Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Long Term Test Results

The summer season is winding down and school is starting soon. . . so now is a good time to do a long-term evaluation of gear. Today’s post reviews gear from last year’s U.M.P.Y Award winners.

Champro PRO-PLUS Gold Super-Xtreme Lightweight Face Mask

I began using the Champro magnesium face mask in May, 2009 and fell in love immediately. It is incredibly light (less than a pound!!!) and very comfortable after switching out the standard pads.

The Champro is also surprisingly durable. I have taken several shots to this mask from different angles and it did not shown a scratch, until. . .one particularly vicious foul ball during a college game hit the Champro mask and caused the upper eye bar to bend. I contacted Champro regarding its warranty. Champro is a solid company that is committed to customer service. I learned that Champro has a one year warranty from the date of purchase that covers product defects. However, foul balls are part of the game and bending from a serious force is expected. Given enough force any mask will bend (but hopefully not break).

Wilson Shock FX 2.0 Titanium Umpire Helmet (Product of the Year)

The Shock FX 2.0 was introduced in late 2009. It contains many safety features and is comfortable. However, I do not wear a helmet while working the plate, so I can’t speak first-hand regarding safety or durability.

Ump-Attire Ultimate Umpire Shirt

Jim Kirk sent me a navy blue Ump-Attire Ultimate Umpire Shirt to test and I have used it for two high school seasons. After several hundred washes it looks good as new and I intend to use it again next spring. As I expected during my initial testing, the Ultimate breathes well and is well constructed. I highly recommend this shirt.

Honig’s Poly Wool Umpire Pants

I wore the same Honig’s Poly Wool umpire plate pants and base pants to every college and high school game I officiated this year. These pants have seen 30 degree ice and 100+ degree sun. The Poly Wool pants do not seem to suffer from the same fading problems of previous Honig’s models.

Despite the label directions, I wash my Poly Wools in cold water after every wear. They are also dried on a permanent press cycle. I have been careful not to over-dry these pants, and there has been no sign of shrinking or unraveling.

Nutty Buddy

The Nutty Buddy is an essential piece of equipment.

Umpires are fond of telling the “took one to the jewels” stories. Hey, I think these stories are funny like the next guy, but you know what? I don’t have a story because I wear the Nutty Buddy. When I do get hit (it happens to us all), it is not serious – heck, it isn’t even uncomfortable! I hope Mark Littell makes a billion dollars from the Nutty Buddy because it is truly incredible.

I have worn the Nutty Buddy for two seasons. It has retained its shape and has not cracked or dented. It is not hot to wear and is comfortable even under extreme conditions. I put it on and forget about it.

Ump-Attire Ultimate Ball Bag

The Ump-Attire Ultimate Pro Style Umpire Ball Bag was introduced in 2009 and has been a big hit with umpires. Jim Kirk at Ump-Attire sent me one to review in March, 2009, and I purchased a second bag a little later to replace the Dry-Lo Ball Bag sold by Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring.

I have been very impressed with the Ultimate Ball Bag which boasts double stitching and a nylon interior. I have washed these bags a number of times in cold water and low heat dry cycle. There is no fading, no unraveling or fraying, and the Ultimate Ball Bag looks as good as new a year and a half later.

Wilson DaviShins Leg Guards / Diamond DLG-LITE Featherweight Shin Guards

I stopped using the Wilson DaviShins after testing the Diamond Featherweight Shin Guards. The Diamonds guards weigh a mere 13.5 ounces! While these guards are light and comfortable, I have experienced two issues with these guards worth noting. First, during an 18U summer “prospects” tournament I took a foul ball directly on the knee cap. The impact hurt, but was not disabling. My opinion is that the result of this impact was a little more serious than I have experienced with other shin guards. This is likely a result of the loose-fit design around the knee.

The second issue also involves the loose-fit design at the knee. I typically wear long compression shorts that cover my knee cap. However, whenever I do not wear a covering on my knee, the shin guard rubs at my knee and is irritating in the 90+ degree heat.

Wilson West Vest Platinum Chest Protector

I have worn my Wilson Platinum chest protector for three years. This protector scored best in my “amateur scientist” drop test and I can attest to its protective qualities. It is built like a tank.

After three years and hundreds of games, the buckles are starting to rust. I spray my Platinum CP with Lysol after every use and it does not seem to retain odor.

Reebok Field Magistrate Plate Shoes

I get more questions about my Reebok plate shoes than any other equipment. I was a big fan of the New Balance MU450MK plate shoes until I tried the Reebok. This shoe is very comfortable and has proven very durable. It has not separated in any area from use. I have not experienced an impact that is noteworthy. Unlike the Reebok, a few years ago I took a foul ball off the toe of my New Balance MU450MK plate shoes and it hurt!

I use Scrubbing Bubbles and Armour All leather wipes before every game and my shoes look good. I have been wearing these shoes for over a year for every plate assignment and they are still going strong!

Bottom Line

All of the choices for last year’s U.M.P.Y Awards have proven very durable. There were a few noteworthy observations, but overall I have been very impressed with these products.


chaco said...

agreed, reebok shoes has really fine getting a new one soon

JR said...

I have the Champro mask as well. I took an uncaught fastball in a men's league game last week. It knocked the mask off, broke my straps holding the throat protector and left me stunned for a few seconds. I still have the blue ink from the ball's trademark on the mask with an accompanying small dent. I have taken several shot and this is the first ill effects that I have noticed.

One issue that I do have is the metal has developed some corrosion on the mask in several place. Have you notice any of that on your mask? I think it may be from moisture in my gear bag...

Pete Reiser said...

JR, that sounds like a serious blow! I broke a Diamond hollow-core steel mask in 2008 when the catcher failed to catch a 90+ mph heater.

I have not noticed any corrosion, but the coating has worn away where the straps meet the mask. It is hard to see this under the straps, so it never bothered me.

Magnesium cannot rust, so I'm not sure what the corrosion is.

joe b said...

The nutty buddy is the best cup on the market today. I have been using mine going on 4 years. It is comfortable and provides superior protection. It is especially protective on those pitches that bounce up and strike from below. Do yourself the biggest favor an umpire can and get a nutty buddy.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of crap. After two high school season of umpiring he has had several hundred washings and the UA shirts are still like new. Who you trying to fool. In two years the shirt has been washed 400 times. The viewers voted that shirt UA Ultimate at the the bottom behind Smittys Honigs and a couple other brands. Peter get out of bed with Jim and smell the coffoee.Are you guys related or what

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