On Thursday baseball fans around the country mourned the absence of Opening Day, the annual spring start to the Major League Baseball season that is usually full of hope and celebration. Amid the global Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, baseball, like so many other things, was postponed indefinitely, waiting for an unknown date when we can collectively return to normal.
As socially distanced and self-quarantined fans shredded their now useless Opening Day tickets, forced to find other ways to occupy their time, idle businesses dependent on America's Pastime pondered their immediate futures. With no baseball, stadiums stood empty, vendors had no orders, and manufacturers were forced to close as "non-essential" businesses.
One company vital to the MLB found a way to restart as an essential business, however. Instead of making uniforms for all 30 teams, Fanatics converted into a manufacturer of protective masks and gowns. Fanatics, a Pennsylvania based sportswear manufacturer, chose to restart operations and bring the iconic team prints and pinstripes back to fans. No, there won't be any home runs, strike-outs, or exciting double plays this weekend, but the MLB will be alive, emblazoned on potentially life-saving materials throughout several healthcare facilities.
Usually in the busiest part of their year making multiple uniforms for every MLB player and replicas for fans, Fanatics switched into high gear using their large production facility in Easton, PA to create upwards of one million gowns and masks.
"The COVID-19 crisis has compelled our country to be more collaborative, innovative and strategic than ever before,” said executive chairman of Fanatics Michael Rubin. “As the demand for masks and gowns has surged, we’re fortunate to have teamed up with Major League Baseball to find a unique way to support our frontline workers in this fight to stem the virus, who are in dire need of essential resources."
Material for the first batch of masks and gowns is being mined from fabrics meant for iconic East coast teams, the New York Yankees of the American League and the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League: the first two regions in which the masks and gowns will be distributed. Material from other teams may be used if the project expands past the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
"Woke up in the middle of the night last week with idea of converting our @Fanatics factory in PA that makes official @MLB jerseys into a facility that makes much needed masks and gowns and then donating them to help fight this horrendous virus," Rubin said in a tweet on Thursday.
(Thread):— Michael Rubin (@MichaelGRubin) March 26, 2020
Woke up in the middle of the night last week with idea of converting our @Fanatics factory in PA that makes official @MLB jerseys into a facility that makes much needed masks and gowns and then donating them to help fight this horrendous virus. pic.twitter.com/r6FAxUdlgH
Rubin had already pondered the idea of creating and donating the helpful garments to local hospitals when he was contacted by PA hospital system, St. Luke's requesting assistance. The nation has faced concerns over shortages of protective masks and other useful garments as the COVID-19 virus has spread. Knowing that the need was great and he could legitimately offer help, Rubin only needed clearance from Major League Baseball to use the material. His request was met with enthusiastic support.
"When Michael called me about this, it was the first piece of good news in a while,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the New York Times. “I really hope it’s just the first step in baseball contributing to the country getting back on the road to normalcy."
Fanatics Chairman & Sixers part owner Michael Rubin is teaming up with MLB ??— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) March 26, 2020
He’s stopping production of MLB player jerseys in Fanatics plant & will make masks/gowns for healthcare workers treating Coronavirus in hospitals ????????
They will donate up to 1 million masks/gowns pic.twitter.com/cM8aCM6gma
Health care facilities in Pennsylvania will be the first to receive the MLB-pinstriped masks and gowns followed by New Jersey and New York, which has seen by far the most confirmed cases of the novel Wuhan Coronavirus. The masks, while protective, do not have the same efficacy as the highly coveted N95 masks, but health care workers defended their extreme value nonetheless.
"The gown can protect my scrubs and the cloth mask can be worn over my N95 to prevent gross contamination of that," said Pennsylvania surgeon Dr. Joshua Hazelton. "This is more than a gesture. Thank you @MichaelGRubin."
I'll take it. The gown can protect my scrubs and the cloth mask can be worn over my N95 to prevent gross contamination of that. This is more than a gesture. Thank you @MichaelGRubin— Joshua Hazelton (@drjphazelton) March 26, 2020
"There is incredible pride for our 7,000 employees to be able to do our small part to help the heroes that are on the front lines to save lives every day,” Rubin also said. “It’s amazing how quickly something can go from an idea to production when it’s needed."