It turns out that magnesium alloy is a good material choice for a light-weight umpire mask as it has a strength-to-weight ratio that is better than aluminum or steel. Titanium typically has a better strength-to-weight ratio than magnesium, but titanium alloys are more difficult to process and the end product is more expensive than magnesium. Magnesium and titanium alloys are used in the construction of space satellites where strength to weight ratios are critical.
My first impression of the FM-58 is that it really is “feather light.” I passed the mask around at a recent tournament and every umpire was impressed by the light weight. According to my handy-dandy postage scale the FM-58 weighs 15.5 ounces with harness and without a throat guard (less than a pound – WOW!). In comparison, my Diamond DFM-UMP mask, which is made from hollow core steel, weighs in at 20.5 ounces with harness and without a throat guard.
The FM-58 arrived with Dri-Gear moisture wicking pads which are not my personal favorite, however leather pads are offered for the same price. My advice is opt for the leather pads. The Dri-Gear and other moisture wicking pads tend to grab at your stubble and can irritate your face unlike leather.
Visibility is very good and it has a 2" x 7" inch opening, the same as the Diamond DFM-UMP (click the picture at right for a side view, Diamond DFM-UMP on the left, FM-58 on the right). The FM-58 has a rounded design unlike a flatter, lower profile mask. A low profile mask (one that sits closer to your face) tends to offer better visibility, however recently questions have been raised whether this design transfers more energy to your skull during a foul ball impact. Additionally, the more angles and curves in a mask, the greater the likelihood for deflections thereby lessening the impact force to your head. It also has an added protection bar at the top to deflect balls (a safety feature many masks omit - perhaps to reduce total weight?).
Terry Ringer, owner of The Official Call, tells me that this mask has undergone NOCSAE-type testing including firing baseballs at the mask to test its structural integrity. He reports that the FM-58 exceeded the NOCSAE standards during every test. The mask has also been field tested and has surpassed expectations for durability and denting from foul balls. ***NOTE: manufacturer claims should be received with common sense. No mask is indestructible and will eventually bend and break if the force is great enough. The idea is not to bend or break under usual circumstances. A 98-mph Zack Greinke fastball that dents the mask is acceptable and is reasonably expected if the mask weighs less than a pound. If that same fastball breaks the mask and puts an eye out, that’s unexpected and unacceptable. The manufacturer’s balance is in finding an acceptable bending/breaking point, an acceptable strength-to-weight ratio, and an acceptable price point.
The Official Call offers a one year "no hassle" warranty. Mr. Ringer tells me:
"Of the over 1000 [masks sold by The Official Call], we have yet to replace a single frame. Let me state that again - zero returns. The same manufacturer is making this new PRO-PLUS Gold frame for us. We are very confident in their ability to manufacturer the frame, and I am very confident in its' ability to protect an umpire at any level. Quite frankly as stated, we will guarantee them, but I don't see any coming back."
This mask has become my favorite because of the incredible light weight, the superior fit, and the rounded design for foul ball deflection. I will update this review later in the year after more field testing, but for now I have high praise for the FM-58.
The price as-tested for the FM-58 is $125.00 and is available from The Official Call. That is a far cry cheaper than the Wilson MLB Titanium Umpire Mask which retails at around $200.00 and is advertised as heavier than the FM-58. The Official Call is also offering free ground shipping of the FM-58 if you mention this review when ordering.
I have been using the FM-58 exclusively for baseball and softball for the last several weeks and find it very comfortable. I have also taken a few hard shots to the mask and can attest to its durability. Honestly, I like this mask, its light weight, and its fit. I highly recommend it.