Umpire Chest Protectors Buying Guide

Aug 11th, 2022

The Basics

Umpire chest protectors are perhaps your most involved gear choice. There is a large range of protection levels and size options. Plus, protecting your vital body parts of heart and other organs makes it worthy of extra discussion and thought.

In reality, umpire chest protectors should be called chest, shoulder and rib protectors as there is protection available for all of these areas as well; and in some cases, even the less important stomach area or biceps can be protected.

Choosing the right umpire chest protector for your level and size, along with proper mechanics on positioning, should keep you as confident and safe as possible behind the plate. Let's dive in and see if we can help you pick the one right for you.

WEAR INSIDE OR OUTSIDE

First of all, umpire chest protectors are meant to be worn on the inside. An adjustable harness will slide over your neck, down your back and latch to either side of your body to keep your chest protector snug. 

Back View of Umpire Chest Protector

Umpire shirts are sized to fit over your chest protector and have fabric that is tough enough to handle the hard protrusions from the buckles, hard plastic and other stressors of your chest protector.

Older balloon-style models are over-sized, hand-held and more cumbersome when having to handle your umpiring tasks. They are considered out-of-style among most umpires. However, they can be functional when needing to share chest protectors among volunteer umpires who may not have their own gear. If you want one, you can find one at our friends at Purchase Officials.

COVERAGE

As a rule, umpire chest protectors should cover from the bottom of your neck down to at least your belly button or just above your belly button. In a typical stance as an umpire, as long as you have picked the proper size and your harness is adjusted properly, you should be in a position where both your collar bone and your ribs are covered.

As an option, some umpire chest protectors come with removable extensions to cover more of your stomach and some come with bicep protection. We'll discuss these features in more detail below.

Diamond Pro Umpire Chest Protector

Note that the chest protector will not protect your throat. That task is for the extension on your umpire mask or helmet for balls coming straight in and a throat guard on balls coming up from the dirt.

Protection Level: Hard vs. Soft Shell Overview

Second, when choosing an umpire chest protector, you must first choose the level of protection needed. Chest protectors come in either a hard shell on the outside or a soft-shell on the outside. All hard shells have an extra layer of soft padding underneath. Soft shells come with with or without hard plastic inserts.

Obviously, you will get more protection from the hard shell. It disperses more initial energy on impact and usually has more coverage than a soft shell, whether it has the hard plastic inserts or not. However, the soft shell variety will be lighter, cooler, relatively more comfortable and typically less expensive.

The hard shell umpire chest protectors are now made with lighter materials and generally contour better to the body than older styles for a more comfortable fit. For these reasons and protection concerns, more umpires at all levels choose a hard shell chest protector.

A note on the Force3 V3 Ultimate Umpire Chest Protector: This ultra-low-profile design does not fit well into the typical hard or soft shell category. Instead of a hard or soft shell on the outside, there is a thin layer of neoprene that wraps a thin plastic shell (referred to a "blast shield") and then a thin layer of kevlar. Therefore, the Force3 is meant more as a layered energy disbursement protector rather than as an energy deflector. While not as protective as traditional hard shells, it is engineered to provide the most protection possible in a slim design.

Force3 V3 Ultimate Umpire Chest Protector

Sizes and Sizing

Besides inside vs. outside, hard vs. soft shell, there are sizing considerations as a matter of choosing the right umpire chest protector for you. For instance, if you are a taller (or shorter) umpire, some chest protectors will work better for you and some, not at all. 

When measuring for chest protector length, measure from your neck down to where you want the bottom of the chest protector to be positioned (over ribs, just at or above the belly button). When checking your new umpire chest protector, get in your stance and look in a mirror to check for that neck-to-ribs coverage.

IN-DEPTH

Let's work our way up in protection and talk soft-shells before moving to hard-shells. If you are not a fan of soft-shells, skip this section.

SOFT SHELL UMPIRE CHEST PROTECTORS

The soft shell umpire chest protectors have come a long way as most provide more protection than in the past. Besides being lightweight, all provide more perspiration management, have options for all heights and are typically less expensive.

Soft shells vary on whether or not they have additional extensions for the biceps, whether multiple sizing options are available and whether or not they offer added protection through plastic plates embedded within the chest protector itself.

Soft-Shell Only: There are some soft-shell-only chest protectors on the market in a ribbed-style without additional hard-plastic plates, not unlike what catchers wear. However, we encourage umpires to leave the soft-shell only styles to catchers and wear umpire chest protectors with at least some type of hard shell coverage, embedded hard shell plates or the one-of-a-kind Force3. Our selection reflects that.

Soft-Shells with Embedded Hard Plastic Inserts: The most popular soft-shells with inserts each year are the All-Star Internal ShellChampro Pro-Plus and Diamond iX3. They provide for a higher level of protection than predominant ribbed foam-only soft shells. These umpire chest protectors provide adequate protection for softball and for youth baseball levels, especially the recreation levels through age 12. Some baseball umpires wear these through JV and some softball umpires through high school varsity and college.


TOP SOFT-SHELL FOR SOFTBALL: The All-Star Internal Shell Umpire Chest Protector provides a great combination of comfort and protection. The padding thickness and materials provides more than adequate protection in the torso. It is wider in the chest than the Diamond iX3. it is more of a true soft shell at the shoulders than the Champro Pro-Plus, making it less bulky.


   

BEST VALUE FOR YOUTH BASEBALL: The Champro Pro-Plus is less expensive, provides more overall coverage throughout the upper and outer chest and adds a layer of hard-shell shoulder protection. In your stance, your shoulders are going to be more forward-facing in most stances. The hard shell will take it up a notch in protection, but also make it a little more bulky, in a typical trade-off when it comes to umpire gear.

    

The Diamond iX3 is more streamlined and includes additional bicep protection and a stomach extension as part of the same price. It has been highly popular among softball and youth baseball umpires with smaller frames due to its narrow chest. Consider a different CP if you have a larger frame and want more protection.

A Word of Caution: Please be aware that large discrepancies exist in skill level at any age, especially in the 12 to 15 year old range. In general, we often hesitate to suggest which chest protector is best for which age group. Actually, we tend to suggest one level lower than those suggested by manufacturers.

We tend also to side with veteran umpires, who have used both hard and soft shell types and recommend an umpire chest protector with a hard shell if at all possible. Keep reading, and we'll talk about those next.

Hard Shell Umpire Chest Protectors

Seasoned umpires will tell you to get the hard shell chest protector for any and all levels. This is especially true at the college, minor and major league levels.

Most of those who wear soft shell chest protectors, with or without inserts, don't have any problems, perhaps for years. Then, maybe, they'll take that one hit that leaves a nasty bruise or wishing they had gotten a higher level of protection.

In the past, if you wanted a new hard shell, you could only get them from Wilson due to MLB umpire Joe West's patented design of using Velcro to attach hard plates to foam padding. Joe's design was ingenious - to take football shoulder pads and position them to where the hard shell faced frontwards and covered farther down the body where it was needed rather than across the back.

As you'll read below, manufacturers got around the patent, through alternative designs, such as using rivets to attach the hard plates. This opened umpires up to more options, sizes and price points.

Let's start by discussing the Wilson models, arguably the highest in protection of hard shells, before we dive into the others.

 

Wilson ModelsWilson has 2 models in their new Pro Gold 2 line that were developed in conjunction with input from MLB umpires and us. The 2 models have different padding - 1 is lower profile memory foam and the other is thicker air management (foam) padding.

Maintained Benefits

  • Maximum Coverage in the shoulders and upper torso with hard shell plates and no-gap protection.
  • Increasing Width Sizes: Most CPs only increase in length. Golds increase in width for more coverage and a more customized fir as you increase in length
  • Contoured Fit with multiple breaks

Enhancements

  • Lower-Profile Padding in memory foam model is more slimming and will mold over time to your body.

  • Premium Harness: New Pro Gold 2 CPs no longer have a standard Y harness. instead it includes a neoprene center that guarantees a non-slip close-body fit out of the box.
  • Side Fasteners: Umpires prefer buckles on the side. They are easier to put on/off and aren't susceptible to getting hit or protruding outward through your umpire shirt. The new Pro Gold 2s have Magnetic FIDLOCK© Fasteners which have the enhancement of not rusting seen in traditional metal buckles.

Continued Limitations

  • Smaller Sizes ranging from 11" to 13" leave less coverage for taller umpires (6' 1" or taller) in the ribs or those who prefer longer options.
  • Smaller neck area that larger frame individuals might feel the contour in the neck is a little too tight.

 

The Platinum (now discontinued) also has thick padding, good shoulder protection and a contoured fit.

However, be aware its neck opening is larger and best suited for larger frame individuals. Smaller frame individuals should gravitate to the Gold or spend time adjusting the harness properly (if unsuccessful in your adjustment on the Platinum, refit it with a premium harness upgrade).

Wilson MLB Platinum Umpire Chest Protector

Hard Shells with the Most Contoured Fit: This includes having multiple hard-shell break points in the chest region along with some pre-curvature and contoured padding:

  1. Wilson MLB West Vest Pro Gold 2 Memory Foam
    5 total chest region breaks plus pre-curvature; widths increase as sizes/lengths increase offering the possibility of a better fit.
  2. All-Star Cobalt
    7 total breaks with extension; 4 without. Pre-curved chest and shoulder plates are easily moldable. Multiple adjustments options make this a one-size contours-to-most.
  3. Champion P2
    5 total breaks plus pre-curvature and use of soft padding on the sides instead of hard-shell; widths increase as sizes/lengths increase offering the possibility of a better fit
  4. Wilson MLB West Vest Pro Gold 2 Air Management
    5 total chest region breaks plus pre-curvature; widths increase as sizes/lengths increase offering the possibility of a better fit
  5. Champro Air Management Plated
    5 total chest region breaks with pre-curvature; adjustable upper pectoral pads
  6. Champro Pro-Plus Plate Armor
    6 total breaks plus pre-curvature and soft padding on the sides under the armpits; widths increase as sizes/lengths increase offering the possibility of a better fit. By design for ventilation purposes, the shape of the Pro-Plus is not meant to contour perfectly to the body.
  7. Diamond Pro
    6 total breaks plus pre-curvature in a one-size-fits most width sizing

Hard Shells with Lower Profile Padding

  1. Champion P2
    While being the lowest profile, its design makes it the least protective of all hard shell umpire chest protectors. Its riveted design attaches differently than other riveted designed chest protectors by pinching padding inward in such a way to create shell-only in all places where it is riveted.


  2. Champro Pro-Plus Plate Armor
    T
    his chest protector is more protective than the Champion P2 and offers more features, making it perhaps the best value in hard shell plus low-profile.


  3. Wilson MLB West Vest Pro Gold 2 Memory Foam
    This model features 3/4" of contouring memory foam laid under strong ABS plastic. Throught the use of memory foam, Wilson has provided a slimming torso and lower laying shoulder pads for an overall low-profile, high-protection protector. 


  4. Diamond Pro
    Also more protective than the Champion P2, while the 2 above have a slightly lower profile, this one comes with an extension in the purchase price.


  5. All-Star Cobalt
    The most protective of the low-profiles due to its armor plates and air management padding system.

Honorable mention:

  1. Force3 V3 Ultimate
    It's listed in honorable mention only because it is not a true hard shell. However, from a low profile perspective, it is the lowest in profile of all umpire chest protectors.

Best Hard Shells for Taller Umpires: If you are a taller umpire, say 6' 1" or 6' 2" or taller and you want your ribs covered, some umpire chest protectors, due to their smaller size range, just will not do. In general, all Wilson chest protectors have sizes 13" or lower. Most likely a 14", 15" or perhaps more would be needed for taller umpires.


(The Champion P2 17" is 4" longer than this discontinued 13" Wilson model)

Below are the umpire chest protectors options for taller umpires in a hard shell:

  • Champion P2
    Has 3 sizes including a 15" and 17" option, making it the longest umpire chest protector on the market without a sizing plate
  • Diamond Pro
    One size fits all at 17" (13" with plate removed
  • All-Star Cobalt
    One size fits all at 16" (12.5" with plate removed)
  • Champro Pro-Plus Plate Armor
    Has 3 sizes including two larger options - 14" and 15

For value, the Champro and Champion give you the additional length you are looking for at a much lower cost.

The Force3 V3 Ultimate also can be fitted up to 16.5".

Harnesses: The standard harness connects elastic from each shoulder to each bottom side of the chest protector and is connected in some way in the middle. The most basic harness are offered on the Champion P2.

Top 4 Umpire Chest Protectors with Harness Upgrades Included (in order of favorites):

  1. Wilson Pro Gold 2 Chest Protectors: Now includes premium Wilson harnesses with neoprene.

  2. Force3 V3 Ultimate
    3 center layers of air flow fabric, open cell foam and neoprene plus stronger elastic make this one the best harness on a chest protector.


  3. All-Star Cobalt
    The DeltaFlex harness, with its triangular elastic design in the middle is a great design for comfort and snugness.
  4. Champro Pro-Plus Plate Armor
    Contains straps that are thicker but also more elastic than those found on typical harnesses, making it not only easy to adjust to a more snug and secure fit, but also very easy to slide your umpire chest protector on and off while buckled.

Metal Buckles or Plastic Buckles? Metal ones can rust after a few years. Plastic ones can break. However, the metal ones can be sanded and re-painted. The plastic ones on all models here are on the side and should be safely out of the way of the force of a baseball or softball, but still slightly more vulnerable than metal.

The following styles have metal buckles:

The others (and all soft-shells) have plastic.


(The Champion P2's metal buckle and insert along side the Champro Pro-Plus Armor Plate plastic buckle and insert.)

More Details

A Word on Sizing Plates

Sizing plates, we feel, are a misnomer. With all the size options available on most umpire chest protectors that are compatible with sizing plates, you should find what you need size-wise to cover your ribs without needing one - in most cases.

More often than not, sizing plates are used to extend coverage to cover some or all of your stomach. Therefore, we prefer calling these "chest protector extensions". Whatever you call them, they attach to your chest protector with Velcro. Unless they are used for sizing, they are completely optional and usually not preferred by veteran umpires.

The umpire chest protectors that are compatible with extensions are as follows (photo below is in same order as bullets):

  • Champro Pro-Plus Plate Armor and Pro-Plus Soft-Shell
    Purchased separately and soft-shell only.
  • Diamond Pro
    Included in the price, it is the only hard-shell extension plate, and it 4" it makes a 13" CP into a 17" one. For those who are in-between size needs, this may not be considered as fitted as others.
  • Diamond iX3
    There are two bonuses to this extension. For one, it is included at no additional cost. It is also more substantial than the other soft-shell extensions on the market as it contains hard plastic inserts, thus offering more protection.
  • Force3 V3 Ultimate
    Included in the price and only compatible with the Force3. Kevlar layering within pads.

  • All-Star Cobalt
    Included in the price and only compatible with the Cobalt. Attached by 4 fasteners and 2 Velcro tabs.


BICEP PROTECTION

Most umpires opt out of bicep protection. But if you do want this protection - and that is perfectly fine for those who might bruise more easily or umpire in youth leagues were pitchers and catchers are a little more unsteady - here are 4 options along with their benefits:

  • Diamond Pro
    Hard-shell that comes with 5" bicep protection, 3" of which is hard-shell protectors. These are removable if you do not want to wear them. Included in the price.~

  • Diamond iX3 (top left below)
    The Diamond iX3 comes with both removable bicep protection and an extension at one price. The bicep protection is consistent with the chest protector itself with soft-shell over hard plastic plates.
  • Champro Pro-Plus Plate Armor and Pro-Plus Soft-Shell (lower left below)
    Hard-shell bicep protection can be purchased separately and attached. 

Comparison Charts

Hard Shell & Hybrid Comparison WeightSizes
(neck to bottom)
FeaturesBiceps ProtectionSizing Plate
           
All-Star Cobalt 2.7 lbs
(3.3 lbs with extension)
12.5" Multiple Breaks and Contoured Fit
Low-Profile Padding
One Size-Fits Most
Pre-curved Shoulders
Removable, Washable Padding
Plastic Buckles at Side
DeltaFlex Harness
Black with Blue All-Star Cobalt Logo on Chest 
No

Yes
Included and Removable

3.5"

Diamond Pro 4.6 lbs
(3.6 lbs without extensions)
13" Multiple Breaks and Contoured Fit
Low-Profile Padding
One Size-Fits Most
Metal Buckles in Front for Easy Attachment
Removable Wing Flaps
Standard Diamond harness
Grey with White Diamond Logo on Chest
Yes
Hard-Shell
Included and Removable

5" (3" of which is hard)

Yes
Included and Removable

4"

Champion P2

2.2 lbs
(13" Size)

2.6 lbs
(15" Size)

2.85 lbs
(17" Size)

13"
15"
17"
 Hard Shell Attached with Rivets,
Low Profile,
Contoured Fit,
Widths Increase as Sizes/Lengths Increase,
Metal buckles in Front for Easy Attachment,
Black with White Champion Logo on Chest
No No
Champro Pro-Plus Plate Armor 2.6 lbs
(14" Size)
12.5"
14"
15"
Low Profile,
Contours create space between body and protector for ventilation and comfort,
Widths Increase as Sizes/Lengths Increase,
Moisture Management Liner,
Microbial Treated Padding,
Plastic Buckles at Side,
Standard Harness
Yes
Hard-Shell
Sold Separately
Yes
5"
Sold Separately
Force3 V3 Ultimate 3.8 lbs Adjustable from 12” to 16.5"

100% Customizable,
Virtually Invisible Under-the-Uniform,
Durable, Breathable, Hand Washable Neoprene Cover,
High-grade Space Airflow System Fabric Backing,
One Size Fits All

Yes
Hard-Shell
Sold Separately 
No 
Wilson Gold (Discontinued) 3.6 lbs
(13" Size)
11"
12"
13"
Neck Opening Contoured for Small-to-Medium Frames,
Plates Attached with Velcro,
Contoured Fit,
Widths Increase as Sizes/Lengths Increase,
Thick Padding,
Metal buckles in Front for Easy Attachment,
Standard Harness,
Black with Gold W and MLB Logo on Chest
No No
Wilson Platinum (Discontinued) 3.6 lbs

12"
10.75"

Neck Opening Contoured for Medium-to-Large Frames,
Plates Attached with Velcro,
Contoured Fit,
Thick Padding,
Metal buckles in Front for Easy Attachment,
Standard Harness,

Grey with Gold W and MLB Logo on Chest
No No
 Wilson Pro Gold 2 Memory Foam 2.3 lbs

11"
12"
13"

Low Profile Memory Foam
Premium Neoprene Harness
Removable or Adjustable Pec Wing Padding
FIDLOCK® Buckles

No

No

Wilson Pro Gold 2 Air Management 3.2 lbs

11"
12"
13"

1" Air Management Foam
Premium Neoprene Harness
Removable or Adjustable Pec Wing Padding
FIDLOCK® Buckles

No  No 

 

Soft Shell Comparison WeightSizes
(neck to bottom)
Moisture ManagementEmbedded Plastic PlatesBiceps ProtectionSizing Plate
All-Star Internal Shell 1.6 lbs 14" Yes Yes No

No

Diamond iX3 2.75 lbs
(with sizing plate)
14"*
*(18 1/2" with sizing plate )
Yes
(Coolmax)
Yes Yes
Soft-Shell
Included

Yes
4.5"
Included

Champro Pro-Plus 2.4 lbs
(14" Size)
M - 13"
L - 14"
XL - 15"
Yes
(Dri-Gear)
Yes Yes
Hard-Shell
Sold Separately
Yes
5"
Sold Separately

 

BEST SELLERS

At Ump-Attire.com, while in any category, find "Sort By", then select "Most Popular". This will provide you with which umpire chest protectors other umpires have purchased more (or less of) within the past 12 months.

We'll give you a shortcut here if you want to take a look: Most Popular Umpire Chest Protectors

TOP REVIEWED

Another nice feature is to "Sort By: Reviews: Highest-to-Lowest". As of this writing, we have over 115 reviews from fellow umpires on their chest protectors.

Another shortcut: Highest Reviewed Umpire Chest Protectors 

Want to Know More?

Each umpire chest protector product page provides detailed information, sizing options, related blog posts and additional images including chest protectors worn front and back, something you'll only find here at Ump-Attire.com.

A Word on CHEST PROTECTOR CARE and replacement parts

First of all, extend your chest protector's life by wiping any moisture off after each game.

Secondly, don’t throw your whole chest protector in the washing machine. Use a mild soap instead, and wash by hand without immersing into water.

Third, if any metal buckles show signs of rust, remove them, sand them and spray paint them with a rust-preventing paint (e.g. Rustoleum) or just buy replacement t-hooks.

T-Hooks for Umpire Chest Protector

Lastly, check your straps periodically for wear. They may lose its elasticity over time. If you find yourself adjusting it often or your chest protector no longer covers your collar bone in your chance, a new chest protector harness will likely provide a fix. We have several options in the Replacement Pads & Straps category.

Wilson Umpire Chest Protector Replacement Harness

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 Ump-Attire.com 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.

Comments

  • Surprised you didn't mention the Douglas, the 15" is long enough for taller umpires and it's low profile while offering excellent protection.

    • Comment by William Ettenger
    • May 11, 2021
    Reply