The Correct Call!
Mask or Migraine - A Dead Shot!
Many are probably unaware, but I suffer from migraines. They come and they go without any clear explanation. This morning the cause is obvious. It is from the whiplash of a straight on foul tip to the dead center of my mask at the the Payson Varsity High School tournament this past Saturday. I end up taking about ten to twenty extreme face shots a year and they are taking their toll. The shots are due, in part, to my 6'6" height behind the slot rarely filled by smaller catchers and their gloves. Inside pitches that get fouled off always seem to find me... That's right, my umpire mask is a ball magnet!
6 years ago a close friend sold me a Wilson Shock FX hockey mask style helmet. It featured 4 piston shocks and was incredible at reducing the strain on my neck and jaw when the shots would come my way. The issue was the weight of the hockey style helmet. It is too heavy for 12 hour tournament days and much too hot when the sun beats down hard. The shock technology was, and still is absolutely awesome!
In the last 4 years I now do about 350 games a year of fast pitch softball.I have used an ultralight Champion mask that weighs in at about 17 ounces. It looks good with the gray/aluminum finish with black pads. It also has the raise guard atop the mask which hooks easily on my custom belt clip.
So what is the issue? It sounds as though my softball solution has been a good one. Lightweight, cool in the heat of the day, and good looking seems like a great combination. The issue is that the impact sents major trauma through my lower jaw and neck. Some of the impacts probably sends my brain sloshing around the inside of my skull. Being a long time skateboarder, having taken major falls in the deepest of swimming pools and the tallest of pipes resulted in multiple concussions in earlier years, it is obvious that these trauma are having a cumulative effect. Surely there must be a better solution.
SHHHH DON'T TELL ANYONE!
I did it. I finally pulled the trigger. I paid top dollar with my Arbiter Debit Card account that is currently filled with game payment fees for a very expensive mask. It is one that is mocked by most due to it's expense, weight, look, and even the odd/unique guarantee. The mask is the Force3 V2 Silver Defender.
EXTENDED LIMITED LIFETIME GUARANTEE!!!
We will replace, refurbish, or fix your mask after normal game impacts, up to 3 times within 5 years of purchase of your mask for only $99 each time. *Details available upon request, and included with every mask.
What? $99 each time it needs to be replaced/refurbished.... $99 is considerably more than most umpires ever spend on two of their normal masks, let alone the fee to have their used masked looked at and repaired. Then again, if the technology works, then that is chump change to get it repaired. Consider the impact it would take to damage the unit. If I take that kind of hit and it is damaged, then $99 is chump change for the migraine and whiplash that the mask will have prevented.
Weighs less than 27oz... Yes, 27 ounces scares me a bit. Why? I always add a mirror reflective shade and a Mizuno throat guard to my masks and I am a bit worried that this latest solution will be too heavy.
$149.00 - Currently my masks run me about $59.99, but this latest mask lists for $169.00. That is a lot.... Wait, it is much less than my $249.00 Wison Shock FX hockey mask, but that is still a huge chunk of change. And yet, if the $149.00 eliminates, or even lessens, the headaches from even one direct foul tip face shot, then it is worth every penny.
Let's face it, I am not a young man anymore. I do not heal as quickly as I did even 10 years ago. I dread the pain and throbbing that I am currently enduring. When this latest inside pitch foul ball hit, and the light flash went through my brain, I knew it was time to make the purchase.
I came home and went to the internet. I have been following the shock absorber mask technology for several years. Recently Force 3 took their 4 spring mask and eliminated a spring, resulting in a lighter mask. I went to their site and the mask is "Out of Stock". That was very odd to me. It could be that I am being taken advantage of and a new two spring model is being released... Hopefully that is NOT the case. I shopped several other sites and found that most also wanted about $20 for shipping... The added expense drives me crazy... I found the best current deal at www.Ump-Attire.com. The mask was $149.99 with free shipping. I also ordered a new mirror shield and throat guard and all should arrive by the end of the week.
- – Lightweight tubular chrome alloy
– Standard harness included, no need to purchase an additional harness
– Patent pending dual mask system with the Shock Suspension System (S3)
– Single bar construction for optimal view
– Unequal Kevlar lined padding
– 4 different high-impact foam padding construction with special memory comfort foam on chin and sides
– Powder coated for superior finish
– Weighs less than 27oz.
– Pads available in Black, Navy, Royal, Red. Will also offer Maroon and Green in the near future.
It surprised me that there are no approved standards for umpire masks.
After many years of designing, prototyping and testing, Force3 is proud to introduce the next generation of baseball face masks, the Force3 Defender. The Defender is truly an amazing technological creation that will revolutionize equipment forever. Independent tests conducted by one of the four independent National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) approved testing facilities in the world, concluded that nothing comes close to the protection as the Defender. With virtually the same footprint of a traditional mask, the Defender’s patent pending technology reduces the Severity Index of most impacts by up to 50% in most cases.
G-Forces were also reduced with impressive results. Tests included impacts by 70mph softballs (NOCSAE standard), and 100mph baseballs (results available upon request). Currently the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves are early adopters of the mask, and have several within each organization.
*NOCSAE® does not have umpire mask standards, and that these masks have not been certified as compliant with any NOCSAE® standard.
FORCE3 PRO GEAR MASK VIDEO IMPACT COMPARISON
- SIZE - Without a doubt I am worried about the size of the mask. It is actually two masks in one. This makes it stick out much further from the face... I think.
- PADS - I am a bit concerned about the pads. I like a more visible face so that my smile can be seen. I do not want to be mistaken for an "Angry Ump!"
- WEIGHT - I mentioned that earlier in this blog post. Will it just be too heavy.
The truth of the matter is that I would never know if I didn't just go ahead and order the mask. It isn't like I could have gone down to my local Dick's Sporting Goods and tried one on first. Umpires in Northern Utah are not wearing the mask and so all I have to base my decision is internet videos and pictures. That is a horrible way to make a purchase. But with the throbbing from my current whiplash trauma in full force, I am finally willing to give it a try. I am hoping that the mask can help extend my years behind the plate. If it works, then Force3 should send me new models for free for life because I will be one of their top "Poster Umpires" and their sales will skyrocket in Utah and the surrounding the states... And if it fails, then that news will also be shouted from the rooftops... But I am very hopeful!!!
Make it a great day! Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
PHOTO CREDITS: Many of the photos are from www.Ump-Attire.com and Force3.