Umpire Plate Coats: Why Veterans Wear Long Sleeve Shirts and Jackets Instead

Oct 29th, 2018

Umpire Bill Connolly wears balloon chest protector and plate coat As the game of baseball has evolved, so has the umpire uniform. Gone are the old days of ties and balloon (outside) chest protectors.

Also, fewer umpires in the modern game of baseball are wearing plate coats (what some call suit coats or blazers). MLB umpires wear them less and less, even in the World Series where you may have seen them most often. They are not worn at the Minor League level.

Why Umpires Are moving away from Plate Coats

1. There isn't a big market.

In the major DI conferences for 2018, there was only 1 plate coat wearer of the bunch. At one point, the main manufacturer of plate coats made only 24 total in a year - that includes ones for umpires in the major leagues who get them for free.

2. They are expensive.

On the one hand, while amateur umpires tell us they'd like one, with the $250+ price tag, they say they would rather buy new umpire gear instead.


As they were made custom, one competitor once listed completion in 12 weeks. Who wants to wait that long?


Major league umpires that I know would not spend $250 on a plate coat if they had to lug it around themselves.

5. They are dry clean only.

Another expense and headache, that if you are like me with my busy schedule, you don't need.

6. it doesn't Meet the Criteria of Modern Umpire Apparel.

Today's umpire apparel should provide the best mix of athleticism and authority. While you might think the plate coat achieves the authority part, a worn, exposed chest protector may defeat that objective. It also does not achieve a high score in athleticism in 2 and 3-man systems where amateur umpires work most. You wouldn't wear your sportcoat at the gym. Why would you wear a plate coat on the field?


Here is what veteran umpires do behind-the-plate in the modern game when it is cold.

When Cool
Smitty MLB Replica Long Sleeve Umpire Shirt - Black with Charcoal Grey

Long Sleeve Umpire Shirt

Smitty Open Bottom Half-Zip Umpire Jacket - Black and White

Tuckable Umpire Jacket (Open Bottom / No Elastic)


Fleece-lined Umpire Jackets.

Yes, there is no rule against wearing these heavier weight jackets when it is really cold, even if you can't easily tuck them. At least, they are low-profile. Besides, you can't tuck a plate coat either.

Overall, jackets and long sleeve shirts are less expensive, more readily available, easier to pack, washable and more athletic.

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About the Author

Picture of Jim Kirk

President Jim Kirk

Jim is a leading expert, educator and author on umpire gear, safety & appearance. After playing baseball at Centre College, he worked as a high school umpire. He became involved in E-Commerce while working on an MBA in the early 2000s and bought in 2006, He eventually led it to the leading umpire gear & attire retailer worldwide, a “Best Places to Work in Louisville” honor in 2020 & 2021 and a National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) Preferred Vendor. He maintained a long-standing relationship with Minor League Baseball Umpire Development & Training Academy for 10 years. He serves as an adviser to UMPS CARE Charities, the charity of MLB umpires, served as a 2-term board of director from 2012-2018, and was named their 2015 Ambassador Award recipient. A supporter since the inception of the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy, he was named to their Board of Directors in 2020.


  • Love mine. Unless you have one, they are hard to appreciate.

    • Comment by Andre Morgan
    • Aug 5, 2021
  • I love the plate coat! It gives the professional look. I started umpiring in the early 90’s and the guy that got me started had one. Took me all the years but I finally broke down and got it. One of my better investments to officiating in my 25+ years of calling.

    • Comment by Jeffery Crawford
    • Apr 16, 2021
  • As soon as I make it to the college level as an umpire, I'm buying a plate coat. The professional look is worth the hassle.

    • Comment by Charles Stokes
    • Dec 11, 2020
  • I think that if was making money selling plate coats they might have a different opinion about them!!

    • Comment by bryan Fisler
    • Feb 3, 2020
    • I totally agree! I just got one and I love it. I will dry clean, lug it where I go with out a issue. To me it gives the professional look. I wear a thin black shirt over my chest protector to hide it.

      • Comment by Jeffery Crawford
      • Apr 16, 2021
  • I guess that I have been umpiring too long. Started HS in the 60's at a very young age, still working college baseball. Plate coats were always part of the uniform. And though I agree with most of what is said about moving on from the plate coat. I still feel that it is a much better look that the athletic pullovers.

    • Comment by Bob Dwyer
    • Oct 5, 2019
  • I want those plate coats Scott...both navy blue and black.....Do they not wear them say in the Cape Cod League, or say the Boston Park League where I will be umpiring very soon. .... Are they too traditional ...too conservative for today's umpiring establishment?

    • Comment by Charles Peterson
    • Feb 11, 2019
    • While you may still see some umpires wearing plate coats, most are transitioning to jackets or long sleeve shirts to keep costs down and achieve a more athletic appearance. Plate coats do not fit modern umpire apparel, which is a combination of professional and athletic.

      • Comment by Staff
      • Feb 15, 2019
    • I bought my umpire plate coat over 25 years ago and I still wear it working high school varsity games. It’s so comfortable and every time I wear it I receive many compliments from coaches, players and even parents! There are a half dozen old school guys in my association that have them.

      • Comment by Mark Stroia
      • Apr 14, 2019