- MLB and Fanatics have shifted to producing hospital masks and gowns.
- The fabric is the same that players wear on the field.
- Fanatics plans to produce 1 million plus of these items and split manufacturing costs with MLB.
They were supposed to be celebrating Opening Day, but instead Major League Baseball and Fanatics are teaming up for a very different cause: the fight against COVID-19.
Sports apparel maker Fanatics' 360,000 square-foot plant in Easton, Pennsylvania is usually rolling out MLB jerseys by the thousands this time of year, but on Thursday the retailer and MLB have halted production efforts of baseball jerseys to begin making safety masks and gowns for healthcare workers on the front line.
"The COVID-19 crisis has compelled our country to be more collaborative, innovative and strategic than ever before. As the demand for masks and gowns have 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," says Michael Rubin, executive chairman at Fanatics.
As baseball season and nearly every other sport is temporarily on hold, it's left companies like Fanatics looking for new ways to find purpose. Fanatics fell into the "non-essential" items category as defined by the government, forcing the closure of their factory last week.
Rubin said after hearing about the shortages of safety equipment and after a call with Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shaprio, he got the idea to convert his factory. The Fanatics founder said he called MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to see if the league would be okay with halting production of baseball jerseys and instead pivot to making masks and gowns. Manfred loved the idea and gave Rubin the go ahead. The factory re-opened to begin production.
"I'm proud 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," Manfred said in a statement.
Fanatics says the masks and gowns will be made using the same jersey material that players wear on the field. The first items made will come from Yankees and Phillies fabric but will expand to include fabrics from other teams.
The company says the items are designed to provide basic protection in emergency settings like hospitals, but are not approved for use in surgery.
"We have already begun production of up to one million masks and gowns from the fabric used to make the official MLB jerseys and then donating to hospitals and emergency management personnel throughout Pennsylvania with the goal of expanding to New York and New Jersey," says Rubin.
The masks and gowns will first go to St. Lukes hospital in Pennsylvania (who helped design them) and to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management agency. They are not available for the general public to purchase.
As part of the deal, MLB and Fanatics will be splitting the $3 million cost to manufacture the items.
"We hope this effort can play a part in coming together as a community to help us through this challenging situation," Manfred said.
Fanatics and MLB aren't the only ones stepping up to the plate.
Bauer hockey, an equipment maker in New Hampshire, announced on Wednesday it will repurpose its facilities to make face shields so medical professionals battling COVID-19 can safely continue to help those most vulnerable.