Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Review of Wilson Chrome Moliben Umpire Mask

Today's review is the Wilson Chrome Moliben Umpire Mask (A3077). This mask is so-named because the cage is made from a steel alloy using chromium and molybdenum (often called chromoly). This steel is used in bicycle frames and aircraft, and is known for its strength to weight ratio, toughness, and ductility.

The Wilson Chrome Moliben mask is only available in a low-profile design. What is a low-profile mask? Very simply a low-profile mask sits closer to your face offering greater visibility. The picture at right shows the Chrome Moliben (left) and a typical umpire mask frame (right). The difference is the Chrome Moliben will sit one inch closer to your face.

The low-profile design is a flatter, less angular frame. Many umpires have opined that this flatter design increases the opportunities for a ball to squarely impact your mask and thereby transfers more of a ball's impact to your skull. While the criticisms abound, there is very little direct evidence that the low-profile mask increases the risk of concussions. The Chrome Moliben also lacks a top bar protecting the top of your head.

The Chrome Moliben comes from the factory with leather pads. These pads are very porous (I believe it is pigskin - click the picture at left). While the pads are soft, they seem moisture-resistant and feel slick and wet when you sweat. I recommend switching these pads to cowhide, and, in fact, Ump-Attire offers the Chrome Moliben with moisture absorbing leather two-tone replacement pads.

The Chrome Moliben weighs 27 ounces with pads and harness, which is substantially heavier than most "featherweight" masks, and it measures 10" top to bottom and 8" side-to-side. That is one inch narrower than the Diamond DFM model masks and the Champro FM-58 Pro Plus.

The Chrome Moliben is currently offered by the following retailers:

Umpire Joe West: $58.00

Ump-Attire (with 2 tone replacement pads): $72.95

Gerry Davis (called the Gerry Davis New View): $89.90

Jim Evans: $77.00

The Bottom Line
Some umpires really like the low-profile design. For those I recommend this mask with replacement pads (which makes the Ump-Attire price a very good deal). Personally I prefer the lighter weight, added cap bar, and more rounded design of other masks like the Champro FM-58 Pro Plus, the Diamond DFM-UMP, and the Wilson Titanium.

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