Baseball jersey fabric is going to the front lines of the fight against coronavirus.
In an effort to help mitigate the national shortage of personal protective equipment that has become a pressing issue for healthcare workers and emergency personnel battling the COVID-19 outbreak, Fanatics, the company that manufactures the official uniforms for Major League Baseball, is taking the raw materials typically used in the creation of MLB jerseys and instead using them to create masks and hospital gowns. MLB and Fanatics are absorbing all costs associated with the endeavor.
• Coronavirus information
“We hope this effort can play a part in coming together as a community to help us through this challenging situation,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
Fanatics has halted jersey assembly, instead using its 360,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Easton, Pa., to create up to 1 million masks and gowns, with plans to produce these items as long as the need exists. The distribution of the equipment has begun throughout the state of Pennsylvania and will extend across New Jersey and New York, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.
The initial masks and gowns have been made from the jerseys of the Phillies and Yankees — complete with each club’s recognizable pinstripes. As production and distribution expands, other team jersey materials will be utilized.
“The COVID-19 crisis has compelled our country to be more collaborative, innovative and strategic than ever before,” Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin said. “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.”
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
— Michael Rubin (@MichaelGRubin) March 26, 2020
According to an estimate by the Department of Health and Human Services, up to 3.5 billion face masks will be needed in the U.S. alone to fight the pandemic. The shortage of protective gear has become a dire situation in the country, prompting Rubin to explore the feasibility of using the company’s large manufacturing facility to help.
Rubin initially worked with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to hatch a distribution plan, then sought the input and assistance of Manfred, who loved the idea and was eager to get started.
“I’m proud,” said Manfred, “that Major League Baseball can partner with Fanatics to help support the brave healthcare workers and emergency personnel who are on the front lines of helping patients with COVID-19. They are truly heroes.”
Announced on what was supposed to be Opening Day on Thursday, the textile repurposing is a demonstration of the impact the sport can still have in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, even as the games remain halted.