know the words!!

Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......Heather Grey - Go Away......

Who is Heather Grey and what did she do to cause this animosity? 

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9 hours ago, wolfe_man said:

Who is Heather Grey and what did she do to cause this animosity?

 

8 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

Nobody puts Baby in the corner!  Oh, wait ... that’s Jennifer Grey.

Funniest 2 one-liners in a row on Umpire-Empire ever. :notworthy:

I think Heather and Jennifer are sisters.

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