Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Not Quite the Oscars. Product of the Year Suggestions for the Midwest Umpire Blog

Last year, the Midwest Umpire Blog published it's first ever umpire products of the year awards. We were very fortunate to have had more products in our selection to win awards than any other retailer. It was not quite a Lord of the Rings style Academy Awards sweep as in 2003 when it won in all 11 categories for which it was nominated, but 6 out of 9 ain't bad.

For a refresher our 2009 winners were:
  • Best Mask: Champro Magnessium Umpire Mask
  • Best Helmet: Wilson Shock FX Titanium
  • Best Shirt: Ultimate Umpire Shirt
  • Best Accessory: Ultimate Umpire Ball Bag
  • Best Shoes: Reebok Field Magistrate Plate Shoes
  • Best Chest Protector: Wilson Platinum
This year, the Midwest Blog is soliciting suggestions and opinions regarding 2010 selections from the umpire community. Support us by suggesting products you find at (or elsewhere...we don't have to win every category).

Post your answers here or by email to, and we will pass them along. Or you can post at

The categories are what you see below plus shoes, pants, shin guards and training aid. Personally, I'd love to see these products walk the red carpet and win for 2010. Allow me to make my case. The nominees are.
  • Best Hockey Style Helmet
    The new very protective All-Star System 7 MVP4000-SL umpire helmet we now have with its vinyl nitrile padding and polycarbonate shell (steel cage is only 3 ounces less than much more expensive titanium).

    It's all the buzz with customers who have highly encouraged us to carry them. How could we resist?

    The Shock FX is deserving as well, but, hey, it would be nice for us, as an outspoken leader in offering the best umpire protection, to say we have in our selection back-to-back winners in this category.

    If anything else wins than either of those, it will be as much a surprise as Mickey O'Rourke not winning for best actor for his role in The Wrestler. Sean Penn in Milk?! What a rip-off that was! Sorry Sean, but you were great in Mystic River.

  • Best Umpire Mask
    Our special order Wilson Titanium with all-black padding.

    See, when Wilson came out with the titanium mask, they originally made it in two-tone only and in a low profile. I have spoken before that the best choice was a standard profile with all-black padding for a more protective mask with a sleeker black/silver look.

    We were one of only a few of the major retailers to make this a reality in 2010, and it was our most popular titanium gaining a People's Choice Award in my book. So the winner ought to be the mask you wanted in the first place, right? Who is with me?

  • Best Umpire Chest Protector
    The Wilson Gold. If the platinum won it last year, then the Gold ought to get its due before more hard shells come on the market in years to come once Joe West's patent runs out or manufacturers figure out a workaround.

    It's like Martin Scorsese who made all those great films over 20 years and was nominated 5 times for Best Picture until finally winning for The Departed in 2006. Ok, maybe it's not quite like that but I'm trying to keep the Academy Award analogy going here. Work with me please.

  • Best Umpire Shirt
    Well, it would be nice for our Ultimate to win 2 years in a row. But if it doesn't, I have two other possibilities. One is the new Majestic umpire shirt or our designed pink umpire shirt from Dalco.

    Yes, I know both were just made available but movies that came out just before the Academy Awards ceremony win Oscars, too.

    The Majestic shirt is such an innovation in fabric and trim and well received at the MLB level. Plus, they've been popular the second we started pre-selling them.

    But the most popular umpire shirt going right now is our newly designed pink shirt for breast cancer awareness. With its trim pattern being designed by an umpire with a poll taken at and our Facebook fan page plus a donation of $3 to Komen for the Cure, this shirt is a real winner even if it doesn't win Best Umpire Shirt of the Year honors.

  • Umpire Accessory
    There is a good chance the Ultimate Ball Bag will win again. From new products, it could be the Shock Doctor Titan Cup. If I told you how many of those we sold last year, you would be shocked.

    But the one I would love to see win is the Shock Doctor Gravity 2 Mouthguard. Although it's not a top selling accessory, it has been critically acclaimed so to speak.
    Derrick Dion commented that after a direct hit "I was not phased continuing like nothing happened."

    Louis Santoni "found the mouth guard to be comfortable...and noticed it had a very minimum effect on my ability to talk and make calls"

    Stephen O' Neal raves the Shock Doctor mouthguard "does not cause me to generate excess spit in my mouth" (among other good things but thought that line sounded funny pulled completely out of context...thanks Stephen).
    Most others are saying with a little getting used to it really has saved them from some potential concussions. No true accessory out there beyond a throat guard can say that it can keep an umpire safer (and in such an important part of the body) than this mouthguard accessory can.

    Call it the sentimental choice, like Sandra Bullock winning Best Actress for The Blind Side. Plus, the extra attention it receives might go farther in making a difference in the safety of umpires.
Tell us your picks.

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