Most baseball umpire associations around the country are now choosing charcoal as the pants color of choice. [“Pants?” “Pant?” Well, pants is the 19th century shortened version of pantaloons. It seems that even then there was disagreement on whether the correct version should be “pant” or “pants:” The thing named ‘pants’ in certain documents, A word not made for gentlemen, but ‘gents’. –American jurist/poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, Rhymed Lesson, 1846. With all due deference to Justice Holmes, I will stick with "pants" for purposes of this article. – ed.] Actually, this shift may have more to do with shirt color, since many groups now choose polo blue, black and cream colored shirts, which look best with charcoal pants, rather than navy or powder blue shirts. Softball umpires prefer to stay with the heather gray pants because it looks good with powder blue and red shirts.
In response to this shift, Smitty Apparel has introduced charcoal umpire pants with an expander waist system. These pants are 100% polyester (not a polyester-wool blend) and are machine washable for easy care. They also feature a Smitty Comfort Grip Waistband to keep your shirt tucked in, wide belt loops, a button tab and tuxedo clasp closure, a button loop on the left back pocket, and a heavy duty zipper.
I tested the Smitty Apparel BBS-376 charcoal umpire plate pants. Thanks to Dawn at Smitty Apparel for sending me a pair.
Like all plate pants, the BBS-376 uses saddle stitching to reinforce the seat. The legs are also cut wide to accommodate your leg guards. I reviewed Smitty Apparel pants previously, and found that the cut is slim through the hip area. I did not notice this while wearing the Smitty BBS-376 during my review. I had a full, unrestricted range, even with my healthy posterior. However, my measurements show that these pants are cut slightly slimmer. The rise is 11.5”, measured from the bottom of waistband to center point of crotch between legs, and the hips measurement (around the fullest part of the seat) is 52”. In comparison, the Honig’s poly-wools are cut “fuller” with a 12” rise and 54” around the hips. The Smitty pants are also slightly lighter weight than the Honig's poly-wools.
I had my doubts whether the expander waistband would be effective. I wondered if the expander would create a loose feeling fit while on the dish. Happily this was not the case. I wear two ball bags while working the plate, and I did not experience any “sag” from these pants. The expander waist seemed to work flawlessly - which could be a godsend for those early season games when I’m not yet at my fighting weight!
While the material is not the same as the Honig’s poly-wool pants, the material appearance is surprisingly similar between the two pants, especially from a distance. Unfortunately, there is a color difference that is noticeable.
On the left is a pair of Gerry Davis pants, in the center is the Honig's poly-wools, and on the right is the Smitty Apparel BBS-376.
The Smitty Apparel Expander Waist Umpire Pants (BBS-376) can be purchased from Purchase Officials for $39.99. They are available in the expander waistband for base, plate or combo in heather or charcoal colors. These pants are also sold at Ump-Attire.com for $44.95.
Fair or Foul?
This call is like a screaming line drive down the right field line with no one on. The first base umpire must be avoid the ball and sometimes make an impossibly close call. First, the positives: (1) the expander waistband is terrific; (2) a polyester fabric means that you are not a slave to dry cleaning; (3) the fit is good; (4) the price is very, very good.
Now the negatives: (1) the color does not match the two most popular charcoal pant worn by amateur umpires. Naturally, if you and your partner match, I have no reservations calling this product fair. For instance, the Collegiate Baseball Umpires Assigning Organization requires members to wear CBUAO embroidered Smitty charcoal pants. Finally, (2) the polyester material used in the Smitty Apparel Expander Waist Umpire Pants is not quite as good as the Honig's poly-wool blend pants.
So I need to get help from my partner on this call. Do umpires in your area wear Smitty Apparel charcoal pants? Then your call is "Fair." If your area does not wear Smitty Apparel charcoal pants, then the call is "Foul."