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Injury Scout - Ron Kulpa Leaves After Shot to Mask


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HP Umpire Ron Kulpa left Saturday's #Brewers-#Reds game in Cincinnati after a deflected fastball off the mask, officially ruled a passed ball allowing a baserunner to advance. In the top of the 6th inning, Brewers batter Willy Adames took a 1-0 93.4-mph sinker from Reds pitcher Sonny Gray for a...

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Having recently been struck by foul balls behind the plate and a line drive in the field, I can understand how scary it is when any umpire goes down. I hope Ron recovers quickly with no lasting negative effects.

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3 points emerged from watching the entire video... 

  1. The commentator said exactly what I’ve been stating here on U-E: Even if Ron had “felt fine” and wanted to continue, he was coming out of the game. Not only are there concussion protocols and examinations to go through like any other player (catcher or hit batsman, typically), but – this was not said in the video, but is relevant nonetheless – MLB cannot guarantee that the PU’s discernment of Bs & Ks has not been affected. 
  2. This occurred at a time of day where the setting sun is throwing some real jarring shadows on the field. The mound is in daylight, but the home plate area is in shadow. If a 90+ mph pitch has any darting movement on it, at that level, it’s thrown with such high RPM spin that it's moving 2-3 inches off its trajectory in that last 2-3 feet. F2 was already picking up the R2 attempting to steal 3B, so his mitt wasn’t exactly where the pitch terminated, likely amplified by the abrupt shift from light to shadow. 
  3. The Reds F2 is wearing a WindPact CrashCloud -equipped EvoShield mask. Huh! 🤔 One of the new leading-edge technologies in protective pads! Huh! 🤔 What’s Ron wearing???? 
    ... review video ... Wilson! Huh! 
    That’s enough. How many more Major League Umpires have to risk potential career-ending injuries before “The Exclusive Supplier” does something to improve the protection for those who they represent??!!

#ImproveOrMoveAside

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9 hours ago, SeeingEyeDog said:

they could wear whatever they want...

They can. But look at the other side of the argument... 

What incentive is there for All-Star, Force3, Douglas, or any other company to supply gear to MLB umpires with zero recognition or even acknowledgement? Furthermore, if Wilson’s (and MLBU’s) rather flippant advice is to “change mask pads yearly”, how are the manufacturers going to be held accountable to infusing the best technology and materials into their products? 

Maybe MLB umpires are (partly) culpable of their/our own problem, because the expectation established is that much of the gear is provided complementary, or in some cases, bespoke. With that in mind, though, I highly doubt Gerry Davis wears a DaviShield. Other than Joe West, Davis is the only other MLB umpire whose name is on equipment. Why is that? Is that by design or happenstance? In many other product / services systems, monopolies have demonstrated that they actually stifle innovation, stagnate on quality, and suffocate any potential diversification. While not an outright monopoly, that “Exclusive Supplier” status, granted to one company, is just as suffocating. The NFL had a similar status bestowed on Riddell for some 15 years until the CTE debacle descended upon the League, and suddenly, Riddell (and the League) couldn’t guarantee that CTE and other head injuries would be prevented by exclusively Riddell products. The League had to demonstrate that players had informed choice, and that multiple, diverse companies were participating in the innovation and production process. 

Which career-ending head injury or sternum-shattering chest injury is going to be the one that finally forces MLB to examine the umpires’ protective gear? Because whoever writes that expository article on that injury, you better believe they will be receiving a phone call from one Mad Max, pointing them towards the fact that MLB’s – by way of Wilson – gear technology hasn’t improved in over 20 years. 

And cue the outrage... 

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I don't pretend to understand the mindset and or capabilities of the MLB umpire...

I just know that if I am stepping in front of 95+mph, I want the best protection available...and a supply of black Sharpies.

The NFL/CTE/Riddell conversation is a good one...

I worked at the local ice skating rink back in the late 80s. This was a time when we were starting to see a push for more safety for kids. We started seeing more kids wearing bike helmets around the neighborhood.

Then we started getting parents asking us at the rink for helmets for their kids during public skating sessions. Eventually, the GM placed a large order for helmets so, we had a decent supply and we started requiring helmets on all kids, I believe under 12.

After a few months, the owner of the rink had his annual business review meeting with his attorney. The attorney reviewed our helmet policies and procedures and said that by requiring helmets, the legal implication is nobody should ever get hurt while skating if they are wearing a required helmet issued by the rink. We know even now there is no helmet that fully eliminates all risk of injury or death. So, by requiring helmets even though we were doing so in the name of increased safety, the rink actually increased its liability should a customer get hurt. And of course with known increased liability, insurance premiums and other related expenses would also increase.

So, the rink's policy was changed. We still kept helmets available on hand for those families who wanted their kids to wear one but, we no longer required them.

~Dawg

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32 minutes ago, MadMax said:

What incentive is there for All-Star, Force3, Douglas, or any other company to supply gear to MLB umpires with zero recognition or even acknowledgement?

@MadMaxIs this statement based on the premise that another company supplies the gear?  What are the MLBU guidance/restrictions regarding providing their own equipment?  Must they rely on the "exclusive provider"?

I asked that, to say this.  IF I feel more comfortable and safer wearing Z, why would I be required to wear X? 

Does it /could it void their insurance if this is an exclusive provider requirement?   Not being a smart ass, and not asking for a friend.  I'M curious.

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1 hour ago, Aging_Arbiter said:

IF I feel more comfortable and safer wearing Z, why would I be required to wear X?

You wouldn’t be required to wear X, but you can’t exhibit or advertise that you wear Z. Additionally, if you wear Z, and the rest of your work crew is wearing X – at least wearing X’s logo – and getting a perk, benefit, or payment for doing so, wouldn’t you feel compelled to “get in on the action”? Say your Z gets damaged – or in the case of masks, rendered unusable (because it hit the ground) – the repair or replacement comes out of your own pocket, or at least your own efforts. But there’s a X sitting right there, provided by contractual obligation free of charge (not through incentive, there’s a difference), so why not use it? 

Why do most AAA callups wear what they wear when they do their first (few) plate games? 

This isn’t reserved to just the gear. A similar condition squats upon shoes. Here on U-E, someone pointed out a recent article covering the “big” hub-bub about BUs wearing Jordans and other high-priced footwear during games, now that Nike is onboard as the primary sponsor. At one time, New Balance and Reebok shared that mantle, until Reebok’s parent Adidas yanked Reebok out of team sports and relegated them to CrossFit. 

The only reason New Balance is hangin’ on is because they’re the only ones making a plate shoe of any reliable clout. What MLB should be doing is requiring Nike to produce a plate shoe, as well as compelling Wilson – their other exclusive supplier – to produce a plate shoe -esque solution, especially thru their subsidiary EvoShield. 

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54 minutes ago, MadMax said:

You wouldn’t be required to wear X, but you can’t exhibit or advertise that you wear Z. Additionally, if you wear Z, and the rest of your work crew is wearing X – at least wearing X’s logo – and getting a perk, benefit, or payment for doing so, wouldn’t you feel compelled to “get in on the action”? Say your Z gets damaged – or in the case of masks, rendered unusable (because it hit the ground) – the repair or replacement comes out of your own pocket, or at least your own efforts. But there’s a X sitting right there, provided by contractual obligation free of charge (not through incentive, there’s a difference), so why not use it? 

Why do most AAA callups wear what they wear when they do their first (few) plate games? 

This isn’t reserved to just the gear. A similar condition squats upon shoes. Here on U-E, someone pointed out a recent article covering the “big” hub-bub about BUs wearing Jordans and other high-priced footwear during games, now that Nike is onboard as the primary sponsor. At one time, New Balance and Reebok shared that mantle, until Reebok’s parent Adidas yanked Reebok out of team sports and relegated them to CrossFit. 

The only reason New Balance is hangin’ on is because they’re the only ones making a plate shoe of any reliable clout. What MLB should be doing is requiring Nike to produce a plate shoe, as well as compelling Wilson – their other exclusive supplier – to produce a plate shoe -esque solution, especially thru their subsidiary EvoShield. 

do catchers wearing their helmet bill backwards provide any benefit when taking a hit, versus if they had to wear the bill turned around towards the front.

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1 hour ago, dumbdumb said:

do catchers wearing their helmet bill backwards provide any benefit when taking a hit, versus if they had to wear the bill turned around towards the front.

Catchers wearing a hardhat (skullcap) are already at an advantage over us umpires who were relegated to wearing only a simple ballcap. Why was that? Why was there such a stigma attached to an umpire wearing a skullcap? 

Well, part of it was because the existing bill forward would make wearing several traditional masks problematic. When impacted, the mask pads compress and the bars collide with the rigid cap bill, with energy driving the bill back against the wearer’s forehead and skull. There was a tradeoff, too, between frequency of impact and having the lowest profile mask possible, often because pads – with how barbaric they were constructed – tended to be fat and heavy. 

It wasn't until All-Star and Force3 began to examine the details of the mask and headwear did we start to see a change. Obviously, Force3 made significant changes in how a mask functions, by creating a double framework with spring-&-shock based suspension. They also addressed what constitutes a mask pad, eschewing the couch-cushion foam-filled sausages for laminates of Kevlar and 2 distinctly different foam layers. Alternatively, All-Star examined how a mask was shaped, and by deflecting a significant amount of the impacting energy. Then, they introduced layers into the system, with first layers of modern, technically-advanced foam in the skullcaps, strategically placed at the front (or rear, if worn backwards) of the skullcap. Then, placing a plastic distribution plate within the pads. 

But, where’s Wilson in this??! Where’s our deigned Exclusive Supplier to MLBUs? Why has it taken 2 “catchers companies” to make any headway in any kind of product evolution? Worse yet (and this is what vexes me so, and why I am ceaselessly banging my pots and pans on the fields and forums), why are these companies prevented from advertising or gaining any recognition for their efforts, work, and products?!?! 

Why is Wilson sitting on their hands, on their a$$, and still benefitting from it?!?!?!

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