Friday, November 11, 2011

Review of Diamond DCP-iX3 CXTU Chest Protector

Here in "Missoura," the high school baseball season is in the spring and the softball season is in the fall. My umpiring season starts in late February with college baseball, then high school baseball begins, summer baseball, and finally fall college baseball and high school softball. My season ends in late October.

I have used the same chest protector for both sports, although I readily acknowledge that my baseball protector is overkill for softball. I have looked on and off over the years for a CP that I could use for softball. Enter Diamond’s new DCP-iX3 CXTU chest protector.

The Diamond DCP-iX3 CXTU is the second soft shell chest protector Midwest Ump has reviewed. What exactly is the difference between a soft shell and a hard shell chest protector?

The typical design of a hard shell chest protector is a combination of large plastic plates over foam and wrapped in a cloth material (usually polyester). The plastic plates deflect the energy of a ball impact, while the foam padding is mainly used for comfort.

A soft shell chest protectors come in two types: with or without plastic plates. Those with plates wrap smaller plastic plates and absorbing foam in a fabric (usually polyester). Since the foam material is used for energy absorption in a soft shell configuration, it is usually thicker than the foam in a hard shell. However, soft shell protectors are usually lighter and cooler than hard shells.

The difference in protection when comparing soft and hard shell protectors usually comes down to size and placement of the plastic plates, which are used to deflect a ball’s energy.

The Diamond DCP-iX3 CXTU has a very unique appearance. The collar plates are very large, while the breast plate area is smaller than average. To look at this chest protector, you would think that it is very bulky, but that’s not the case. It is actually very low profile and fits close to the body.

The CXTU measures 1-1/8" thick at the collar and breast plate. That is very average for a hard shell chest protector, and sleek for a soft shell. Diamond places two removable pads at the deltoids. These pads measure 3/8” and are apparently intended as gap coverage.

The CXTU is 18.5" wide at the shoulders without the shoulder caps. To give you a frame of reference, the Schutt AiR Flex CP is 23" across. The shoulder caps add an additional 10.5", making it a whopping 29" wide. I remove the shoulder caps when wearing this CP as they are too wide for me (and I wear a 48R jacket!). In fact, there are several removable parts to the CXTU: an extension at the bottom of the CP; shoulder caps; deltoid pads; and lats pads ( Latissimus Dorsi). Below is a movie of the amazing shrinking Diamond DCP-iX3 CXTU!
With all padding and extensions attached, the CXTU is a very light two pounds, seven ounces – lighter than any hard shell protector tested, and one ounce heavier than the Honig’s K1. Stripped down without extension and should caps, the CXTU weighs less than two pounds (1 pound, 9 ounces)! 

The CXTU is shaped to conform to your shoulder and neck area. The material is also very breathable. It is a very comfortable chest protector.

The neck area is very roomy and has gaps that a foul ball could penetrate. This is troublesome for a baseball umpire, but the gaps are not wide enough for a softball. The neck opening is protected by an adjustable cloth and padding only. Again, problematic for baseball, but fine for softball.

Diamond advertises a 10” body (measured from the neck opening to the bottom of the protector). That is being generous, as my measurement was 9.5”.  I am 5’10”, with a longer torso, and the 9.5” covers my rib cage. I measured the overall length with the extension at 13.5". There are no plastic plates in the extension.

What's the problem? I'm agile - like a cat!
Everyone is different, but here are my thoughts on abdominal protection. First, none of my chest protectors completely cover my tummy. No, not because my stomach is soooo big (like the dude at right), but CPs are all around 13-15" long, so there is always some gap. Second, while most foul balls will hurt my stomach, there are no bones to break. Third, covering my stomach creates greater insulation, which is not a good thing when it's hot out. Finally, I only get hit in the stomach on very rare occasions, and, for me, the additional protection does not generally offset the comfort benefits. The one time I want the added abdominal protection is when the pitching will be over 90 mph.

Home Run Monkey - $89.99 + $6.99 ground shipping

Baseball Plus Store - $84.99 [free shipping on orders over $99]

Fair or Foul?

This chest protector should be renamed the CXTU-V, for “versatile.” I highly recommend this protector for softball, and my call is Fair! for softball use. It offers much more protection than the Honig’s K2 softball protector. It is also feather lite and breathable. I have been very, very happy with the Diamond DCP-iX3 CXTU chest protector during the softball season.

The CXTU is also fantastic for the smaller umpire, because it is so adjustable and customizable. A short umpire can remove the extension and have adequate rib cage protection. A slim umpire can remove the shoulder caps and have sufficient protection. I strip this CP down completely for softball use and I LOVE IT!

Because of the gap opening and inadequate protection around the neck, I cannot recommend this protector for baseball use. My call is Foul! for baseball use. My recommendation to Diamond is to reduce the size of the neck opening and insert a plastic plate into the neck pad. I understand the attraction of the adjustable neck opening, but the protection around the neck and clavicle in this current configuration is not sufficient for any level of baseball officiating. In the meantime, the CXTU is terrific for softball.


Mark Callahan said...

i know peter u dont like honigs but to say this diamond chest protector offers better protection over the K1 is ridiculous..i have both ...the diamond i wear very seldom ..this past july i got hit umpiring girls 16u softball and felt the shot alot..the K1 i wear for everything including college ball. and i have been hit with 90mph pitches and have not been imjured wearing hongs K1...if the honigs K1 was sold us ump attire K1 u would love it and give it thumbs up..ur bias is again quiite evident and im not the only one that sees this..many dont bother to react to ur bias for fear of others coming to ur rescue..nevertheless, ur love affair with jim and ump attire put aside..ur reviews and ur site is very imformative. i enjoy it and learn alot ...just dont like the honigs bashing and the love affair with jim and ump attire..keep up the good work...and ur opinions against honigs aside overall ur doing a good job..btw dick honigs says hi...was talking to him yesterday about the new lightweight masks honigs is developing to compete with diamond and champro lightweigh maske

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the comment made by Mark. The Honigs K1 chest protector is very good. I know of two guys who wear the K1 in pro ball. I am very happy with my Honigs K1 and have never suffered any pain or damage by 90mph shots

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the comment made by Mark. The Honigs K1 chest protector is very good. I know of two guys who wear the K1 in pro ball. I am very happy with my Honigs K1 and have never suffered any pain or damage by 90mph shots

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