Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 UMPY Award Winners

Midwest Ump is pleased to announce the recipients of the second annual Umpire Merchandise Products of the Year (U.M.P.Y.) Awards. The UMPY Awards are given annually for the best umpire equipment, apparel, and training aids as selected by Midwest Ump, an umpire equipment, apparel, and training review site. Selections are determined by the reputation of the product in the umpire community, and by Midwest Ump testing and review.

This year's UMPY Award Winners and their respective categories are:
  • Traditional Mask - Diamond DFM-iX3 UMP umpire face mask in silver
  • Helmet- All-Star System 7 umpire helmet
  • Chest Protector - Wilson West Vest Gold Umpire Chest Protector (A3210)
  • Leg Guards- Champro Pro Plus Umpire Leg Guard
  • Accessory- Diamond Deluxe Pro Umpire Equipment Gear Bag (WHL DLX UMP 36 BAG)
  • Shirt- Ump-Attire Ultimate Umpire Shirt
  • Pants - Honig's Poly Wool Umpire Pants
  • Shoe - Reebok Field Magistrate Plate Shoe
  • Training Aid- Jim Evans Maximizing the Two Umpire System
The 2010 Product of the Year is awarded to Honig's Poly-Wool Umpire Pants

Traditional Mask
Winner: Diamond DFM-iX3 UMP in silver
Full Midwest Ump Review

The Diamond DFM-iX3 UMP umpire mask narrowly missed winning the Traditional Mask of the Year in 2009 when it lost out to the Champro Magnesium. This year, it was impossible to ignore its popularity. Umpires around the country are unanimous in their praise of the Diamond.

Made of aircraft aluminum, the Diamond cage weighs 12 ounces, which is 2 ounces heavier than the Champro cage. Right out of the box, the Diamond weighs 17 ounces with quick-dry pads and harness.

The Diamond DFM-iX3 UMP in silver has a rougher finish than its competitors. Its weight is also slightly heavier. It comes with quick-dry pads that are universally hated. So how did the Diamond take three strikes and still manage to win an UMPY for Traditional Mask of the Year?

First, the price is terrific. This mask is available through Amazon for $64.14 with free shipping. That is $10-20 cheaper than the Champro Magnesium and around $100 cheaper than any Titanium mask.

Second, this mask is building a reputation for being indestructible.

Third, it is amazingly popular. It shows up everywhere! The Diamond DFM-iX3 UMP in silver is highly recognizable as its finish is different than any titanium mask. Umpires at all levels use this mask and replace the standard pads with a variety of leather upgrades.

While there may be better masks available on the market, none can compete with the price, weight, appearance, and popularity of the Diamond DFM-iX3 UMP in silver. It is the 2010 Traditional Mask of the Year.

Winner: All-Star System 7 Umpire Helmet

While many amateur catchers are required to wear helmets, and many pro catchers are choosing to wear hockey style helmets, most MLB umpires have resisted the hockey style helmet in favor of the traditional mask. This despite the obvious safety advantages that a helmet affords, including protection from side impacts.

All-Star Sports was the first to introduce the hockey style helmet to Major League Baseball. Designed in conjunction with Blue Jays catcher Charlie O'Brien, the hockey style helmet has been a major feature of the All-Star line-up for years. The System 7 is All-Star's most recent advancement in the process of perfecting the protective helmet.

The System 7 helmet has redesigned its cage to deflect direct impacts and uses a Vinyl Nitrile forehead band to provide extra protection. This helmet is specifically engineered for use at the highest levels and speeds exceeding 100MPH. The helmet has been reconfigured to apportion weight differently making the helmet feel lighter. This helmet is currently being worn by four Major League umpires (Ed Hickox, Bill Welke, Mike Dimuro, and CB Bucknor).

The System 7 is available in steel and titanium cages. The steel cage model is sold for $219.99 by Ump-Attire.

Chest Protector
Winner: Wilson West Vest Gold Chest Protector
Midwest Ump Review

Last year the selection process for Chest Protector of the Year came down to a choice between the Wilson West Vest Gold and the Wilson West Vest Platinum. In another close decision the Wilson Platinum was chosen best protector.

Well, another year has passed and not much has changed. The Wilson Gold and Wilson Platinum are still the best two umpire chest protectors available.

This year Midwest Ump has chosen to name the Wilson Gold as the 2010 UMPY for Best Chest Protector. Why the Gold when there have been no substantial changes for 2010?

Well, the Gold is available in three sizes that provide a more custom fit. Any owner of a Wilson Platinum can attest that it takes some time for the Platinum to conform to your body. The Gold fits right out of the box and has less slippage than the Platinum.

Both the Gold and Platinum offer superior protection. The padding of the Gold is more substantial than the Platinum, but the fit is actually tighter and the resulting appearance for both protectors is similar. The Gold is a little more expensive than the Platinum: Epic Sports sells the Gold for $133.99, versus a Platinum at Ump Attire for $124.99 (limited time).

So what is the choice: Mantle or Mays? This year we are going for the Gold.

Leg Guards
Winner: Champro Pro-Plus Umpire Leg Guards
Midwest Ump Review

Like dad always said, "There's the girl you date, and there's the girl you marry. . ."

In January Midwest Ump conducted a Low Profile Leg Guard Comparison. The winner of five different low profile leg guards was the 15" Diamond DLG-LITE Featherweight Shin Guards. While these light weight, low profile guards are excellent for high school, and adequate for most lower college games, they simply do not afford the full protection of professional equipment.

Major League Baseball endorses two shin guards: the Wilson West Vest Pro Umpire Shin Guards, which run around $100, and the Wilson Charcoal Umpire Shin Guards, which cost around $80. Both of these guards offer superior protection. However, both are very bulky and visible under plate pants.

Somewhere between the body armor protection of the Wilson professional guards and the light weight comfort of the Diamond resides the Champro Pro-Plus Umpire Leg Guards. The Champro guards are thoughtfully designed. Features like triple knee, extended thigh protection, moisture wick lining, ventilation slits, metal J-hooks, no strap behind the knee, and extended plastic plates around the ankle make this leg guard a winner.

The Pro-Plus Leg guards are available in three sizes: 15.5", 17" and 18.5", and are offered at half the price of the Wilson leg guards: Epic Sports for $41.89. Great protection, great comfort, and great price. Take dad's advice: she's a keeper!

Winner: Diamond Deluxe Pro Umpire Equipment Gear Bag
Midwest Ump Review

Accessories are not glamorous or cool. Umpires do not talk about plate brushes or indicators (unless some rookie's cheap plastic indicator explodes when he flips it at the plate meeting!). But accessories make our job as umpires easier. This year's UMPY Award Winner for Umpire Accessory is the Diamond Deluxe Pro Umpire Equipment Gear Bag (WHL DLX UMP 36 BAG).

Like all UMPY Award winners, the Diamond Gear Bag is thoughtfully constructed. It features heavyweight polyester fabric, the zippers are very substantial, and the wheels on this bag glide smoothly. Eight small compartments store accessories while a separate shoe compartment, a main storage for apparel, and a second compartment for gear means that you can store all of your umpire equipment and clothing in one place.

Everything has a home in this bag. This is equally important for the umpire that travels to a big stadium, as well as the umpire that changes out of his or her car. The Diamond Deluxe Pro Umpire Equipment Gear Bag is an essential piece of equipment that makes the job of umpiring easier.

Winner: Ump-Attire Ultimate Umpire Shirt
Midwest Ump Review

The Ump-Attire Ultimate Umpire Shirt is one of three repeat winners in this year's awards. The Ultimate was the top rated shirt in the 2009 Midwest Ump Umpire Shirt Comparison Review, winner of the 2009 UMPY for Best Shirt, and is the 2010 UMPY Award Winner for Best Shirt.

During the 2009 comparison, the Ultimate was tested in seven different categories (weight, breath-ability, construction, value, appearance, prick test, and wrinkle test) against six other shirts (The Official's Choice, Honig's, Cliff Keen Smitty Apparel, Dalco, Gerry Davis). The Ump-Attire Ultimate Umpire Shirt scored best in the wrinkle test, second in appearance and the prick test, and first overall in points. Since that time Midwest Ump has reviewed the MLB Majestic shirt and inspected new shirts from Smitty and Honig's. The Ultimate is still, well, the ultimate umpire shirt.

The Ultimate has been tested in actual games during the 2009 and 2010 season and continues to perform very well. As stated in last year's UMPY Awards review, "Its durability is directly attributed to its quality construction." The Ump-Attire Ultimate Umpire Shirt is available through Ump-Attire for $32.99.

Winner: Reebok Field Magistrate Plate Shoe
Midwest Ump Review

The second repeat winner in this year's UMPY Awards is a definite fan favorite: the Reebok Field Magistrate Plate Shoe.

Since its introduction umpires have been leaving their old favorites behind for this comfortable plate shoe. The Field Magistrate provides excellent ankle support and shin guards can fit comfortably over the tongue of the mid cut shoe (also available in low cut). The moisture wicking Play Dry lining is very soft, the shoe is lighter than its competitors, and features a turf sole for greater traction.

Training Aid
Winner: Jim Evans Maximizing the Two Umpire System
Midwest Ump Review

The Midwest Ump review of the Jim Evans manual Maximizing the Two Umpire System was glowing. It gushed with praise. This book is that good.

Learning the two umpire system is the bedrock for all umpire systems. Umpiring in this system takes skill. Mastering this system takes a lifetime. Jim Evans gives the earnest umpire the tools for learning the mechanics of the two man system. This book systematically deconstructs the two man system and examines the proper form and function of each umpire for any possible play.

If you are serious about getting better, buy Maximizing the Two Umpire System and study it! Available at Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring for $69.95.

Winner: Honig's Poly Wool Pants
Winner: 2010 Umpire Merchandise Product of the Year
Midwest Ump Review

Midwest Ump has nicknamed the Honig's Poly Wool pants, the "Cadillac of Pants." Modeled after the poly wool blend pants worn by Major League umpires made by Hardwick Clothes in Cleveland., Tennessee, the Honig's Poly Wools look great and are tough as nails.

The Honig's Poly Wools won the Best Umpire Pants category in 2009, and there is no other umpire pants remotely close in terms of quality, appearance, and durability. Constructed from a heavyweight polyester and wool blend, the Poly Wools feature a reinforced knee, saddle stitching, and a "Snug-fit" waistband to keep your shirt tucked.

After hundreds of games the field-tested Honig's Poly Wool pants have retained their look and quality. Although against the manufacturer's recommendation, these pants were never dry cleaned and were washed in cold water, gentle cycle and tossed into a dryer under low heat.

Honig's Poly Wool Pants are sold exclusively by Honig's for $73.95 (base pants) and $79.95 (plate pants), and are only offered in charcoal grey. They are, without a doubt, the best of the best, and Midwest Ump is pleased to award the Honig's Poly Wool Umpire Pants the titles of Umpire Pants of the Year and 2010 UMPY Product of the Year.

Final Word
The status quo didn't change a great deal during 2010. Many of this year's UMPY Award winners were not new or changed products. Instead the winners tended to be selected from products that were time-tested. Typical of the field is the Diamond DFM- iX3 UMP in silver. The Diamond won its category by being popular, durable, and a good value (in this economy an important consideration). In light of these pragmatic choices, it is fitting that the 2010 Product of the Year is a pair of pants and not some innovative or break-through product.

2010 was a tough year for our country's economy and a tough year for umpires. Cries for instant replay are heard weekly. During these tough times being consistent, durable, and trust worthy are characteristics that are admirable. These same characteristics are common in the 2010 UMPY Award winners.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the 2010 Umpire Merchandise Products of the Year and good luck in 2011.


Anonymous said...

This is some great information and Yes The CP wins it hands down even though I have the WVP and Love it Great protection. And Jim Evans, Maximizing the Two-Umpire System Is worth a lot More than what it is sold for and a treasure to have In any umpires library.

Anonymous said...

Maximizing The Two-Umpire System could of been sold for hundreds of dollars But at the Price it is worth every Penny spend thanks to Jim Evans.

Anonymous said...

If Evans charged $70 for an amateur desktop publication, one can only imagine how much it would have cost if something were spent producing it professionally. Good information in a somewhat laughable publication.