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 where I umpire, in 2018, there was only 1 plate coat wearer out of the crews I worked with. Jim shared a story with me that he spoke with the main manufacturer of plate coats 6 years ago. They had made only 24 total the previous 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.

3. THEY TAKE TOO LONG TO RECEIVE.

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

4. THEY ARE DIFFICULT TO PACK

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 dryclean 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?

INSTEAD OF PLATE COATS

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

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

Tuckable Umpire Jacket (Open Bottom / No Elastic)

WHEN REALY COLD
Smitty Major League Style Fleece Lined Umpire Jacket - Black and White

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 Scott Kennedy

Business Development Specialist, NCAA and Former Triple-A Umpire and KHSAA Basketball Official Scott Kennedy

Scott had a 9-year Minor League Baseball umpire career, rising to the Triple-A level (PCL). He worked multiple league All-Star games, playoffs and championship series plus MLB Spring Training, Arizona Fall League and 2003 Futures Game plate umpire. He is a graduate of the Wendelstedt Umpire School where he instructed for 8 years. Currently, Scott serves as Ump-Attire.com's Business Development Specialist; a Board of Director for UmpsCare Charities; an Instructor for MLB Umpires Camp; a NCAA umpire in the ACC and SEC with multiple NCAA Regionals, Super Regionals and multiple Conference tournaments; and is an umpire clinician nationwide for NCAA conference coordinators. In 2018, Scott was hired as the Supervisor of Umpires for the Mid-South Conference (NAIA). A native of Frankfort, Kentucky, Scott resides in Louisville with his wife Julie and twin daughters, Abigail and Isabella. He also coaches youth sports.

Comments

  • 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
    Reply
  • 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
    Reply
    • 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 Josh Mann
      • Feb 15, 2019
      Reply
    • 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
      Reply