Every sport has its uniform and a lot of them also include protective gear – and for good reason!
From American football to baseball, everyone has certain pieces of equipment that they must wear or forfeit their right to play.
But, while most of us already know about the protective gear sports players wear, we often forget about the other people on the field or court – the referees and umpires!
Here, we are going to be taking a closer look at the umpire’s uniform in baseball to see just what kind of protective gear they have to wear and how much it overlaps with the players themselves.
So, let’s get right into it!
What Do Umpires Wear In Baseball?
In baseball, an umpire’s uniform depends on its league when it comes to things like color and types of clothing, but there are generally lots of similarities and overlaps.
For example, all umpires have to wear comfortable, sensibel athletic shoes such as turf shoes.
Some leagues also require their umpires to wear plate shoes for extra protection, while other leagues only ‘strongly advise’ plate shoes – meaning that ultimately, the choice comes down to the umpire’s preference.
However, when it comes to protective equipment and gear, there are definitely some mandatory pieces that are included in the uniform to help keep the umpires safe from flying baseballs, swinging bats, and running players.
This is important because during every baseball game, there is an umpire positioned behind the home plate. This means that they are at high risk of being hit or colliding with players and baseballs.
Although the umpires at the other three bases do not need as high a level of protection, the umpire positioned behind the home plate definitely needs to wear an appropriate amount of protective gear.
So, what counts as ‘protective gear’ for umpires?
Firstly, the umpire positioned behind the home plate needs to wear protective padding on their shins and knees as well as under their shirt so their body is protected.
They also need to wear some kind of headgear that can either be a hockey mask or conventional baseball mask (which one depends on the league itself). They will also need to wear a helmet to protect their head, face and neck.
Some leagues also require their umpires to wear a throat guard but others leave this piece of protective gear as optional.
Finally, the last piece of protective gear an umpire needs to wear is an athletic supporter, also known as an athletic cup. This piece of protective gear is mandatory – but only in certain circumstances.
What Is An Athletic Cup?
An athletic cup is a type of undergarment worn to protect the genitalia area for athletes. They are also known by other names including a pelvic protector, groin guard, or jockstrap (or jillstrap for female athletes).
They are very effective at limiting injuries in the pelvic area caused by hard contact and so, they are mandatory for all baseball catchers to wear.
Because of this, it is also mandatory for many umpires to wear an athletic cup because when they are positioned behind the home plate, they are close to the catcher and thus in similar danger of having a baseball thrown at their groin.
However, there are some situations when an umpire is not required to wear an athletic cup – and this situation is when the umpire is female.
Wearing an athletic cup is mandatory for all male umpires who are based behind the home plate but female umpires are instead ‘strongly recommended’ to wear some kind of groin protection.
The reason why is obvious – males have their genitalia on the outside of their body and thus, they are more at risk of being seriously damaged if they are hit by a baseball or bat.
However, a female can still suffer from similar damage from the same kind of contact although they are less at risk.
Despite this, many baseball leagues have not made athletic cups mandatory for their female umpires but many female umpires may decide to wear some kind of athletic cup or groin protection anyway.
Do All Umpires Wear Athletic Cups?
In most baseball leagues, all male umpires are required to wear an athletic cup when they are positioned behind the home plate.
Any umpires who are positioned elsewhere on the pitch, such as by first or third base, are not required to wear an athletic cup although they may have to wear other kinds of protective gear such as helmets.
This is because umpires who are positioned elsewhere on the pitch will want to move around and wearing an athletic cup can seriously limit your mobility.
However, if you are behind the home plate, you are at a higher risk of being struck by a baseball so that is why male umpires are only forced to wear an athletic cup when they are positioned behind the home plate rather than at all points on the field.
The only exception to this rule are female umpires. Because female genitalia is far more naturally protected than a male’s, most baseball leagues do not make it mandatory for female umpires to wear an athletic guard.
Despite this, many still do as it is an important form of protection that can help keep one of the most sensitive parts of their bodies safe during play.
So, athletic cups are a seriously important piece of protective gear to wear and they are especially useful in baseball. However, that can seriously limit a person’s mobility so most baseball players do not wear one.
The only people on a baseball pitch who are required to wear an athletic cup are the catcher and the umpire who is positioned behind the home plate.
These two roles involve facing the pitcher head on and so, they require extra protection.
Although female umpires are not required to wear an athletic cup like male umpires are, many still do.
So, umpires do wear athletic cups but only if they are positioned behind the home plate!
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