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Anyone using a 'hat insert' behind the plate?


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I don't particularly like a full-helmet, nor a skull-cap, but am somewhat interested in SOME level of head protection.  I see that ump-attire has the Unequal Flex-shell, but the one big complaint I've seen with them is that folks with a 7-1/4" hat size end up having it not fit well.  Additionally, it seems a little thick.

I'm tempted by the Dome2 (https://unequal.com/dome-2/) which seems like pretty thin foam (3mm) and fits inside the hat with some trimming.  BUT I'm curious what others have to say?

One thing that just doesn't seem quite right though, is none of these seems to be designed for an umpire, but for a fielder.  The result is quite a bit of material in the front of the hat, where I don't really need it all that much (more so need it on the sides and top). 

Does anyone else use anything similar that they have feedback/a review on?

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I tried the unequal "uncap" and gave it away in favor of the Cobalt skully. The uncap worked, but it didn't feel very secure on my head with my fitted association hat.  I had to size up on the hat to fit the uncap (from 7 3/8 up to 7 1/2). I think the uncap would work best with a flex fit hat.  I could have lived with it, but simply preferred the fit and protection of the skully - even despite the "Bob the builder" look the skully gives me.

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13 hours ago, ousafe said:

I tried the unequal "uncap" and gave it away in favor of the Cobalt skully. The uncap worked, but it didn't feel very secure on my head with my fitted association hat.  I had to size up on the hat to fit the uncap (from 7 3/8 up to 7 1/2). I think the uncap would work best with a flex fit hat.  I could have lived with it, but simply preferred the fit and protection of the skully - even despite the "Bob the builder" look the skully gives me.

That 'secure on my head' part is a part of my concern too.  My association uses velcro-back hats, so I was less worried about the hat size though.

I've considered the skull-caps, but I guess I'm still not quite convinced I want to live with something that big.

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I've used both the UnCap (for about 200 games) and the Cobalt Skullcap (for about 300 games) and the skullcap is much better - both cooler and much more comfortable.  That said, the UnCap was still very good - I have a 7-3/8 hat, and I actually didn't even need to upsize (I know some do) when I added the UnCap.  The UnCap has plenty of protection around the head, but the skullcap is just much more so.  If I didn't want the skullcap I'd go back to the UnCap, but I suggest giving the skullcap a try.  I see a LOT of guys using it now, if not the Cobalt then other versions.  Be a leader, not a follower. :)

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I guess one of the concerns I have is with bulkiness.  I have a F3 mask that ALREADY sits out pretty far (one of only 2 complaints I have with it, other is the pclips loosening up), and don't really want to move it out that much further.  The idea of a hat insert (like the dome2, which is only 3mm thick and can be cut out!) was/is tempting.

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17 hours ago, ErichKeane said:

I guess one of the concerns I have is with bulkiness.  I have a F3 mask that ALREADY sits out pretty far (one of only 2 complaints I have with it, other is the pclips loosening up), and don't really want to move it out that much further.  The idea of a hat insert (like the dome2, which is only 3mm thick and can be cut out!) was/is tempting.

@Rock Bottom’s perspective and review was outstanding! Well done!!

I would like to add some insight on cap inserts from Unequal. First of all, I applaud you for wanting to add more head protection.

We considered all the Unequal inserts as possible solutions to umpires as an extra layer of protection and of force reduction, including the flexible Dome style you mentioned.

The downside of the Dome 2, besides it not providing full continuous coverage, is the extra foam thickness that will require in all cases to buy new caps one size up. If that is not a concern, it will certainly work well in the places it covers.

We settled on the Uncap as a permanent offering for 2 reasons. First, there was near full coverage. Second, we found sizing up was not required (although there have been some exceptions as noted above).

I do want to add that the Uncap will not cause your cap, and subsequently, your mask to jut more outwardly.

Related, It is interesting you mention Unequal with your Force3 mask. Some of the same people involved in Force3’s patented mask design also were involved with the Uncap design. Indeed,  Uncaps will work well with Force3 masks.

Lastly, you mention not “needing” the protection in the front. Definitely the All Star Skull Cap and Unequal Uncap (as well as the Dome2) does provide back and side protection not there in soft umpire caps. However, do not underestimate the EXTRA protection you get in the front by having another layer of protection there. The layer itself provides more protection. Also, as I learned from Stan Jurga of All-Star, there is a certain degree of impact force lost just by transitioning one layer to another. Therefore, Force3 with any Unequal insert (or skull cap) results in quite a protective setup!

Hope that helps. I’d encourage you to order whatever you want to try, see if it might work, and send it back if it doesn’t…little risk to potentially create a LOT less risk for yourself.

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Thanks for the post Jim, that is really helpful!  I DID have the concerns with the Dome2 that it doesn't seem to cover everything, and was actually somewhat considering buying the material from Unequal and cutting it to be more like the Dome3 (which has full coverage, but a thicker material).

I'm not worried about hat size, my association uses velcro back hats, and I prefer flex fit over fitted, so it isn't an issue,

As far as:"I do want to add that the Uncap will not cause your cap, and subsequently, your mask to jut more outwardly. "

That is really useful to know, perhaps I'll give the uncap a try then!  I was worried about the additional thickness.

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FWIW, I am becoming a bigger fan of the Skully all the time.  It is more comfortable and cooler than a normal hat on the plate.  I like that it stays in place and I don't have to keep adjusting my sunglasses after removing/putting on my mask.  Plus, I like that the larger overhang covers my ears and prevents them from getting sunburned as quickly.   I feel safer in it too which allows me to get up more into the slot (closer to catcher) which has helped my zone out more as I worry less about a back-swing conking me on the noggin. 

I can't speak for the Unequal, but the Skully is a nice option.

I don't think it makes the mask stand off from your face more either.  I have 7-8 masks (Wilson, Adidas, Honigs and an F3) and I don't think any of them sit further out with the Skully.  I do feel that the F3 sits a little differently, but I'm working on the setup as I think it can be dialed in more than I have it currently.

The Skully with an All Star harness and a lightweight mask is a thing of beauty!  My preference right now is the original Wilson TI low profile mask with the Skully and an all-black All Star flex harness.

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14 hours ago, JimKirk said:

@Rock Bottom’s perspective and review was outstanding! Well done!!

I would like to add some insight on cap inserts from Unequal. First of all, I applaud you for wanting to add more head protection.

We considered all the Unequal inserts as possible solutions to umpires as an extra layer of protection and of force reduction, including the flexible Dome style you mentioned.

The downside of the Dome 2, besides it not providing full continuous coverage, is the extra foam thickness that will require in all cases to buy new caps one size up. If that is not a concern, it will certainly work well in the places it covers.

We settled on the Uncap as a permanent offering for 2 reasons. First, there was near full coverage. Second, we found sizing up was not required (although there have been some exceptions as noted above).

I do want to add that the Uncap will not cause your cap, and subsequently, your mask to jut more outwardly.

Related, It is interesting you mention Unequal with your Force3 mask. Some of the same people involved in Force3’s patented mask design also were involved with the Uncap design. Indeed,  Uncaps will work well with Force3 masks.

Lastly, you mention not “needing” the protection in the front. Definitely the All Star Skull Cap and Unequal Uncap (as well as the Dome2) does provide back and side protection not there in soft umpire caps. However, do not underestimate the EXTRA protection you get in the front by having another layer of protection there. The layer itself provides more protection. Also, as I learned from Stan Jurga of All-Star, there is a certain degree of impact force lost just by transitioning one layer to another. Therefore, Force3 with any Unequal insert (or skull cap) results in quite a protective setup!

Hope that helps. I’d encourage you to order whatever you want to try, see if it might work, and send it back if it doesn’t…little risk to potentially create a LOT less risk for yourself.

Ah, another problem I was just re-reminded of with the Uncap... as someone with a touch-over 7-1/4 head, based on the comments on ump-attire (and elsewhere) it seems there isn't a good size for me, which was the OTHER reason I had concerns with it.

EDIT:  Decided instead to take advantage of ump-attire's return policy and try to just order the 'small/medium' one and give it a shot.  The skully seems like great protection, but I'm not sure I'm there as far as need, or that drastic of a change.  Thanks all for the feedback!

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I bought the skully last summer as a "I'll try it out and unload it if I don't like it". I use a F3 mask with the Ump-Life harness. I freaking love this combination. I've taken some shots this year that resulted in gasps from both teams, and I not only didn't hurt, I barely even felt them.

I did have an umpire friend tell me the skully made me look like a penis. I just retorted that I accomplished what he did without one. :rollinglaugh: I'm a computer nerd for my day job, and if my brain gets scrambled, I'm SOL. If I could get equivalent protection *and* look good, I'd do that, but I just don't see that in current products, so safety is trumping aesthetics every time.

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24 minutes ago, kylehutson said:

I bought the skully last summer as a "I'll try it out and unload it if I don't like it". I use a F3 mask with the Ump-Life harness. I freaking love this combination. I've taken some shots this year that resulted in gasps from both teams, and I not only didn't hurt, I barely even felt them.

I did have an umpire friend tell me the skully made me look like a penis. I just retorted that I accomplished what he did without one. :rollinglaugh: I'm a computer nerd for my day job, and if my brain gets scrambled, I'm SOL. If I could get equivalent protection *and* look good, I'd do that, but I just don't see that in current products, so safety is trumping aesthetics every time.

Amen. Took two hard mask shots last night with Skully and no ill effects. I'm convinced without the Skully I'd had have a headache at a minimum and more likely a minor concussion. It's a keeper!

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Once everyone (or a large majority) start wearing them no one will even notice them.  In a house-league I umpire in 3/4 of the umps wear an All-Star skull cap - haven't heard a coach or player even comment or ask about them this year.  Last year when I did hear comments they were exclusively positive. The "looks" thing is just among umpires, I guarantee you that (hardly) anyone else notices, and even less care.

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27 minutes ago, Rock Bottom said:

Once everyone (or a large majority) start wearing them no one will even notice them.  In a house-league I umpire in 3/4 of the umps wear an All-Star skull cap - haven't heard a coach or player even comment or ask about them this year.  Last year when I did hear comments they were exclusively positive. The "looks" thing is just among umpires, I guarantee you that (hardly) anyone else notices, and even less care.

THIS I definitely agree with, no one ever seems to care how we are dressed, at least as far as I can tell, other than umps/assigners.

I guess it is just that I LIKE the hat, with the association logo/etc.  BUT I wouldn't "mind" more protection.  Based on wolfe_man's feedback though, if I don't love the Uncap, perhaps I'll switch to a Skully...

 

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9 minutes ago, ErichKeane said:

THIS I definitely agree with, no one ever seems to care how we are dressed, at least as far as I can tell, other than umps/assigners.

I guess it is just that I LIKE the hat, with the association logo/etc.  BUT I wouldn't "mind" more protection.  Based on wolfe_man's feedback though, if I don't love the Uncap, perhaps I'll switch to a Skully...

 

You can have association stickers made for the skully if you want - Matt Arcovio can get them (not sure if he's on here or not, but he's on Facebook and is an All-Star sales rep I think).  They aren't exactly cheap, but if you only do one association they'd definitely be worth it.  

I can say from experience - I think you'll like the skully WAY more than the Uncap - it's just SO more comfortable, on top of being more protective, in my opinion anyway.  I convinced 3 guys I ump with the give the skully a try, and none switched back to regular. 

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Welp, got the S/M uncap in today, which is the 'proper' size for me (7-1/4).  Even without a cap, it fits horribly, and is even worse and less comfortable with my fitted or velcro-back hat.  Looks like it is going back!  Its lumpy and uncomfortable everywhere, I can't imagine wearing this for more than 2 minute without being annoyed by it.  EVEN if that was ok, it pulls the hat off my head upwards an uncomfortable amount, so even if it WERE comfortable, it wouldn't be 'good'. So its going right back.  Ump-attire UPS return already filled out!

It stinks that I paid extra in shipping to get it for the weekend, just to be sending it right back, but at least I got my smitty MLB-style shirts in as well for the weekend, so its not a total loss.

I might just end up with a Skully next time I come up with enough in my shopping cart to afford shipping.  I DO read on the skully that many folks end up having problems with the F3 harness slipping off, so I might just order the ump-life harness whenever that comes back in stock too.

Thanks all!

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Welp, another update :D impulse bought the new West Vest Gold 2 last night, and tossed the skully in the cart too. I paid for shipping to get it for at least 2 of my 3 days of games next weekend, so I can get good use out of it :D

How does anyone make money in this gig...! 

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On 6/15/2022 at 6:50 AM, wolfe_man said:

FWIW, I am becoming a bigger fan of the Skully all the time.  It is more comfortable and cooler than a normal hat on the plate.  I like that it stays in place and I don't have to keep adjusting my sunglasses after removing/putting on my mask.  Plus, I like that the larger overhang covers my ears and prevents them from getting sunburned as quickly.   I feel safer in it too which allows me to get up more into the slot (closer to catcher) which has helped my zone out more as I worry less about a back-swing conking me on the noggin. 

I can't speak for the Unequal, but the Skully is a nice option.

I don't think it makes the mask stand off from your face more either.  I have 7-8 masks (Wilson, Adidas, Honigs and an F3) and I don't think any of them sit further out with the Skully.  I do feel that the F3 sits a little differently, but I'm working on the setup as I think it can be dialed in more than I have it currently.

The Skully with an All Star harness and a lightweight mask is a thing of beauty!  My preference right now is the original Wilson TI low profile mask with the Skully and an all-black All Star flex harness.

 

I've never had concern with getting hit in the head (I'm still not sure how those physics work), but those two points are bigger selling points for me.  You have me thinking ... 

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I also ordered one to give it a shot. I have a 7 3/8 hat and while the insert fit well on my head, once it was in the hat it compressed it which made it sit too high on my head. I will give it a try with a bigger hat because I like this concept overall.

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18U wood bat games today - another mask shot and no problems!

I love this thing! 
 

Back to back plates and felt great with it on. It’s nice feeling the breeze through the openings.

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once the concussion issue and repercussions was brought to everyone's attention, and no, this was just not yesterday, everyone should have rushed (if they wanted one) to get the old style catcher's helmet that a lot of catchers were still wearing and paint it all black and either wear it backwards like they were wearing it, or trim down the front brim if needed. who cares about what people say when the issue of concussions and their consequences became known, how it looked. and you would only be wearing it on the plate and not the bases. doesn't matter to me if you want to wear it on the bases also, especially with fewer and aging umpires and being more vulnerable on the bases once your reflexes start to decline, which is at a different point in life for everyone.

the issue was and still is as much protection as possible if you want it. why force or belittle people who do not think the mask and regular hat are not the most protective and want a helmet or now skullcap, and if they want to wear it backwards like a catcher even (maybe wearing it backwards with the bill to the back keeps the concussions down, who knows). as long as it is the black color, let em wear it and quit trying to make fun of them. and of course you can wear the original hat only if you want to and should not be ridiculed.

it was like the ridicule the old guy i talked to, told of the old beenie cap versus 4 inch or the 6 inch cap under the mask and why not the ridicule of the shorter 4 inch instead of just the beenie, since it too is shorter than the 6 inch which can be worn with the mask. oh, you can't get that mask off without the hat falling off with the 6 inch. whose problem is that. so lets make a 4 inch for you babies who cant get the mask off without the the hat coming off on the 6 inch. always trying to put others down, especially on an important issue, and the fact there was not an umpire skully to start with when the issue started. the belittling over the umpires skull cap at the beginning is now dissipating. should have never been an issue other than what took so long to get one out there for umpires, forcing us to wear a coaches/catchers helmet to start with. Wear it if you would like, don't wear it if you would like. But the concussion issue is still real and the possible repercussions are out there.

and thanks for @JimKirk access on here with current and new products that we might be considering concerning this issue/situation, or any issue/situation with any umpire product.

 

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So, thanks to Jim Kirk, I was able to try both the skully and the unequal this week. I was attending an umpire academy that Ump-Attire was helping with. (Wounded warrior umpire academy). For me, a 7 3/8 dome, I couldn’t get the unequal to fit correctly on my melon. However, the skully is great!

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@dumbdumb, You did get me thinking about this, as I was only seeing them as hard protection against getting hit.  While I agree with what I think was the point of your post, I do need to point out that we likely never will get any data on concussion prevention nor will we see these marketed as potential concussion reduction devices. 

Somebody may chime in with a correction to this, but I was told the reason NFHS does not allow catchers to wear the two-piece systems any longer is because of this.  A one-piece (hockey style or other attached-mask-helmet) can be NOCSAE tested and approved.  But since the two-piece systems really are Frankenstien's monsters put together with one helmet, a million different masks, and potentially changed out padding and straps, they cannot be properly tested for concussion reduction capabilities.

I agree that common sense leads us to think there likely is some concussion reduction benefit since the mask is not sitting directly on our head (at the top anyway) and there is another couple of layers of shock absorption (the hard plastic and the padding underneath).  However there are too many variables for a manufacturer to be able to test and make the claim.

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Just saying, been hit a few times, 6A HS and JUCO, mask ended up on the ground, I signal foul and pick up mask. The point is that my mask was on the ground. If you look at the MLB occurrences the mask stayed on because, rumor, has it, that it looks bad for a Wilson mask to fall off so they want it tight and MLB umps want to look good and wear an 8 stitch as PU so the mask hits the brim right away. I did have a pitch skin the top grommet of my cap once and sting me for a moment. Use what you want for the protection you think you are getting absent random studies with only observational studies.

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Just got the skully in today, and I'll say right away: it is incredibly comfortable and not at all bulky, and I'm really impressed with how light it is.  My ONLY complaints so far are that the bill is a little short (I've got a F3 mask, so the longer bills are sorta nice, but I ordered a visor last night to help make up for it), and the stickers under the bill.

The latter of course I'll remove as soon as I've played an inning or two and am sure I don't have to send it back.

Thank you all for helping convince me!

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3 hours ago, ErichKeane said:

Just got the skully in today, and I'll say right away: it is incredibly comfortable and not at all bulky, and I'm really impressed with how light it is.  My ONLY complaints so far are that the bill is a little short (I've got a F3 mask, so the longer bills are sorta nice, but I ordered a visor last night to help make up for it), and the stickers under the bill.

The latter of course I'll remove as soon as I've played an inning or two and am sure I don't have to send it back.

Thank you all for helping convince me!

Yep, the skully is a winner. Stayed put the whole night, stayed in place better than my hats ever do. About the same temperature wise as the hat (it allows more wind, but also kept more sweat around, so a wash).

I took a few to the mask, but only mid 40s(BUT it was 90+ F!), Which the F3 mask kept me from feeling anyway.

BUT, I was way more comfortable knowing I had a helmet on a few popups straight up right into the sun.

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