Friday, December 31, 2010
You'll find something different in your box each month, during the first half of 2011. For now, you can think beer ad, but for officials' sporting goods and without the beer.
But even though we are clowning around a bit, we are serious about hoping you have a safe and very Happy New Year!
More about the guy in the photo later.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
- New Balance Plate and Midcut Base Shoes
- Majestic Umpire Apparel
- Smitty Umpire Jackets
- Mask Sun Shields
- Thorlo Steel Toe/Plate Shoe Socks
- Plastic Plate Brushes
- Oversized Ball/Strike Indicators
Thursday, December 23, 2010
In an effort to speed play, the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee has approved a 20-second limit between pitches with no runners on and a 90-second limit between innings for non-TV games (108 seconds for televised).
Implemented in tournament play last year, and now required for the 2011 regular season:
- Pitchers who go over this time limit with no runners on base risk having a ball added to the count after a warning for a first offense,
- Hitters who step out within 5 seconds of the clock expiring risk a strike after a warning for a first offense and;
- The offending team of the between-innings limit risk having a ball or strike added as well.
Where in-field or on-stadium pitch clocks are not available, what's the lucky base umpire to do who has this responsibility? When 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, etc won't do, would you consider one of these items?
Champion Jumbo Timer
Clips to belt or can be worn around wrist
Countup or Countdown
Audible beep confirmation
Countup or countdown
Can be used silently or with audible beep confirmation
Will reset to any preset time at completion
What do you think of this new rule?
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
- A Salute to Father and Son Umpires
- Umpire Like It's 1864 at the Vintage Baseball World Series
- Get in the Slot for Safest Umpire Position
- BLUE for Pink - Umpires Against Breast Cancer Campaign
- Not Quite the Oscars. Product of the Year Suggestions for the Midwest Umpire Blog
- Protective Gear Return Rates Improve Yet Again
- Shock Doctor Low Profile Mouthguards: Initial Feedback
- NCAA Umpire Shows Best Moves in Recent Shoot
- Officials' Shoes: When True to Size Isn't Always True
- Blow the (Pink) Whistle On Breast Cancer
Friday, December 17, 2010
In Munfordville, Kentucky, about 45 minutes south of Louisville is a small Amish factory of about 15 seamstresses who make Ump-Attire umpire shirts, referee shirts, ball bags and referee accessories. If you are reading this, you may have one of these items in your closet or bag.
Yesterday, we had the privilege of hosting (most of) these very dedicated and skilled workers on a tour and an appreciation lunch.
Jeanne Nelson, operations manager, explains how our customer service center operates before turning it over to Anessa Arehart, customer service manager, for more details about our customers.
I introduce the Amish to the new warehouse space.
I (at far right) share our picking and packing process while Jeanne (middle background) shows off the destination of states and countries of that day's packages. I think the order to Japan surprised them.
I explain what we do with the products they make once they arrive including our bar coding process before a show-and-tell with other products and how they are used. Beulah Hester (far left), who works closely with them and helped orchestrate the tour, looks on.
After lunch (which our new space really gave us the room for), the Amish presented each of us with a homemade baked goods basket. The apple butter is to die for BTW. Any other apple butter fans out there? Perhaps, the best I've ever had...made in a large iron kettle bottom. Yummy!
But all in all, the day the Amish came to visit was a very nice day for them and for staff. It's certainly not something you can say happens every day.
Although I have been to their location more than once, staff have not. The plan is to shut down one day this summer and take the staff for a tour of their facility. Looking forward to it. We'll share more about their low carbon footprint facility at that time. Regardless, we are very fortunate to have a reliable source of quality American made goods right here in Kentucky.
Note: Some of you are familiar with the Amish might wonder if they drove their buggies here. They did not. A large van was rented for them to make the trek.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
When it came time for us to work on an upcoming promotional campaign, we needed a few umpires who looked the part for a photo shoot. One of those umpires was John Bennett, former AAA minor league and current Division I NCAA umpire. Here's a look at some of his moves.
We pulled the shoot off with the help of a local high school catcher with new Wilson gear (thanks Jacquie), Ray, our ultra-dependable photographer and Amanda Tricase, our new creative director, in her directorial debut.
For more pics from the shoot visit the album on our Facebook fan page.
Note to Hollywood movie producers and ad agency execs: Stop it with the non-professionals already. Any number of pros are available for the cost of a game fee or two, including John, for your upcoming film, TV show, commercial and/or print ad. A 10% agent commission will apply.
Monday, December 13, 2010
It's that time of year again. Christmas? Yes, Christmas, but that's not what I'm referring to. It's also time for me to review sales reports and see which protective gear items are returned the most.
Why is this important? Well, if the return rate is low, you'll have more confidence in purchasing a certain item as it shows your umpire brethren collectively tend to be happier with a certain item (or size) than one that is returned more. If an item or a size on item has a higher return rate, we'll either discontinue that product or educate more about it or about any sizing issues. The latter usually works pretty well without going to such drastic measures.
So what did we learn in 2010? The main thing is that return rates continue to get better. In 2009, a pretty solid 1 return per 33 of protective gear items were returned. This year's that number decreased to only 1 in 40 (and decrease is good if your talking about return rates, bad if you're talking about 401Ks or Derek Jeter's batting average).
Here are more highlights:
- Umpire chest protectors return rates were back down to 2.4% after jumping from 3% in 2008 to 3.4% in 2009. I do know I beat everyone over the head about the 10.75" platinum as it had a whopping 20% return rate in '08 then 7.5% in '09. The educational way is working as that item and size dropped to a rate of 2.99%. You guys listen to us...that makes you, well, good listeners.
- Umpire masks return rates pretty much stayed the same at around 1.9%. I did notice increasing return rates (and lower sales) for masks that were low profile or heavier in weight as the trend in traditional masks continues to be standard profile AND lightweight.
- Umpire shin guards return rates dropped from 4.7% to 4.1%. As you can see, shin guards continue to be he hardest thing to feel comfortable about as they have the highest return rates among protective gear. But it has dropped to 1 in 25 so that is not too shabby.
- Small Sizes
For the first time since I have been reviewing this data, return rates on smaller sizes are overall more respectable although sales of smaller sizes are down. Are smaller umpires leaving the business? I don't think so. Umpires are learning that sizing up is always better when in doubt.
So which items have the lowest return rates per category for 2010?
- Masks: Diamond Featherweight with Silver Frame
Less than 1% for the second year in a row
- Chest Protectors: Diamond iX3
1.4%, lowest for second year in a row despite what staged pic above might infer
- Shin Guards: Wilson A3409 Pro Leg Guards and Diamond Featherweight Low Profile were virtually tied at 3.4% and 3.5% respectively.
Feel free to provide any feedback on this subject.
Note: When items are returned directly to the manufacturer, the above numbers do not include those numbers.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Ump-Attire.com has available more American made items than any other officials' sporting goods retailer. Now you can easily find these items with the "Made in USA" icon on each product page.
We take great pride in buying and reselling goods from US manufacturers where and when we can and in helping employ workers in some of the following states:
- FLORIDA - Long toss penalty flags and hand held bean bags
- ILLINOIS - Referee and umpire belts
- KENTUCKY - Ump-Attire Ultimate Shirts and Ball Bag, kids shirts, and referee flags and bags
- NORTH CAROLINA - Diamond shorts and shirts and Thorlo socks
- OHIO - Fechheimer umpire pants
- TENNESSEE - Dalco umpire shirts, referee socks and wristbands
Find out more about Ump-Attire.com's initiatives and community involvement.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
BLUE for Pink, Ump-Attire.com's education and fundraising campaign for breast cancer awareness and Komen for the Cure now has a Facebook fan page.
If you are an "Umpire Against Breast Cancer" you can do any of the following there:
- Receive updates about our campaign
- Post pics of you in your pink
- Receive additional information on breast cancer awareness
- Find a press release you can share with your crew or association
- Tell us what you did as an umpire against breast cancer (e.g. shared with your crew, association, started an event, invited friends to become fans etc.)
If I'm looking for new kicks, I skip over the Asics completely as I can barely get my instep in the shoe to even start. A narrow toe dress shoe? Forget about it! I look like one of the wicked stepsisters trying to get my foot into the glass slipper.
So what about referee and umpire shoes? Fortunately, for most non-plate shoes, so that's turf and court, we're in pretty good shape. Reebok, New Balance, 3n2 and Official Footwear are all good for the most part. (at least for guys - had to put that in there or would get grief from the ladies who truly have fewer options)
Where it's a little dicey is with plate shoes. Why? By nature, plate shoes are hard. And hard is the opposite of inflexible. So if you have a foot like mine, a hard shoe is not going to give my big ol' foot the flexibility it needs to stretch out a little. For me, I'd be sizing up a 1/2 size or a 2E width if I could.
CONSIDER SIZING UP 1/2 SIZE ON PLATES OR WHEN IN DOUBT
Combine this info with the fact that you typically will be buying online, we always suggest that as a rule you consider sizing up a 1/2 size for plate shoes. It's sort of like a belt. If you are a size 34 waist, you get a size 36 belt. You don't rant and rave about it. It is a little odd, yes, but that's just the way it is. Besides, if you are a 34 waist you really have nothing to complain about, right?
So can you get by with your size in plate shoes? Certainly. You know your foot better than I do so we'll let you choose. We'll keep making that suggestion though for you to think about it. If you normally have no problem fitting into any shoe in your size, you'll probably be ok. If you know some shoes just don't fit right in your size, sizing up a 1/2 size on the plates as it's a good safe bet. And regardless of whether it's shoes or shirts or pants, "size up when in doubt" is our motto.
On the plate shoes scale, New Balance is narrowest and Reebok is about right and 3n2s normally aren't an issue. So balance the shoe your considering with knowledge about your feet when making this decision.
NEW BALANCE TURF SHOES NARROWER
The only exception on turf shoes is that the New Balance MF995s do run more narrow than other turf shoes. I could chalk it up to the synthetic upper, which gives less than leather, but we have other shoes with synthetic uppers that are roomier (e.g. 3n2 turfs and Official Footwear patent leathers).
Ok I'm not sure if I've given any good information yet, so I'll try harder. When you get your shoes, we recommend the following:
- Try them on at the end of the day when your feet are largest. Your feet swell after you've been on them, and there's a good chance you're game is later in the day or at night so this is probably most often overlooked.
- Try them on both feet as it's been said that some have one foot bigger than the other. I don't know the research on this, but if you are a person with this condition, then I suppose you'll know it and try-on accordingly. For those of you who don't know who the "Big Foot" is down there, then simply trying on both will cover your bases.
- Do so with socks you will wear with the shoes as sock thickness can make a big difference. Ok, I know you know that but had to say it anyway.
- And lastly, check the following:
-Do you have the necessary small amount of space between the "toe" of the shoe and your big toe?
-Does your foot stay in and not slip at the heel with shoes tied?
-Does the ball of your foot fit comfortably at the shoe's widest spot?
-And optional for umpires: Do these shoes look sexy with my shin guards?
Shoes too big? If your shoes are too small or slip out of your shoes, besides trying another size or style, consider an extra pair socks and/or heel cups first.
Shoes too small? If you can't get all of your assigned games scheduled for the morning when your feet are smaller, you'll want a new size or style.
In the meantime, we'll be adding at ump-attire.com sizing information on whether a shoe is true to size (or other) on each of our shoe's respective product pages as we continue to make your shopping experience a more satisfying one. Find it just under their product description within a day or two of this post.
Note for Women: We continue to encourage manufacturers to make smaller sizes. We sincerely apologize that we have fewer options for many of you.
Special Thanks: To our Facebook fans who provided insights on this post. Become a fan at facebook.com/umpattirecom