So what is it? An emphasis on safety? A need to replace high end titanium mask padding without having to get a new mask? A desire to play Dr. Frankenstein by using a preferred padding from one manufacturer on a favorite frame from another to bring an entirely new mask to life? Perhaps, I'd say we are seeing a little of all three.
Whether it's from umpires at the NCAA clinics, meetings, emails and on Facebook or from blog writers wanting to compare and contrast available padding options, I would say the interest no matter the reason would be somewhat of a trend.
During one of the main NCAA umpire clinic sessions in Phoenix, I poked my head in to listen for a bit. There was only one thing that the NCAA mentioned as far as umpire safety during the meeting and that was a consideration to replace your mask padding after a few years. I spoke with Tom Hiler, Director of Umpires, informally about this point of emphasis after the session as well as with Jacqueline Rooney, Wilson product manager, and they both concurred that padding should be replaced more often as the protective qualities of foam does degrade over time.
Besides, I have seen some umpires show me their mask padding they have never replaced, and I can tell you there is a tendency to hold onto your old pads for too long...no doubt.
So let's say you have a $45 mask and your padding gets old. You might upgrade to a whole new mask. But what if you bought a titanium mask for $200 a few years back when they were new, well you are likely just going to have the replacement padding changed out for under $40. So the trend not only appears for safety sake but also have some economic reasons as well.
Fortunately, we have more replacement padding options than we have ever have. You can go with the lower end Diamond replacement or the preferred higher end Wilson replacements. For best fit, I would recommend the highly requested and recently received special order Wilson traditional padding (non wrap around padding). We have it in tan and in black, and I'm glad to finally be able to say "yes" when customers ask "Can you get the Wilson padding without the wrap around?" "Yes! Yes! Yes!", we have it.
You know I'm always talking safety so I would normally be pushing the Wilson wrap around replacement padding but recent batches from China are just not fitting the titanium frames just the way I would like it. The doeskin (A3815) comes the closest. Wilson is working to remedy that problem.
We are not the only umpire gear retailer to up the ante on replacement padding. Our main competitor Honig's has been advertising a product from a group called Team Wendy's. You are welcome to see if that padding is right for you although I know little about the product beyond what I have read.
What are your thoughts? How long do you go before you replace your padding? Does your mask padding currently need replacing?
Keeping Up Your Skills as a Referee
13 hours ago