Uniform and Equipment Essentials for New UmpiresMay 2nd, 2017
Congratulations! You made the decision to be a part of the umpiring family. What comes next? What will you need? We’re here to help get you started.
Unfortunately, there are startup costs that must occur before even stepping onto the field. Umpire uniforms and protective equipment are needed. Start with the essentials at first. You can continue to add to your collection or upgrade items as your career progresses. This strategy has worked for me since I started umpiring in 2006.
The following products are my recommendations for you as a brand new umpire looking to make the initial investment to start your umpire career.
You will quickly learn that perception is reality when it comes to your appearance on the field. It is vital for your uniform to fit properly and be well kept in order to command the respect of coaches, players, and spectators.
Every association or league has different uniform standards. You will want to ask others what style or color to buy. The “basic” umpire shirt most have in their closet is the Smitty Pro Knit Umpire Shirt. There are many colors in this traditional style, but black and navy blue are the most popular.
In order to keep cost down, it is recommended to invest in one pair of Smitty Combo Umpire Pants rather than buying a pair of plate pants and a pair of base pants. Most upper level umpires wear plate pants when working the plate and base pants while on the bases, but combo pants will certainly get the job done to start. The Smitty Combo Umpire Pants come in both Charcoal Grey and Heather Grey in standard polyester fabric or an upgraded Poly Spandex. Again, you may want to ask your association or league what color pants they prefer.
Helpful Hint: All umpire pants come unhemmed. When having them hemmed by your local tailor, it is recommended to wear your shin guards and plate shoes (for plate and combo pants) to ensure proper length.
Don’t forget about the belt. An umpire belt is wider than the standard dress belt to provide extra strength for the belt to attach your ball bag(s) when working the plate. We offer both Genuine and Patent Leather 1 ¾”. For proper fit, it is recommended to go 2” to 4” larger than your pants size.
There are a few options when choosing which cap you want. There are two, four, six, and eight stitch bills (length of bill varies) and wool, mesh, or Richardson Pulse Performance moisture wicking fabric. I personally wear a six stitch hat on both the plate and the bases. You may want to start with a four stitch hat for the plate until you master removing your mask without removing your hat.
Depending on where and when your games will take place, you may want to consider purchasing an umpire jacket. There are three styles: traditional half-zip (medium weight), fleeced lined full zip (heavy weight), and convertible jackets (light weight) where the sleeves can be removed at the elbow. The traditional half-zip is most common and again, the black with white shoulder stripes and navy blue with red and white shoulder stripes are the most popular color options.
Wearing quality footwear will make those long games feel like a walk in the park. You should invest in both plate and base shoes. Umpire plate shoes have a composite toe box and a metatarsal plate to protect your entire foot.
The New Balance V3 MLB Plate Shoes are the best plate shoes on the market and are worn by Major League Umpires. You will not regret making this investment. Low and mid cut are available in most sizes and widths. The New Balance Base Shoes also come in low and mid cut in most sizes and widths.
Some associations and leagues have uniform policies to what style of shoe they require. It is best to ask your group if there are any color restrictions (some do not approve of “white” on the shoe) before making your purchase.
I am a firm believer in investing more in head safety. There are many options when picking which umpire mask or helmet is right for you. Materials and colors vary in both frame and pad options. The aluminum mask frame is becoming a very popular choice given the lighter weight than steel and lower cost than titanium. The Diamond iX3 Aluminum Umpire Mask and Wilson Dyna-Lite Aluminum Umpire Mask are both excellent frames. There are multiple colors and pad options with each frame.
Finding the right umpire chest protector is determined by body frame size and the level of baseball or softball you are officiating. I recommend a hard plastic outer shell for any level higher than about 12 year olds. The Champion Body Armor Umpire Chest Protector and the Champro Pro-Plus Plate Armor Umpire Chest Protector are both cost efficient, but still offer adequate protection. They both come in three sizes so finding the proper fit is much easier than a one-size-fits-most chest protector. The Diamond iX3 Umpire Chest Protector does not have a hard outer shell, but has a hard inside which provides sufficient protection for lower level baseball or softball. This also comes with an optional, removable stomach protection plate and removable bicep protection.
Of all the protective umpire equipment, shin guards are the one item where you can choose economic value over protection. The Diamond Umpire Shin Guards or the Diamond Featherweight Umpire Shin Guards are a great pair of shin guards to start with. They are both lower profile (so they will fit under your combo pants better) and lighter weight than some of the higher end shin guards. They both come in multiple lengths.
Accessories and Kits
You will need an indicator, plate brush, and ball bag(s). The Ump-Kit consists of a black or navy Smitty Ball Bag, Champro Plastic Plate Brush, and Markwort 3-Dial Indicator. All three tools are necessary, so you might as well purchase them together. If you want to wear two ball bags, you will have to purchase the second one separately.
If you are looking for one-click shopping, you may want to consider the Champro Varsity Umpire Gear Set which includes a mask, chest protector, shin guards, ball bag, plate brush, and indicator. The equipment in the package is the most economical equipment Champro offers.
It can be overwhelming knowing you need to make such a large initial investment to start your umpire career, but you will have the peace of mind knowing you are well protected and looking your best. As you continue to progress and work more games, reinvesting your game fees in your umpire equipment and uniforms will allow you to continue to rise through the ranks and score the top assignments.
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WARNING: Participants in any sports activity assume risk of injury. This equipment may be used to help aid in preventing or reducing the extent of injury. No equipment can guarantee umpire or player safety from injury during participation, and use of this equipment carries no such guarantee. Do not use any umpire equipment that is damaged in any way.
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About the Author
Pro School Umpire Graduate Josh Mann
A native of Chicago, Josh graduated from the University of Arizona with degrees in Economy & Industry and Sports Management. He attended the Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy and Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School, umpired in the Frontier Professional Baseball League, and worked in the Chicago Cubs Organization. Josh enjoys baseball, hockey, golf and spending time with his dog Wrigley. He spent 4 years as Ump-Attire.com’s marketing assistant and recently relocated to Arizona.