This week would’ve marked Opening Day for Major League Baseball, with packed stadiums around the country of fans hopeful the clean slate of a new year could bring a championship. Instead, fans were encouraged to celebrate the sport’s holiday social distancing at home, by watching re-runs of past games, tailgating in their driveway and making some ballpark food. Fans were also donning the caps and jerseys of various favorite players and teams but, while they were dressing up to show love for their team, Fanatics – the company behind those MLB jerseys – is preparing to help those on the frontlines battling COVID-19 by creating medical gear.
With all professional sports halted, Fanatics elected to suspend production on jerseys and is instead using its Easton, Pennsylvania factory to turn the polyester material into masks and gowns for hospitals throughout the state as well as surrounding states. As much of the gear donned the pinstripes of the Philadelphia Phillies or the New York Yankees, these supplies will go to help the area that has become ground-zero for the virus in the United States, northern New Jersey and New York City. It was an idea that came to founder and executive chairman Michael Rubin while recently watching TV, thinking it would prove more purposeful to turn the 360,000-square-foot factory into a spot to help fight what’s continuing to become one of the worst world events in several decades.
Hospitals, especially in New York City, continue to be overrun with infected patients and with so many doctors, nurses and even volunteers helping battle this pandemic, there’s become a well-publicized shortage of equipment to help keep these heroes safe. Fanatics actually created a prototype of the polyester mask which was approved by the state’s emergency agency, at which point the company elected to shut down the factory for apparel production on Tuesday. So, those scheduled $300 retail jerseys of Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper are on hold and the masks and gowns are being made, bringing 100 Fanatics employees, once listed as non-essential workers under Pennsylvania’s shelter-in-place order, back to work – and for a good cause.
The best part is, as Rubin told ESPN, he got the blessing of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
Fanatics hopes to produce roughly 15,000 gowns and masks a day, though the demand is currently for 95 percent masks. The masks Fanatics is making fall under the Level 1 category, used mainly for low-risk nonsurgical procedures. The governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, told Rubin, an ownership partner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils who is worth $2.3 billion, that the state would pay for the masks the factory produces, which according to Forbes will cost the company about $3 million – that’s if the company produces one million over the next month.
Kudos to Rubin and the folks at the Fanatics factory for stepping up during this time of need and helping those out there who are truly making the difference. These jerseys-turned-masks-and-gowns are certainly needed. It’s these feel good stories of people helping people that offer a little bit of brightness during these admittedly dark times.