To find out whether the shirts from The Official’s Choice are a bargain or just plain cheap, I wrote to Paul Anderson, President of The Official’s Choice, Inc. and asked him to send me a shirt to review. Mr. Anderson was very quick to respond and told me that his shirts run a little large, so he sent two shirts to inspect: a large black shirt and an extra large navy blue shirt.
The first thing I noticed about the shirts was the color of the navy shirt. The Official’s Choice website describes this color as “True Navy.” The color is a few shades darker than the Honig’s Major League Shirts I ordinarily wear. The black shirt is a deep, rich, “true black.”
The Offical's Choice umpire shirts do run large. As you can see in the photos, there is a difference in the shoulders and sleeve length. Here are my "unofficial" measurements:
Honig's XL: Chest 24"; Shoulder 17"
The Official's Choice L: Chest 25"; Shoulder 18"
The Official's Choice XL: Chest 25"; Shoulder 19"
The quality of the shirts is surprisingly good for the price. The mesh feels thinner and more light weight than other umpire shirts. The mesh holes are open as opposed to closed like other shirts (e.g. Honig's). Click on the photo below and you can see the difference between open and closed. There are two obvious issues with open holes: first, the open holes let in more air, so this is a much cooler shirt for those hot summer days.
The second thing is the transparency of the shirt. So what umpires really want to know: can you see through it? Many associations require the undershirt color to be the last color on the sleeve piping. To test the transparency of the shirt I chose a red Adidas shirt with white letters. In broad daylight my photographer (my wife - thanks for the help dear!) and I agreed that the red undershirt as well as the white Adidas lettering were visible through The Official's Choice shirt, but not through the Honig's shirt. With my chest protector on, the MLB logo is plainly visible.
The price of shirts at The Official’s Choice tends to fluctuate. The price “as tested” was $15.84. The website advertises that the price is increasing to $19.84 as of March 1, 2009. I took a look at previous prices via the “Way Back Machine” at http://www.archive.org/index.php. Past shirts from The Official’s Choice have been advertised for:
January 23, 2008: $10.95
August 10, 2007: $16.95
January 27, 2007: $14.95
I like The Official's Choice umpire shirts. There are a few issues that may make a difference in the decision to purchase, like transparency or size. I am broad in the shoulders, so I perfer the extra length in the sleeves. Also, my particular association requires navy under the baseball shirt, so bleed-through is not an issue. I like the open hole mesh for hot weather wear. I was pleasantly surprised by these shirts and recommend them to other umpires.