Which umpire mask is best?
Umpire masks are an essential piece of safety equipment for calling baseball and softball games for players of all ages and skill levels. The average fastball thrown in Little League play is between 50-60 miles per hour, and those athletes are 13 years old and younger!
The perfect umpire mask protects your face and parts of your head without sacrificing comfort. The Wilson Dyna-Lite Aluminum Umpire Mask is a great choice that features memory foam to give you a great fit every time. Whether you’re behind the plate for the company softball league or a state championship baseball game, you’ll need to find the best umpire mask for you.
What to know before you buy an umpire mask
Traditional vs. hockey style
Traditional umpire masks are meant to fit over a baseball cap. They protect your face, but most models do very little to protect the rest of your head. That’s started to change in the last few years, with a wide variety of add-ons now available from manufacturers and third-party vendors. Keep in mind that you’ll pay more for these extra features.
Hockey-style umpire masks, also known as HSMs, cover the top of your head and the sides of your face to provide even greater protection. They’re heavier than traditional masks and can take some getting used to, but the learning curve may be worth it for the additional security.
Umpire masks have hollow-core metal frames to absorb impact to the face. The lightest and most common metal used is steel. Models with magnesium, aluminum or titanium frames are also available. Titanium is the strongest of these options, but it’s also the most expensive. If you opt for an HSM, the top and sides of your head will be covered by plastic similar to a bicycle helmet.
Umpire mask padding is made of leather or fabric. Leather is more comfortable and durable, but it’s also heavier. Fabric is lighter and better at absorbing sweat, but it can wear easily over time.
The majority of umpire masks weigh just under 1 pound to just over 2 pounds. That doesn’t sound like much of a range, but it can make a big difference when you’re wearing your mask for hours at a time. Traditional masks are lighter, and HSMs are heavier.
HSMs are heavier because of their extra padding. It’s worth noting, however, that most HSMs do a better job of distributing weight than traditional masks. So even though they feel heavier when you pick them up, they’ll actually feel lighter when they’re on your head. For even more information, check out the full umpire mask buying guide from BestReviews.
What to look for in a quality umpire mask
A properly fitted umpire mask should feel snug while on but not so snug that you need two hands to remove it. Most umpire masks are 8.5-9 inches wide and 10-11 inches long. Again, this doesn’t sound like much of a range, but that little extra wiggle room can make a world of difference. It’s a good idea to go to the store and try masks out in person to find the perfect fit if you can. If you’re buying online, be sure to check the return policy. Remember to bring along a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses. You’ll likely be wearing them with your mask.
Old school umpire masks had a single bar across the front, but nowadays, umpire masks come with two bars for added protection, strength and durability. The only downside to some modern double-bar umpire masks is problems with visibility. If you can’t see properly, you can’t make the right call. Your mask should help you, not hinder you.
Keep an eye out for mask designs that mimic the natural contours of your face. This can help a lot with sight issues. It’s also a good idea to try out your mask with a couple of friends before using it in an actual game.
There are many extras available for your umpire mask, but the two most common are sun visors and throat guards. Sun visors provide additional shielding beyond what just a baseball cap or sunglasses can provide. Sun visors can also protect your face from the rain.
Throat guards attach to the bottom of your mask and protect the 4-6 inches between your mask and your chest guard. They’re an easy way to give yourself further peace of mind.
How much you can expect to spend on an umpire mask
Traditional style masks without extras can be found for $25-$40. Midrange masks with better padding and stronger frames are usually $40-$70, while high-end models can approach $70-$130. Hockey style masks will always be more expensive with cheaper models starting around $70-$100 and deluxe designs reaching as much as $250-$330.
Umpire mask FAQ
What protective gear do I need besides an umpire mask?
A. If you’re calling a game in any sort of league, chances are they’ll have uniform and safety guidelines for their umpires. Make sure to follow these rules closely. If your equipment is intended for more casual use, start with a mask, chest protector and leg guards. Male umpires will also want an athletic cup.
How do I clean an umpire mask?
A. Wipe down your mask with a damp cloth after every game. If you have leather pads, use a leather-safe spot cleaner as necessary. Fabric pads may be removable and machine washable, though you should check the care instructions on your particular model to be sure. Finally, be careful if using scented products, like Febreze, as the smell can linger on your pads. This can be unpleasant since the mask will be right up against your face for hours.
What’s the best umpire mask to buy?
Top umpire mask
What you need to know: This umpire mask provides premium padding and a comfortable fit from a trusted brand.
What you’ll love: Memory foam pads wick away moisture, and the mask adjusts easily.
What you should consider: This umpire mask is heavier and more expensive than most other traditional-style masks.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top umpire mask for the money
What you need to know: This umpire mask provides sturdy protection at a great price.
What you’ll love: Solid construction and leather pads make this umpire mask with a built-in throat protector a fantastic choice.
What you should consider: Some users report that the padding does a poor job of absorbing sweat.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: It’s easy to adjust for the perfect snug-but-not-too-snug fit.
What you’ll love: The lightest of our top picks at just 18 ounces, this umpire mask from Champion Sports has both a built-in throat guard and moisture-wicking pads.
What you should consider: The silver cage can reflect light, and some users may prefer something that feels more heavy-duty.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Frank Paiva writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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