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.
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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.