Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review of Champro Pro Plus Armor Umpire Chest Protector

This is the third in the series of hard shell chest protector reviews. This series will conclude with the Midwest Ump selection for the Midwest Ump 2010 Umpire Merchandise Product of the Year award winner (UMPY Award) in the Chest Protector category.

The Champro Pro Plus Armor Umpire Chest Protector has taken an evolutionary course in its development. When I first saw the Pro Plus last summer it was very bulky. The redesigned Pro Plus is less bulky, but still thicker than the Wilson Platinum, Gold, or Schutt AiR Flex.

The Champro is all black with no metal to shine through your shirt. One small logo is painted in white on the chest. This CP is designed with "quick release plastic clips" (see photo, right) that rest on the outer plastic plates and beg to be crushed by a foul ball.

While Champro has reduced its padding for the Pro Plus Armor Umpire Chest Protector, the padding is still very substantial. How substantial? My trusty caliper says the padding and PE armor plates measures 1.25". This is certainly not a low-profile CP and it feels and looks bulky and cumbersome.

I did not have difficulty putting my shirt over this CP and had no snagging issues while wearing it. There are no sharp edges and the surface is very smooth. and finished The armor plates are attached to the CP and the padding cannot be removed from the plates for cleaning. There was very little slippage from the Pro Plus Armor Chest Protector. I had good mobility while wearing it and did not feel constrained.

The Pro Plus is constructed with TRI-DRI foam and Dri-Gear moisture wicking netting. Finally, the padding is treated with BioFresh® anti-microbial for a dry and comfortable fit.

The Champro Pro Plus Armor Umpire Chest Protector uses molded 3mm PE armor that is contoured to the umpire's body. The armor plates are divided and strategically placed. There is significant gaping between the plates. The edges of the plates are beveled and angled in, toward the protector. Champro advertises that the "corrugated edges. . . maximize strength and reduce shirt friction."

The armor plates are held in place by nylon straps that are sewn into the CP. This creates a fair amount of give to the plates. While this may help the plates conform to the umpire's body, the "floating" individual plates will not disperse the energy of a foul ball like a larger plate will.

I can report that I took a couple shots to the chest in lower-level games (15 years old), and did not experience any discomfort whatsoever. For impacts directly to the armor, the combination of plastic plates and thick foam padding protects as well as any other CP - perhaps even better. However, the gaping in this CP is very worrisome. As you can see from the picture at left, the quite a bit of the shoulder area is not protected by plastic plates. The almost naked lack of protection around the shoulder and the edges pointed at the umpire caused concern that a ball impact in those areas during upper level games will be damaging.

The Champro Pro Plus Armor Umpire Chest Protector was available from Epic Sports for $77.91. Recently that item has been discontinued.

Fair or Foul? Champro makes some excellent umpire products. For instance, the Champro magnesium mask is amazingly light and is my personal mask of choice. Also, the Champro Pro Plus leg guards are top-notch. However, the Champro Pro Plus Armor Umpire Chest Protector has not fully developed in its evolution. I suggest larger (not beveled) plates; less padding for a closer, low-profile fit, larger plating around the collar; metal latching mechanism; and increased shoulder protection. Champro is making some smart choices with their umpire equipment. I suspect that Champro will produce a top-of-the-line chest protector in the near future that will compete with the best hard shell protectors.

The Champro weighs 2.13 lbs.

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